Grading iOS 6 Maps: pass or fail?

Grading iOS 6 Maps: pass or fail?

Summary: There's no denying the sex-appeal of iOS 6 new photo-realistic and interactive 3D Maps, but would you trade transit information and Street View data for it?

TOPICS: Apple, Google, iOS, iPhone

Almost as soon as Apple released iOS 6 users flocked to the new first-party (read:non-Google) Maps app and unleased a torrent of complaints (1, 2, 3) about it. There's no denying the sex-appeal of Maps' new photo-realistic and interactive 3D views, but would you trade transit and Street View data for it?

iOS 6 Maps: photo-realistic and interactive 3D views - Jason O'Grady

Generally, the biggest complaints are coming from users outside of the major metropolitan cities that iOS 6 Maps supports. For example, check out this screenshot of Bowling Green State University (as noted by @iOS6Maps) in iOS 5:

Bowling Green State University - iOS 5

And then in iOS 6:

Bowling Green State University - iOS 6

(Someone was so put off by @iOS6Maps Twitter account that it got it suspended. Hmmm...)

The other big complaints center around the iOS 6 Maps' lack of transit, Street View, POI data and sub-standard traffic reportage. is cataloging some of the more egregious failures in the new Maps.

In lieu of them, Apple focused on turn-by-turn navigation, 3D Flyover views and its own traffic data. Michael Degusta blogs that "Apple is risking upsetting 70% of the world’s population" with the feature removals, noting that 63 countries (representing a population of 5 billion+) will be without one or more of the Maps features previously available in iOS 5.

I'm still using my trusty iPhone 4, so my biggest complaint with iOS 6 Maps is that voice navigation isn't supported on the iPhone 4. You need an iPhone 4S or 5 for that. I've been using navigation in the TomTom app on my iPhone 4 for a couple of months, so it's not a hardware limitation. And TomTom includes a huge POI database from FourSquare. iOS 6's lack of navigation on the iPhone 4 is a classic example of planned obsolescence on Apple's part. It intentionally crippled Maps on the (two generation old) iPhone 4 to force users to upgrade. 

To be fair, Siri also took a lot of criticism when it was released. It has since maturated into a flagship feature of iOS that many users find very useful. Apple's first-party Maps app is sure to improve over time -- collecting map data is extremely labor intensive and traffic data will grow via crowdsourcing -- but did Apple move too soon? 

When Apple killed its YouTube app, Google was quick to respond. Danny Sullivan notes that after only a week, YouTube is the #1 free app in iTunes. So many have taken solace in thinking that Google will release its own Maps app for iOS (like it did with YouTube), but it's being cagey and won't confirm that a Google Maps app for iOS is coming. 

City slickers are sure to dig the new 3D flyovers, but what about everyone else? What's your take on the new iOS 6 Maps? (Please note your locale in your comment.)

UPDATE: In June, Wired's Christina Bonnington noted that Google executive Jeff Huber confirmed in a comment on a Google+ post that the company would be releasing its own Maps app for iOS. Huber wrote, “We look forward to providing amazing Google Maps experiences on iOS.”

UPDATE 2: Apple has given this statement to AllThingsD regarding Map-gate:

Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service. We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn by turn navigation, and Siri integration. We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.

... and AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski notes that "the team assigned to the app is under lockdown right now working to fix it."

UPDATE 3: 9to5Mac claims that Google has been developing Maps for iOS for "years" and that a version of Google Maps for iOS 6 "has been submitted to Apple" and is awaiting approval.


Topics: Apple, Google, iOS, iPhone

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  • Not buying an iPhone 5 for this

    I miss Google Maps already. Since navigation was already missing and I have little need for it, I'm now finding Apple's new maps to suck even more compared to the results I got with Google Maps. I'm seriously considering getting the next unlocked Google Nexus smartphone so long as it runs on T-Mobile's HSPA+ and has a microSD slot.
    • Nexus

      Seems how the last two versions haven't had a micro SD I wouldn't hold your breath. Even without that they've been great. I don't use the space except for music.
      Jake Landphier
      • Nexus, Droid, basically any Android device would be better

        If you care at all about maps that is.
        • Regarding maps though

          I admit. Google probably has better maps right now. They're also creepers that captured people's unprotected medical records, emails and passwords as well as mac addresses, to be able to correlate who you were and what you were doing, as they drove around to get their street data.
          There's room for another good map option. I expect Apple to, and hope they do, make it right, refining maps quickly or making deals with Google or Garman, since they are all about the user experience and know they need to make this right. SD was a bit of a gimmick and nice but not essential for real power use.
          • Space taken

            That 'other' map competitor is Bing, and it's doing a much better job than Mapples. I'm not sure I'm too surprised that Apple consumers don't even know these alternatives exist, tbh. You know the whole idea of creating Mapples was to create a true anti-competitive monopoly through the technological ineptness, lack of understanding of and appreciation for fair trade its general target market (read: general public) possesses.
            And to think people were up in arms about MS bundling a browser with their OS. While it was outrage that MS was doing such dastardly things as providing people with a way to browse the internet, on the other hand it'd be a shame if that were to happen with a certain other big fruity corporation...
            Brenden Nickless
        • Or you could just pay for real Garman

