Losing its direction? Apple maps app under fire

So far, Apple has won rave reviews for its new slimline iPhone 5. But the American technology giant is now facing a raft of

Apple maps app by Kevin Lim

criticism over its new mapping application.

Missing towns, moving villages and disappearing train stations are just some of the complaints made by reviewers and developers, who have accessed the new system ahead of customers receiving their smartphones.

The comments come after Apple announced it was ceasing use of Google maps and replacing the app with its own system, which has been put together using data from navigation specialist TomTom.

It means users who upgrade to the latest iPhone will have the new maps app installed as standard, although they can download Google’s system via their phone’s web browser.

Problems were first noted in the run up to the unveiling of the new mobile operating system but critics say these issues had not been addressed in the iPhone version Apple introduced a few days ahead of the official retail launch.

Reviewers found outlets including stores, restaurants and pubs were sometimes displayed streets apart from their actual location, a factor bound to provoke criticism from the businesses involved.

Sites sure to be crucial to users, including train stations, were found to be missing altogether and the app’s search function was slammed for failing to recognise some simple requests.

Critics have now accused Apple of letting its rivalry with Google get in the way of providing the best product possible to new iPhone owners.

New York-based blogger and technology entrepreneur Anil Dash, said: “Apple’s made a new product that actually pretty but dumb”.

Dash, who is director of public technology incubator Expert Labs and a partner at media and technology consulting firm Activate, added: “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.”

Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research agreed. “Apple believes that they can deliver a better experience for customers than Google,” she said. “But in the short term, Google has a better mapping application, and iPhone customers will suffer.”

Apple announced in June that it would be replacing Google maps, first introduced to Apple devices in 2007, as the default mapping applications. And, as the new iOS is compatible with every generation of the iPhone, Apple will be encouraging all its customers to download and install its latest software.

The company’s rivalry with Google was born after the search engine giant developed the Android mobile operating system, which runs devices from Apple’s competitors, including Samsung and HTC.

Not all reviews for the new maps app have been bad however. USA Today did not note any flaws with the feature and Macworld has described it as “stunning”.

The Wall Street Journal said while mapping probably was the biggest weakness of iOS 6, it was still a “relatively minor weakness” as two million customers had already ordered the new device.

So far, Apple has not commented on the criticism, but TomTom has defended its involvement, sayings its maps provided only a “foundation” to Apple’s service.

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