iPhone 5 Features, Release Date: Apple Taps Retail Employees to Improve Maps, Google Street View Coming to iOS 6 Thursday Oct. 4 (Video)
While the fallout over the failure of Apple's Maps app has drowned out almost everything good about the iPhone 5 since its release on Sept. 21, Apple is finally addressing the issue head-on. CEO Tim Cook made a formal apology for Apple's Maps slip-up last week, and today sources indicate that the company is tapping its copious number of retail store employees in its attempt to improve Maps, and that Street View will arrive tomorrow for the web version of Google Maps on iOS.
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According to MacRumors, "Apple is piloting a program to tap into its vast number of retail store employees to help improve the company's new Maps app for iOS 6. Details on the initiative remain unclear, but multiple sources have indicated that participating stores will dedicate 40 hours of staff time per week, distributed among a number of employees, to manually examine Apple's mapping data in their areas and submit corrections and improvements."
ifoAppleStore has also posted a Tweet indicating that it too has received information on the effort.
It is unknown exactly what procedures will be used to examine the data, but with a network of around 400 retail stores and almost 40,000 employees spread across over 12 countries, Apple is wise to utilize its fairly evenly spread workforce to address the Maps' mounting pile of issues.
One of the sources MacRumors spoke to reportedly suggested that "a team of ten employees would be participating in the program at one store, with one of those employees being designated a 'subject matter expert' to oversee the team and receiving training on how the team will operate." The retail employees will submit their changes through a dedicated internal portal on Apple's systems.
Since appealing to the public with Cook's apology, the usually tightlipped Apple has clearly been on its heels, scrambling to make up for the flap over Apple Maps to its consumers however it can. Of course, you have to wonder if the tech giant really has much choice else, as the public's very vocal disappointment with the iPhone 5's new Maps app had come to a fever pitch since the smarthphone's release.
Last weekend Apple made another small gesture to users by creating a special section of its mobile app marketplace for mapping applications called, "Find maps for your iPhone." The section included apps Cook discussed, as well as others, such as those made by Garmin Ltd. and Waze Inc.
Noam Bardin, head of Waze, which provided some data for Apple's map app, is poised to benefit from Cook's apology and Apple's crisis management strategy of pushing users to download other mapping programs.
"Launching a maps app in a half-baked way, that was a questionable decision, but making up for that so fast and making a category, it's great," Mr. Bardin said. He added that downloads were up 40 percent Friday after the apology, versus a typical daily download.
While Apple works to fix the problems with Maps, Google Maps is reportedly building a Maps app for the iPhone and iPad that will be out by the end of 2012, according to The New York Times. Apple has yet to comment.
As recently as Tuesday Sept. 25 Google CEO Eric Schmidt made remarks in Tokyo about how it would have been better for Apple to stick with Google Maps. He added that there wouldn't be a specific Google Maps app on the iPhone soon.
While the company's been evasive concerning a formal app, sources today are saying that Google will add its Street View feature to the web version of Google Maps for iOS tomorrow, Thursday Oct. 4, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"In fact, Google plans to announce on Thursday that it is adding its popular Street View feature, missing from Apple's maps, to the Web version of Google Maps accessed from the iPhone and iPad," says Wall Street Journal writer Walt Mossberg in a video (below). "I tested this addition, which displays 360-degree photographic street views of selected locations, and interior photographic views of certain businesses, using sample links Google sent me. These links worked well, allowing me to see the locations and pan around with a finger."
Clearly, Mossberg was impressed with the Internet version of Street View on iOS saying that it "worked well, allowing me to see the locations and pan around with a finger."
Adding Street View, even if it is over the web version of Google Maps, should quiet some of the public's cries over Apple Maps. The news is comforting for Apple devotees at the very least, and as we continue to wait for the company to roll out an improved version of Maps, so too is the news that Apple is currently trying to lure Google Maps engineers to work on its own Maps, according to TechCrunch.
Sources are now claiming that many of those who were contracted to help Google with its Maps application are seriously considering joining Apple. Not only because of the company's culture of "revolution and innovation," but because staffers are attracted to the idea of creating something new, rather than just continuing to deliver "tedious updates" to an already established product.
Apple launched its Maps app through the company's new upgrade of iOS 6 on Sept. 19. Not long after, users took to every corner of the Internet to sound their disapproval of virtually every element of the app, and utter confusion as to why Apple had chosen to make the switch.
Tech site T3 quickly noted that even with its aesthetically pleasing appearance, and some nice features, the functionality of Apple's Maps' search was reportedly "hit and miss in terms of finding London locations." Apparently, Apple's new app displays more road names than place names, and does away with color-coded roads, so, navigating to a specific point using pinch and zoom is much trickier.
Engadget thought the app wasn't nearly as comprehensive as Google's offerings on Android, but said the app's biggest drawback was its lack of public transportation directions, so if you haven't mastered the subway yet, you won't be getting any help from Maps.
And while asking for subway directions doesn't work particularly well, according to Engadget, the app actually does offer public transportation directions. However, if you choose that option it shoots you straight into the App Store with a search for "Routing Apps," a search that currently has zero results.
Apple Maps lacks the kind of detailed layering that you can apply in Google Maps and Google Navigation, and shows you whatever you want to see. Maps will list some important places of interest -- mostly gas stations and convenience shops -- but if you want to see all Italian restaurants on your route you'll have to dig deeper.
While Maps does show traffic, Engadget says it never saw it give a warning about traffic along a route currently being navigated.
Allthingsd said the app was a step backward from Google Maps. While Apple's maps feature a 3-D "Flyover" view of some central cities, they lack Google's very useful ground-level photographic street views. And while the site thought Apple's maps were accurate, they reportedly tend to default to a more zoomed-in view than Google's, making them look emptier until you zoom out.
Maps also reportedly lacks key details on prominent cities, and in one instance, an entire town was in the wrong location. Users also found duplicate islands and other bizarre quirks.
Even Google Maps designer Fred Gilbert who worked with Apple on the original Google Maps app for the first iPhone voiced his incredible disappointment with Apple Maps over Google+, saying "as one of the original designers of Google Mobile Maps I remember how difficult it was working with Apple. But this just blows my mind," according to seroundtable.com.
Of course, it's not clear whether former Google workers will want to join Apple to fix up its Maps. However, TechCrunch's source claims that many of the folks who used to work on Google Maps seem willing to join Apple, and one person who did is "now paid handsomely" by the iPhone maker. Another person who was recently contacted by an Apple recruiter was reportedly offered an $85,000 salary plus moving expenses to get working on the project.