          There's an app for that :)
        • maps

          Bing Maps is better than iOS6
      • I had a xoom I had to root for sd

        I rooted my xoom since it didn't have sd support when I got it, even though that was not made clear to me. It was an android device with sd, and since the sd did not work that should have been made clear at some point in the sale.
        Anyhoos, I rooted it and enabled it and it was very fickle, available from some apps and just clunky it seemed, compared to the Atrix that saw it better. I also found I didn't use it for much but a music library but with iCloud now, and music synching of just what I wanted then, I wouldn't need to. I would be happy if iPhone integrated an SD folder to iCloud, etc., but overall it was more solid for what i wanted than Android, that I practically had to hack to see any real functional difference, but there's also a rooted/jailbreak iPhone community if I have time to mess around and really want to.
    • Add Google Maps

      Find it in your browser an icon pops up that says ADD TO HOME SCREEN click it and Google Maps is on your home screen
      • Not really.

        While we appreciate the time you took to post this comment several times, having a web app is in no way comparable to the speed, interface, and reliability of a native app.

        For some external confirmation of this, listen to Zuckerburg's recent TechCrunch interview and what he says about the capability of HTML5 and native apps--and that's before addressing the fact that you're loading Safari every time you start a web app on iPhone.
        • Yes really - for now anyway

          Yes native is better.

          I use google earth and google maps on iOS and on OS X. They are different and one is no substitute for the other sometimes.

          For now I think it makes sense to see Apple Maps as a work in progress, and if you want the alternative then use it as a web app.

          Yeah OK it's still a web app.

          Yeah yoiu're loading safari - not the end of the world if you get some functionality you want.

          Now rather than using this as a opportunity to grass-roots android (adding in SD card as a buzzword) as has been done above, why not just allow Apple some time to get it right. At least that way there is another player in the maps business, and we have the advantage of both.

          For now is Apple Maps right? no I think not yet. I have filed a bug report on that though.

          Is Apple maps looking like a good thing? Yes I believe it might be. I have features on my TomTom for navigation that I doubt are on Apple Maps navigation for now, but there is promise there.
          • the big question is

            in this day & age, at this juncture in the development of smartphones, is a "work in progress" maps app at all acceptable for any reason? IMO it's not.
          • For an iphone user it is

            As they seem to find a way to justify any flaw in their precious device. I couldn't imagine being a consumer that just bends over and takes it just because I am brainwashed to crave the product.
          • It goes both ways...

            If I had a dollar for every time an Android fan explained away the fact a phone purchased 6 months ago didn't get the latest Android OS update by "users don't expect to get updates, they OS that came with the phone works just fine and they'll get a new OS when they upgrade to a new phone." This comes, of course, while raving about ICS/Jelly Bean, and even worse, criticizing Apple because while older iPhones could get iOS 5, Siri wasn't available on the older phone.
          • And this is so old and different how?

            The iphone4 is still on sale - buy it today!!!! and while it gets iOS6, it is expressly crippled from using the majority of the newest features.

            Pot meet kettle.
            Get over it.
          • Correct, it doesn't get all the features of iOS 6

            But the now 2 year old $0.99 iPhone 4 comes with the latest OS and many if not most of the new features that come with it. Let alone the fact that people that have had the 4 since it first came out could download iOS 6 the day it came out. I saw today that stats show iOS 6 is on 60% of iPhones just over 2 weeks after it was release. ICS was on what, less than 10% 6 months after release? Was it ever offered for 2 year old phones? And if so were those phones able to take advantage of every feature introduced with in the new OS?
          • That might be how you see it as a none iPhone user

            The one thing I have noticed about the Apple Maps issue is that most of the complaints come from people who don't even use iOS so it doesn't affect them at all. I have been using iOS 6 since June and have tested maps off and on with zero issues. I'm not claiming it's perfect by any means but I also don't rely on my phone for navigation so it's not as important to me. What I think is hypocritical about your comment is that you claim as an Apple customer I will just bend over and take it yet if Apple didn't make they move to their own maps you would bash Apple for not having turn by turn. Google refused to allow the use of turn by turn in Google Maps on iOS so they could hold it over the iPhone as a feature of Android. Should Apple have just bent over and let Google withhold that feature forever so Android fans could bash the iPhone for not having it?
          • "work in progress"

            At the price that they're charging, "work in progress" is just not acceptable.
            da philster
          • At the price they charging?

            How much do they charge to upgrade from iOS 5 to iOS 6? Oh that's right, it's free.
      • Yeah

        For now, but Google chief has informed (trough Google+) that Google is releasing Google Maps as own application to Apple App Store. So no long (hopefully) and all iOS users can have best maps available for mobile devices around the globe.