iPhone 5 Features, Release Date: Apple Slowly Improving Maps App After Heated Criticism
Since Apple released the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, the reviews have mostly been glowing, but everyone seems to agree the smartphone's new Maps app is a clunker. Just a week after CEO Tim Cook made a formal apology for the failure of Maps saying he was "extremely sorry," it looks like Apple has already begun to roll out improvements.
Some locations in particular are already showing signs of attention: the Brooklyn Bridge isn't as "melty" you might have noticed it was a week ago, and other notable corrections to points of interest, and improvements in detail, including 3D representations.
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Macrumors also indicates some noteworthy improvements and expansions in 3D data, including a 3D view of New York's Statue of Liberty, which appeared as a flat aerial shot in the initial public release and has since been given the 3D flyover treatment.
Of course, some of Maps' bigger blunders are still present, with many popular landmarks listed in the wrong location — New York's Flatiron Building is shown correctly in 3D, but Maps lists the location as across the street from the iconic building itself. Conversley, The Eiffle Tower is in the right place, but looks utterly flat when viewed in 3D.
Since Apple's iOS 6 pulls its map tiles from the cloud, Apple can roll out changes and improvements without having to release a new version of the software.
Apple had said it would be "continuously improving" the product in Cook's statement to consumers. "The more people use it, the better it will get," a company representative said to CNET.
Apple is also tapping its large number of retail store employees to help make improvements to Maps, according to MacRumors. "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," said the site.
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.
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.
Sources are now also 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.
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.
Before the release of its new iPhone 5Apple chose to end a partnership with Google in favor of using its own in-house created Maps. Just days after the iPhone 5's release on Sept. 21, the only news louder than Apple's "record-breaking" sales was consternation over the phone's new Maps app.
A new report alleges that disagreements over Google's voice guided navigation pushed Apple away from Google Maps, and compelled it to implement its own mapping application in the iOS 6, according to Allthingsd.
Google has had mapping software since 2005, and a Google Maps app was pre-installed on the first iPhone starting in 2007. Apple only began building its maps software in 2009 under Mr. Jobs, with an eye toward making its version the default mapping app on the iPhone and, later, the iPad. Apple acquired several companies to construct its mapping technology, as well as using information from third parties, such as navigation system maker Tom Tom NV, before it was ready to boot Google Maps.
Maps are a big piece of the Apple-Google rivalry. Opus Research has estimated that mobile ads associated with maps or locations account for about 25 percent of the roughly $2.5 billion spent on ads in mobile devices in 2012.