Apple apologises for Maps switch 'frustration'

Amazing iOS6 Maps blog One 3D-rendered image appears to show cars melted into the road's tarmac

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Apple's chief executive has penned an apology following a barrage of criticism caused by its switch to a new maps system.

Tim Cook acknowledged that users had been frustrated by the move and repeated a pledge to improve the software.

In the meantime he suggested users download an alternative product from one of its rivals.

A link to the letter appears on the firm's home page.

Although the company has issued several apologies over recent months, this one is unusual for its prominence and the fact it was written by Mr Cook himself.

Other examples since July include a letter from the firm's former head of hardware engineering saying that ditching a green ratings scheme had been "a mistake"; a statement acknowledging that changes to its retail stores had been made in error; and emails to iCloud users apologising for an interruption to their email service.


"At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customer," Mr Cook wrote in the latest case.

Rory Cellan-Jones: 'You only need to find a few mistakes and then you've got a big hoo-ha'

"With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better."

Apple screenshot Apple's apology features prominently on its homepage

He noted that more than 100 million mobile device users had upgraded to the new iOS software, replacing a Google-powered maps app with Apple's own software which relies on licensed navigation data.

"While we're improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app," he added.

Bizarre images

The Amazing iOS 6 Maps blog has documented the many errors with Apple's new system.

Examples include satellite maps that only show cloud cover, towns located in the wrong place, missing bodies of water, absent roads, incorrectly spelt place names and suggested driving directions that would take users on odd routes.

In addition some of the 3D rendered images look bizarre including a flattened Eiffel Tower, cars that appear to have melted into roads and a road that looks like it has plunged into the US's Hoover Dam.

The product led the New York Times' tech columnist David Pogue, who is often complimentary about Apple's efforts, to write: "Maps is an appalling first release. It may be the most embarrassing, least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed."

John Gruber, a tech blogger who closely follows Apple, said his sources had confirmed that Apple had until midway through 2013 to run on its licence deal with Google.

He added that it had decided to act now in order to add turn-by-turn directions to its offering without having to concede extra branding rights or permission for further data collection to the search giant.

App Store screenshot Apple has started promoting a maps section in its iOS App Store
'Unusual move'

Although owners of older iOS devices have had the option to avoid the system upgrade - forfeiting other improvements - consumers buying the new iPhone 5 have had no option but to use the current Maps app as the device's default option.

One tech analyst said Apple's own users would now prove key to the product's improvement.

"This apology is definitely an unusual move for Apple and it shows that the current service isn't up to its usual standards," said Thomas Husson from Forrester.

"Strategically Apple had to provide a service on its own, not just because it is competing with Google's Android service and lacked turn-by-turn directions, but also because it had to build up its own proprietary data.

"The timing may not have been what it wanted it to be, but it will now be able to crowdsource improvements from the millions of customers who are using the service over the coming months."

Another company watcher suggested that Mr Cook's decision to highlight alternative mapping products was intended to prevent the issue from damaging sales of its new devices.

"This reads like not only an admission of poor quality but also that the product wasn't ready to go to market - Apple took a chance and it didn't pay off," Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group Europe, told the BBC.

"This is the worst possible time of year to potentially dampen iPhone 5 sales as the Christmas shopping months will be the most lucrative period in the product's lifecycle.

Screenshot comparing Google and Apple maps Users have complained that roads shown on Google's maps (left) are missing from Apple's (right)

"Apple has realised it is not worth damaging sales over something as trivial as maps and they won't lose any revenues by diverting people to products that work."

Apology appeal

Despite the number of recent public apologies Apple is proving resistant to issuing one to Samsung.

Lawyers from the companies attended the first day of a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London to discuss applications by both parties to challenge different parts of a recent design rights judgement.

Apple is resisting a demand that it should publish an advert in UK newspapers and on its website acknowledging that the South Korean firm had not infringed the registered design of the iPad.

A judge issued the original ruling after rejecting Apple's lawsuit on the grounds that Samsung's Galaxy Tab computer were "not as cool" as the US firm's.

