So, who exactly is to blame for the downgraded Maps experience in iOS 6? Apple’s strategic decision to drop the Google Maps backend has sparked perhaps as much controversy as hardware issues plaguing past iPhone launches. Apple’s new app is being called out for features that have been stripped from previous versions, such as transit, Street View, and local search, but the basic map data is also an issue for many users worldwide (as highlighted in the tweet above and image below). Did losing Google’s data sets play the only role in the downgraded experience, or was Apple unable to build a competitive app in such a short period despite partnering with some of the biggest mapping-data providers?
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Noam Bardin, CEO of mobile navigation company Waze, which is one of the company’s listed partners in the new Maps app, had some pretty strong words to say about the new app in an interview with BusinessInsider:
“One of the things that happened between Google and Apple, I believe at least, is that the value Google was getting out of the relationship was disadvantaging Apple to the point of saying, ‘We’re going to make a huge bet’,” Bardin says. “Their bet is that they can, within two years, build a product that will compete with Google’s ten years of experience in both search and maps, and navigation, and all of these different things together.”
While we do not exactly know what Apple is using from Waze, Bardin seems to suggest Apple’s poor maps experience is due to having the “lowest, weakest data set,” courtesy of the Apple’s main provider TomTom:
But Bardin says that Apple has taken a huge bet by partnering with TomTom, a maker of traditional GPS hardware that’s morphing into a mapping-data provider…”Apple went out and partnered with the weakest player,” Bardin says. “They’re now coming out with the lowest, weakest data set and they’re competing against Google, which has the highest data set.”
Waze is not the only Maps provider with an opinion on the matter. TomTom, another one of Apple’s confirmed partners providing mapping data, defended questions regarding Maps in a statement to MacStories. TomTom claimed it is the handset manufacturer’s responsibility to create the user experience:
TomTom supplies maps and related content to the majority of handheld players, including RIM, HTC, Samsung, AOL (MapQuest Mobile), Apple and, yes, Google (for the areas where they don’t make their own maps)…When people use a map, their experience is determined by two things. Firstly, the underlying content, notably the maps. This is what TomTom is currently supplying the mobile industry with and it is what gives their maps the best foundation. Secondly, user experience is determined by adding additional features to the map application, such as visual imagery. This is typically defined and created by the handset manufacturers and third party software providers on the basis of their own vision and needs.
TomTom furthered clarified that visualization issues with Maps were related to imagery implemented by Apple:
Yes, we did not develop the map application. Rather, we only provide the data to build a car-centric map foundation. Everything thing on top of that – routing, visualization, etc. – is determined by the supplier.
Yelp and local search is another area of concern for many iOS 6 users. Many have actually praised the Yelp integration; unfortunately, it is limited to just 17 countries and the experience varies greatly from country to country. Yelp confirmed on its blog, however, that it continues to work with Apple “to provide users with a more streamlined experience, especially as increasingly more people turn to mobile devices to discover great local businesses.”
We have confidence that Apple is continually working to improve the new maps app, as it did throughout the beta releases, but iMore has a quick guide on how you can help by reporting a problem or adding a location or business until then.