Who Benefits From iOS 6’s Crappy Maps?

Anil Dash, after using the iOS 6 beta all summer:

But this time, they’re right: Apple’s made a new product that actually is pretty but dumb. Worse, they’ve used their platform dominance to privilege their own app over a competitor’s offering, even though it’s a worse experience for users. This is the new Maps in iOS 6. […]

Here in Manhattan, where I live, basic search by building names is profoundly degraded in Apple’s maps search. “Bloomberg” doesn’t find the Bloomberg Tower; on Google Maps it’s the first result. Searching for its address “731 Lexington Avenue” yields that address on Lexington Avenue in Brooklyn. It’s fine to think that perhaps I wanted the address in Bed-Stuy, but even appending “NY, NY” or “Manhattan, NY” still yields the Brooklyn address. Google maps has none of these comprehension issues.

Seems pretty clear the new Maps is going to be the biggest problem with iOS 6. Here’s the thing, though: we don’t know how much of this decision to switch was Apple’s alone. We do know that Apple’s existing contract with Google for Maps expired this year. It’s possible Apple tried to renew for another year or two and Google either refused (unlikely, I’d say) or offered to do so under terms Apple found unacceptable (possible, I’d say).

Could well just be arrogance on Apple’s part, too. Just saying, we don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for Google to release a standalone Google Maps apps in the iOS App Store, as they did already with YouTube. What if Google doesn’t ever release a Google Maps app, to paint iOS as the platform with crappy maps?

Anil is right about the bottom line though: the maps experience in iOS 6 is a downgrade. Users shouldn’t (and won’t) give a rip about behind the scenes negotiations.

β˜… Wednesday, 19 September 2012

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