Grading iOS 6 Maps: pass or fail?

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?
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

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. Theamazingios6maps.tumblr.com 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.


Editorial standards