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Panic Stations at Cupertino: Why Apple’s iOS 6.0 Maps is a multi-billion dollar problem happening right now

So, that’s a long title. But it’s entirely accurate.

You will no doubt have noticed a wide array of publications talking about the utter horror that is Apple’s new iOS 6.0 proprietary mapping application.

Like me, many of you will have installed the upgrade of iOS 6.0 overnight and you’ll probably have noted the new Maps icon and you might have even had a quick poke about with it. Not many of us will necessarily have used the function in anger though — given it’s been less than 24 hours since install.

I read the scathing Maps 6.0 reviews with mild interest this afternoon.

When I came to actually depend on the Maps service this evening, I was shocked.

I need to be very, very clear: Completely shocked.

I actually stopped to pause for a few moments in Cabot Square to actually consider the implications of what I was witnessing. Instead of being able to take a small self-satisfied grin to myself at the “it just works” beauty of Apple’s entire end-to-end infrastructure that delivers these little moments of joy, I was experiencing the opposite. The polar opposite.

I clicked through from my calendar’s location field into Maps. It located the address within a few seconds. Only, it didn’t look right.

I am, dear reader, totally unaccustomed to having to second guess Apple.

This is why I pay flipping flocking stupid amounts of money to Apple. It’s why we all do, right? I want the stuff to work 100%. Or I want a guy or girl in a blue t-shirt with a Genius badge to give me one that does, quickly.

The little pin indicating my destination was wrong. Totally wrong. It got the same general ‘zipcode’ area correct. But it actually got the WRONG flipping Canary Wharf island.

I tried searching for the name of the venue rather than the address.

No dice.

Maps couldn’t find it.

Piece of flipping rubbish.

I could have thrown the iPhone against the wall. I felt like doing so.

What WERE you thinking Apple?

You see, the Maps application on iPhone was NOT a mapping app. It was a SEARCH app, with a map user interface. I think this is the key issue that Apple has completely missed.

I don’t give a flying penguin if the map is in 3D or if it lights up with fireworks every third Tuesday: I expect to be able to locate myself and my destination within triliseconds. That invariably means SEARCHing first.

And woe. WOE is Apple. Woe is me!

You can’t reality distort your way out of this one Apple.

You’ve replaced a perfectly brilliant and hugely, hugely LIFE CRITICAL application with a dud.

If I was Google, I’d be sitting with a massive grin right now.

Can you IMAGINE the conversation that’s going to have to take place shortly?

You can’t just knock out an upgrade to get this fixed. You can’t buy a directory of zipcodes and stick’em in. You can’t just build Google overnight and plug it into your maps API. No, this is proper work.

And as of this evening, you are failing me Apple. I am totally 100% unsatisfied.

Indeed, the more I think about it, the more I recognise that I actually cannot be without a functioning Google/Nokia Maps style service on my iPhone. Nokia’s mapping capability is excellent. It did me proud in Beijing the other week.

I know that’s it’s possible to augment my iPhone experience with some third party offerings but this is not the point. The point is the gross failure — the gross miscalculation — the ‘antennagate’ problem. This is YET another example of a service being thrown out the door by Apple that simply isn’t good enough. They obviously haven’t done any real world testing — just like no one bothered to notice that the iPhone 4’s antenna didn’t work very well if you actually held the phone with your hand.

You can’t tell me I’m using Maps “wrong” or “holding it wrong” (as the phrase goes). You’ve had billions of datapoints of research, Apple, to recognise and understand how everyone uses the old Maps function. What WERE you thinking?

The issue of mapping is incredibly important when it comes to smartphones. It’s a base requirement. On the hierarchy of needs, mapping (or, the ability to locate yourself then accurately find stuff) is right next to basic connectivity and battery power.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have used the iPhone maps function as a basic sat-nav many times, both in the car as co-pilot or walking. You can still do this with iOS 6.0’s Maps function. It just doesn’t work very well.

Some of the examples I’ve been reading about are way, way past embarrassing. Christopher Williams in the Telegraph reckons that it appears some of the data included in the maps is years, years old. (URL: Paddington Railway Station doesn’t exist. Although you can navigate your way to the nearest Our Price or C&A (landmarks from decades ago).

And now I recognise why Siri was spouting so much total fracking nonsense this morning when I tested to see if it could do location lookups. I asked it for the nearest Petrol Station and it sent me local results, all seemed relevant, but none I’d never heard of. It couldn’t find the local Esso nearest my house. Simply shocking.

Before you’re tempted to think I’m overplaying this, let’s be very clear: You only get one shot, Apple. It’s seven hundred pounds you’re after, for the new iPhone 5 64GB.


That only works, Apple, when the veneer — the perspective, the distortion field — is unwavering. When I feel — FEEL being the operative word — that it’s worth it. When there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, to make me think twice.

Make no mistake, this is a shocker.

My wife relies heavily on the Maps function of her iPhone. I rely on the fact that SHE relies on it. It’s part of a basic safety kit for her. If she’s lost with the children, she can find herself right-away.

I upgraded her phone last night. Big mistake. That function has obviously been obliterated. Oh dear. Oh dear me Apple.

What’s interesting is automatically, I’m thinking “Samsung Galaxy SIII”. Or Lumia 920. All of a sudden the way is clear. Yes there are a few other niggling annoyances but actually, you want maps to work, right?

That’s the line I’ll use with my wife.

I’ll give Apple a few days to sticky-tape together some kind of decent response (you can’t issue free bumpers on this one — it’s cap in hand to Google time, Tim) or I’ll be using the following line:

“Look, how do you feel about a Galaxy SIII? It’s got proper Google Maps”.

My wife will have a few hygiene questions — does it have a nice camera (yes, amazing), does it have Facebook (yup, obviously), does it have Evernote and a few other apps like Tesco, NatWest, FirstDirect (yeah, yeah, yeah). Job done. Deal done.

Apple simply cannot afford to have their faithful disappointed.

This issue won’t have an immediate effect on the sales of iPhone 5. Not a direct effect. There are too many of us committed into the Apple ‘joy’ for that.

It will give a lot of people pause for thought though.

The media is already restless with Apple.

I’m surprised with the amount of negative and ‘meh’ style coverage I’ve been seeing in some of the usual ‘fanboi’ areas. Even mainstream outlets have been rather bored and, in some cases, almost critical.

The stage is set for “MapGate”. And what’s fascinating is there’s no immediate resolution that I can see. You can’t fix it with a free bumper. You could, I suppose, roll-back to the old Maps application but that would be hugely, hugely humiliating. You could encourage Google to release their own standalone app. I’m sure Google must have been considering this or have one in the works — I did look earlier today, I was so annoyed, but couldn’t find anything. That would also be rather annoying.

You can’t ‘reality distort’ being unable to find Paddington Station. Oh you can make a few changes to the database quickly and fix that. But what about the millions of other locations that just aren’t there?

Before you know it, we’ll be seeing jokes on Letterman about Apple ‘not being able to find [whatever]’. It won’t be long before the issue crosses into mainstream and before the message that “Maps don’t work on the new iPhone” will be received and processed by the population at large. It won’t be long before I’ll get friends of mine telling me they’re frightened to upgrade their existing iPhones because “it breaks the maps doesn’t it?”

Oh it’s a delicious problem to witness.

It’s perhaps possible for Apple to just ignore the issue. Although I think that might just fan the flames. How long before a few million folk sign an electronic petition on Facebook demanding the return of the old maps app?

And how, dear reader, how will the competition react?

Samsung’s been pretty direct with it’s “standing in line” mockery of the fanbois queuing for the new iPhone. I wonder if they might rush out some “Maps on Galaxy SIII: It just works” with a huge screenshot of Google’s glorious mapping app on the phone? Nokia, justifiably, could take this opportunity to remind everyone of the fact that their maps offering is second-to-none.

I hope the issue doesn’t just melt away — or get melted away by the avalanche of new iPhones being sold. I want to see how the 100-billion-dollar-cash-pile Apple deals with it. In a rather unintended manner, Apple has actually delivered the industry excitement a lot of us were craving.

I was getting a bit hot under the collar today because I haven’t pre-ordered a new iPhone. There’s a chance that if anyone from O2 gets in front of me and offers to lease me one, I might still bite. But right now, I’m feeling pretty good about not having pre-ordered. 700 pounds with, what, 40% margin? And they’ve screwed up one of the key functions? Yeah. I’m fine. I’ll probably buy one — but the must-have-it-right-now sheen has been removed for me.

You can’t roll out Steve to fix this with some emotive finger-pointing to demonstrate that, hey, actually, everyone’s mapping applications have the same problem. They patently DO NOT. There’s no easy explanation for Paddington Railway Station missing from the system — or any number of comical examples of missing or incorrectly displayed locations — there’s no explanation beyond the glaring reality: You’ve delivered a sub-standard turkey.


Have you got the popcorn ready? Let the festivities commence…


By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

56 replies on “Panic Stations at Cupertino: Why Apple’s iOS 6.0 Maps is a multi-billion dollar problem happening right now”

Enjoyed this rant very much. Am holding off on upgrading my wife’s phone for the very reasons you mention. Android’s new line should be, “A Maps application that comes with a phone.”

I couldn’t agree more – there’s no papering over this one. I shouldn’t have to create a Google maps web app on the home screen to circumvent Apple’s ineptitude. Hopefully the muffin baskets have started to flow in earnest between Cupertino and Mountain View …


Apparently iPhone users have lost the ability to type ‘’ into their browsers.

HINT: just type ‘’ into your browser.

(honestly people. It’s not like you can’t send MMS or anything important)

I’m no Apple fanboy–I’m typing this in my Android phone–but I agree with Mike. Google has a perfectly good mapping service. If you like the way the Apple phone looks, enjoy it for that, and use the best mapping service you can find. You should be happy that you’re not wholly dependent on Apple apps.

That. That right there is a possible idea of how Apple may wiggle out from under this with little or no extra effort. They’ll just go round reminding everyone how brilliant their web browser is and how easy it is to pin bookmarks to the home screen (while forgetting that Nokia’s could do this before the first iPhone was announced). Then while they distract everyone with that they’ll go about knocking some sense into their mapping application. When theirs is much improved, they pull another slight of hand and remind everyone that inbuilt applications are much better than web bookmarks pinned to a home screen.

But, that really would be a very low and conniving thing for Apple to do. Apple can’t get out in front of this now. It’s gone too far. Plenty of tweets out and about this morning joking about the cues for the new iPhone being in the wrong place because of already updated iPhones leading their owners astray. Apple have built this yoke themselves. They have surrounded their users so well with this reality distortion field that now as it starts to crack their own biggest fans are going to start feeling less good about their very expensive purchase. Especially when anyone with a three year old Nokia can out navigate them!

The effort that Nokia have put into their mapping ecosystem on Windows Phone in general (as Nokia Maps will be available across all phones running WP8) and more importantly in the the special bits they have kept to themselves for the Lumia 920, 820 and onwards only go to show that true innovation in the link between software and hardware now lies, again, with Nokia. Apple have eight weeks to make their mapping application every bit as good as as Google Maps was on iOS5. Even then it will face a very tough time against the new Nokia maps on the Lumia WP8 phones. If it is not as good as that by then, then Apple will have to admit that their own actions have comprised a situation where anyone using an iOS6 running device is at a very distinct disadvantage when using an Apple application that was trumpeted as a key selling point for the iPhone 4.2 and iOS6.

I *knew* that was coming.

Look, I’m not happy with the way things are. I often use GMaps on my iPhone. I think this is the largest cock-up Apple have made for ages. I do not put it on par with Antennagate by a long way. That was a hardware issue that was impossible to rectify, and every phone of that model shipped was fundamentally borked. This issue, however, can and will be rectified with a software update, or an app. As you and others have said, it’s commercial. I find it hard to believe Tim Cook had not played extensively with Maps before launch, likewise other directors, so it is a most uncharacteristic FUBAR. No, I can’t see it having happened on Steve’s watch. He would have probably preferred to not have maps at all than this steaming pile.


Get over it, OK? it will get fixed, one way or another. It is what it is – broken right now, but not for long. Life’s too short to howl and gnash your teeth over a decision made 10,000 miles away that nothing you say or do can change. You have the power to deliver yourself a functional substitute using the browser. No-one will die because of this. There are many, many nice things in iOS6 that make it worthwhile, IMHO. Maybe if you use Maps every day, all day, and cannot bring yourself to use or any of the now-incredibly-popular mapping alternatives, go borrow an Android phone. They are very cheap. £100 on prepay, tether it using WiFi to your iPhone. Then sell it for £75 on eBay when they fix Maps. Or donate it to a charity for Stressed-Out Former Apple Fans. If you want to throw a £700 phone against a wall in frustration for want of a £100 loaner of a different ilk, you need help for things bigger than a broken app.

The other major problem with the Apple Maps is that the underlying database of roads is a number of years out of date, I was playing with a friends phone last night and looking at Salisbury and the roads are completely wrong. With some of the changes being 5 years old!! I have heard of 10 year old changes being missed.

The problem is that this is not the kind of mistake that Apple make, Antennagate was a hardware problem that Apple knew about BEFORE launch, and had the immediate solution of a free bumper case ready to go if it blew up in their faces.

This is a total cock up on the user experience and basic quality testing of one of the core components of the new iOS and for Apple this is a pretty interesting statement about how the company is behaving post Steve. This should NEVER have got past their quality and user testers.

Fully committed Apple apologist here, and I say Ewan nailed it with “It’s a search app with a maps interface”. I don’t really care what the map looks like, I don’t care whether I use Siri or the Maps app to find what I’m looking for. I *do* care immensely about the quality of the data set which the interface queries, and that’s where the problem is.

I expect my iPhone to return me correct information; it’s critical to how I use my phone. If I can’t trust the data, then my experience on the device is severely degraded. Apple can’t pull a 5 minute fix on this, as its data is clearly sub-par compared to Nokia and Google.

Hurry up and approve the Google Maps app Apple, so I can return to using a maps app with confidence.

You can Google ‘Starbucks Waterloo’ in the browser, get an immediate result *with a map* AND real-time GPS location, click on it, and get directions *from your current location* – driving, transit, walking or cycling.

I maintain: yes, it’s bad and I’m not apologising for Apple, just saying there’s a lot of people enjoying wallowing in their rantyness while deliberately ignoring that GMaps / search on the iOS browser is still waaaaaay better than dedicated GMaps was, even a few years ago. We had no transit, no cycling, no streetview…

I’d advise steering away from the GSIII though, go for a Nokia. I have had a GSIII for about 6 weeks now and that’s enough time for the poor qualities (and in fact poor quality) to come out of the woodwork – I wrote about it in my blog . Please don’t buy a GSIII. I’m so disappointed. I agree though, I have iOS6 on my iPad and I’m very glad that I don’t need it all the time for searching maps.

Hope you get sorted!

Just write the words “this is an Apple cock up”, Mike. Then we can all relax.
Obviously with half a million apps on to store, many of them mapping apps, there are alternatives. And of course the browser is a good alternative too.

This is an Apple cock-up.

Exactly what parts of “I think this is the largest cock-up Apple have made for ages” or “it is a most uncharacteristic FUBAR” weren’t clear?

…and breathe…

I don’t see what the big deal is. Here’s what you need to do;
1) Open Safari
2) Browse to
3) Add to Home Screen
4) Now you have Google maps

It’s not a native app, but it’s full google maps.


Ewan’s right, Apple’s Mapple was a shot across Google’s bows, a ‘we can do without you and you can do without all the ad revenue from gmaps on our iPhones’. Fixing it by using gmaps on safari shoots Apple in the other foot too.

An interesting one for Google this, they could hurry a port of Google Maps for iOS 6 – if Apple can’t do it themselves – or they could take their time. Why rush a fix for your arch rival, who has just taken one of your key partners to court for a cool $1Bn?

More critically, Apple has just made a fool of all it’s evangelical advocate’s on the quality of Apple’s finished products. When you’ve just paid over-the-odds for a piece of consumer electronics, you need to justify your decision to yourself. The justifications seem to be getting thinner and everyone’s just going to laugh at if you try the ‘look it just works’ this time.

It’s a shame because Apple have done so much to put technology in the hands of technophobes by just making it easy. But they also seemed to have turned into megalomaniac bullies. And now they’ve humbled their fanbase.

Paddington station does exist (ok it’s not very obvious) – but to find it you have to search for ‘london paddington rail station’ – any other permutation does not work. Exactly to your very well made point, Ewan – that a map app is a search engine with a map front end. Google know a thing or two about search.

As long as Apple haven’t actually prevented you using a reliable third party service such as Google Maps, I don’t see a problem. Personally I would never spend hundreds of pounds on a telephone, but that’s my choice. If Apple is your choice, while there are phones like mine for less than £100 that do an excellent job of navigating and handling email and whatnot, it can only have been on the grounds of their superior build quality. So enjoy what you’ve got.

to be fair though…you already have to change all your chargers and connectors with Apple at the moment AS WELL 🙂

Quick heads up – they have those phones at the designjunction event near Holborn. I was impressed by feel of the phones, but the software still looked early. If you ask the nice Nokia people very nicely…

And you can get some of it by typing into Safari on your iPhone / iPad. Decent maps, decent search, downloadable maps, voice directions, and better geographic coverage than Google or Apple.

I think this issue is getting a little over-hyped, but it’s really not what people expect from Apple. Once you break the mirror it’s very hard to put it back together again.

Thought: Should Apple have licensed Nokia’s data?

I think we can accept the Apple – Google fallout was inevitable and has been for a while. Maps (and YouTube) were the inevitable collateral damage.

So you need new map data. Choices: TomTom (TeleAtlas), Open Street Map, Nokia (Navteq). Apple went with TomTom, but seems to have gone with the “cheap” license – i.e. just the base map (either that or TomTom’s data is shockingly bad) – and then added its own place database (cobbled together from multiple sources).

The road stuff seems OK for the most part (completeness aside), but the place database is awful. And you really do need both.

Nokia has demonstrated they have a decent set of data. It’s used by 95% of in-car solutions. Facebook uses it. Most Nokia Maps (Lumia / Symbian) seem happy. Most recently there’s Amazon. There’s presumably a good reason Amazon chose them over the other options. So why didn’t Apple choose them?

I guess I can see some negative headlines and it would be a big win for Nokia. But Apple suddenly wouldn’t have a Maps problem. And, at the end of the day, who but geeks would care who powered the maps?

I imagine Apple and Nokia couldn’t come to terms. Can’t escape the feeling that Apple were too cheap to cough up the same license fee as everyone else. So they really only have themselves to blame…

Rob is right. And full disclaimer… I’m a Fandroid here.

Nevertheless, either Google, or Samsung, or both, messed up badly with the SGS3 and Google Maps (despite this being the flagship Android Phone)

There is a Full User Bug (i.e. it affects 100% of users, though not so you’d know, given how quiet it’s been discussed), whereby Navigation using later and latest version Google Maps on the SGS3 fails terribly. The screen starts jerking around, glitching, and suffering terrible terrible graphic errors/freezes/redraws/whatever you want to call it after a few minutes of use, to a completely not even remotely usable, level.

This is MOST noticeable with Satellite Layer turned on, but happens to a slightly lesser degree, even in maps only layer.

Finally, whilst 80% or more of the time, it’s ok for simple Mapping/Search, as opposed to in Navigation mode, nevertheless, from time to time, this also happens in just plain mapping mode too.

There are Various Youtube videos showing this, I have a relevant thread on XDA Developers Forum about it, and it is now a known, listed bug on the Google Support Forum, without any steps closer to a fix, despite massive user feedback, and this being reported not long after the SGS3 even came out.

A workaround is to install an older version of Google Maps, and then the problem is gone. So this can be temporarily fixed for the SGS3, but you lose all the newer Maps features then though, like Shared location History across platforms etc.

So whilst this only affects the SGS3, it nevertheless looks to be a Google issue, given that an older version of the App works fine.

It affects both ICS and JellyBean on the SGS3, so it doesn’t seem to be a ROM/Kernel issue either.

But hey, I’d still rather have this than an iPhone5 with iOS6 and the disgracful excuse for Maps that Apple brings now…

They didn’t become incapable, but few (real users – not the crowd who hang out here) will be aware they can. They never used ‘Google Maps’ before this… they just hit ‘Maps’ and that experience – behind the same icon – has become unusable overnight.

The web solution’s not available to apps that rely on native maps (the long-term casualties in this I suspect). Also, gone with the web solution is smooth location tracking, map rotation based on compass and street view.
This isn’t a consumer advice forum – this is an industry discussion (predominantly). It’s SUPER MASSIVE BIG NEWS because this is a remarkable departure from Apple’s normal MO and gives us some insight into other ecosystem challenges they face.

Forget Mapgate how about Staticgate that is plaguing the iPhone 4s?Lots of problems so it seems are on the horizon for Apple…

Nokia maps runs beautifully in the browser on my sgs3. That was my first time ever using them, and I have to say I like them 🙂

Ewan…love it! All of it! 😀 You better get yourself and your wife a new phone 😉
I think is a very good solution for the moment (or maybe forever!?)

But my actual point is…no matter what Apple does (wrong)….they could even sell the iphone 4s in red and call it “new” and people WOULD buy it!

check this, found it here:

“The truth of the matter is that the Apple Haters aren’t really angry that there’s bugs in Apple’s Maps app. They could really give a ****. The truth is that they’re continually pissed that Apple continues to make great strategic decisions and taking Google Maps off of iOS was probably the wisest thing that Apple has done since Steve Jobs banned Flash from the platform.

The Apple Haters realize, with dread, that Apple’s Map move could have the same kind of consequences as it did for Flash, forcing the web to conform to Apple’s standards instead of vice versa and this scares the crap out of them. It’s natural for them to lash out with ridicule and desperate mockery, but this won’t end like Ping or MobileMe.

Apple could make safe bets with those services, but Maps is too important for Apple to ever abandon. Maps is a crucial Google service and without total dominance of maps on the internet, Google has a real problem on their hands and all their Fanboys know it.Posted by PaulChapel (555 comments )September 22, 2012 5:45 AM (PDT)Like (23) Link Flag”

Actually, TomTom DID supply data to Apple. They were quick to distance themselves, pointing out that the errors are not in the data, but in Apple’s software.

Ewan. Why would Google want to give apple back its maps application? Apple just went out and sued Samsung over rectangles with rounded edges (and only won in the US of course) claiming that the Samsung product looks the same as the iPhone even though you would have to be blind to not immediately see the difference.

Apple wants to destroy Google. They have well and truly burned all their bridges. If I was Google I would just let Apple reap what they have sown and laugh all the way to the bank.

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