Rory Cellan-Jones compares Apple's new map app with Google maps


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  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Can we keep things in perspective and stop claiming this as a victory of Android over iPhone. This is a less than spectacular launch for Apple(which is the exception for them).
    Apple are in the race, but aren't necessarily leading it any more (they were for a number of years). Their monopolistic ways seem to have backfired now that they're left without Googly maps

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    In the spirit of fair competition, I think Apple should keep Google maps and Apple maps alongside each other. Let the best product win. No prizes for guessing who's winning right now, but this is the kind of crisis that should force Apple to step up its game. This would of course be fine if it weren't for Apple's efforts to beat Google through platform exclusion rather than product superiority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    My iPod touch has suddenly started telling me that I need to upgrade to iOS 6 immediately. How long it will be before the update becomes mandatory I do not know, but after all the negative press it's been getting I'm trying to put it off for as long as possible and stick with good old iOS 5...

  • Comment number 277.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Could you ever imagine Coca Cola suggesting you try Pepsi or Microsoft promoting the Mac?? No.... you know you've messed up when you need to promote the opposition in order to prevent a potential court case. Wonder what advertising claim laws apply here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    @janner~, how wound up would you be if you depended on the map to get you somewhere and it didn't? Really, when I'm 80 I would still be furious if I lost a job opportunity because I couldn't find the interview location, because my map stunk.

    Get some perspective yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    @125, janner

    I use the map feature to find new places, I travel around Europe and using I can quickly find my way to museums, parks and other places on interest.

    If using technology to explore and learn is a waste of time and bad prioritization, then I'm happy to keep doing it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    There's a spiteful pleasure about Apple messing this up. This isn't 'teething problems', this is a bad product launch. If Android had released something like this Apple fanboys would be smug about how perfect their tiny little paperweight is.
    There's nothing innovative about the iPhone 5 apart from the fact that it look a little bit more like an Android (Oh, how things have changed).

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    whats the point of having a good product then damaging it for its users.
    I bought the i phone for its apps and use google maps all the time i will not be using ios 6 until the maps get better or i will change hand sets.
    the customer comes out second best on this upgrade so apple can make more money out of us!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    "93. William B
    I rather not have a google monopoly on maps so I'll put up with it until it improves. People should support competition."

    Supporting Apple supports competition? I really REALLY hope you're not being serious with that statement...

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.


    This is one app that can't be fixed in a short time. It takes years of work by thousands of people to map an entire Earth-sized planet. The word for Apple here is 'hubris'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.


    Some people need to get a life - 4 hours on this drivel.... jeesh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Mr. Cook misses the point. I bought an iPad, in part, to use the wonderful Google Map app. Apple stole that function from my device. When someone steals from you, an apology is irrelevant . . . You want the stolen item returned. I want my GoogleMap app back. The browser site simply does not work as well, or as spaciously, as the app did. I don't care what Apple does about its own map app.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.


    You mean there is a fine dividing line between being a sacred cow, and being a cowboy? Sorry to be cruel, but I believe Apple look more like the latter at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    While you all keep buying into this rubbish, the mistakes will continue.

    In any other situation you would be demanding a refund, yet for some strange reason, Apple customers continue to support and have excuses for an extremely poor product. Why? If you purchase these products knowing that they are not going to work then you must be brainless and deserve everything you get.

  • Comment number 265.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    @wotmenah - having installed ios6 on my iphone and lost Streetview, I haven't installed it on my ipad as it's rubbish and i used Google maps a lot to plan trips to new places - it may seem 'pretty sad' to some, but for a lot of us who rely on public transport and need to visit a new place, it has become as essential as email and text messages are today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    My Dad tried using it yesterday to find Birmingham Airport after I had informed him of the maps issue, just to see. It took him to a private airfield north of the M6 Toll, and flat refused to even acknowledge the existence of Birmingham Airport. So he tried 'Birmingham International Airport', but ended up at Birmingham, Alabama. Wasn't sure whether to laugh or shake my head to be honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Everyone used to accuse Microsoft of being anti-competitive but they're amateurs compared to Apple. Overpriced, overhyped and seriously lacking in quality control. The person who decided that the maps app was ready for release needs to be sacked.

    Apple's bubble has burst. Get out while you can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Look, there are some silly and unfounded beliefs regarding Apple.

    It is not the preserve of people who are more interested in the brand name. Apple users are not all wanting to be trendy. Having an iPhone does not make you pretentious and a sheep with limited knowledge of technology.

    It's a choice thing. Buying an iPhone is a bad choice but your entitled to make it.


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