On 19th September 2012, Apple released the first incarnation of its map service on iOS, thus replacing Google Maps as the default mapping service for Apple operating systems. Subsequent to the initial launch, the company received unprecedented amounts of criticism from users and media for incorrect directions, a lack of support for public transportation users and various other bugs and errors, some of which were farcical such as a flat Statue of Liberty, the satellite view being obscured by clouds, the complete disappearance of Japan and Hong Kong city appearing in the middle of mainland China.
Google launched its Map Application back in 2005 and Apple entered the cartographical arms race in 2012, so Apple is almost 7 years behind Google and that is one of the key reasons why it’s Map Application has suffered so many embarrassments and has horrendously failed to keep up with the Map features of Google.
Why did Apple ditch Google Maps?
Back in the days when Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt occupied a seat on Apple’s board, in the pre-Android days when Google and Apple weren’t in direct competition with each other in the mobile space, the two companies worked closely together as kindred spirits of the tech revolution. Steve Jobs even introduced Schmidt on stage at the launch of the original i-phone saying, “You can’t think about the Internet without thinking about Google,”. The companies were so close at the time that Schmidt even once joked about merging them into “Applegoo”.
Within a couple of years however, the Applegoo love-in had turned sour and Schmidt quit the Apple board, Google launched Android leaving a fuming Steve Jobs accusing Google of stealing Apple’s ideas.
“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong, I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this,” said Jobs at the time.
In terms of Apple dropping Google Maps from iOS 6, the key sticking point seems to have been the issue of turn-by-turn navigation. Google Maps had it on Android and Apple wanted to incorporate it into iOS 6. Naturally, Google weren’t keen to give away one of the Android platform’s key advantages, so it quickly became clear to Apple execs that they would have to go it alone if they wanted the popular feature appearing on the iPhone.
What went wrong?
At the launch of the iPhone 5, Apple’s then head of iOS, Scott Forstall, demonstrated the new Maps app and gave absolutely no indication to onlookers that it was going to be anything less than magnificent. The Apple website also described Maps as “The most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever,” before its release, but within a week Apple CEO Tim Cook had posted an apology letter saying, “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”
It would appear that Apple itself had been caught by surprise by the inaccuracy of its Maps app, as if the company had become too obsessed with the new technologies it incorporated whilst missing the obvious base level requirement ie. the most important thing about any navigation software has to be the accuracy of its maps. App developers had apparently raised concerns about the poor quality of Apple’s Maps prior to its launch and several developers said that it was obvious early on that the Google Maps replacement was not up to scratch.
Apple Maps received some of its mapping data from TomTom, who, with over 30 years of mapping experience, were well placed to fulfil their end of the bargain as far as accuracy goes, so it’s clear that something went wrong when Apple imported the data into its own mapping app.
In the weeks after the iPhone 5 release and the Apple Maps controversy, Apple shares lost about 4.5% of their value – roughly $30bn (£23bn) in market cap.
It’s hard to know exactly where the blame lies for the whole Apple Maps debacle. It may have been that members of the development team deliberately played down known problems? It could be that the notorious secrecy that surrounds Apple product development may have led to a lack of communication between the respective departments to allow bugs to get properly fixed? Whatever the reason, the whole Google maps v Apple maps rivalry and the subsequent launch of Apple’s solution to fanfare, ultimately resulted in a product that was doomed from the start.
Since its initial launch, Apple Maps appears to have gone a long way in ironing out some of the initial creases it suffered, but here at The W1nners’ Club we feel we have found kindred spirits in Tim Cooke and his team as far as disastrous early versions of new products go.
When our Publisher Darcus White wrote his book, The W1nners’ Club – Part One, the amount of spelling mistakes in the first draft made it look like he had written it in Welsh!
Examples of Apple Maps fails: