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ios6apocalypse: Maps May Drive Apple Round the Bend

Gordon Kelly by

ios6apocalypse: Maps May Drive Apple Round the Bend

meeLet me run a sequence of numbers past you: eight, five, seven, seventeen and three. They are the number of updates Apple made to iOS before each significant upgrade. So for example v1.0 of iOS had eight updates before v2.0 was launched, v2.0 had five updates before v3.0 was launched, v3.0 had seven updates before v4.0 was launched and so on. The numbers are distorted at v4.0 because Apple added a CDMA-only version of the iPhone 4, but the long running GSM edition still received 11 updates. For iOS5 we got three updates in 12 months, two of them classed as security and bug fixes.

Read our full iPhone 5 review >

They provide evidence to a growing perception that Apple is not innovating anymore, that its class redefining mobile software is beginning to show its age and there is an increasing divide between the company's hardware designers (obsessed with industrial minimalism) and its skeuomorphic-crazed software team determined to give everything fake leather, denim and paper finishes. This alone is claimed to be causing a significant rift within Apple. Superficiality aside, however, the problems run much deeper and - more worryingly - they are self inflicted.


Wrong Turn

We all know about the problems of iOS Maps: limited local business information, no public transport, occasionally baffling directions and the odd ill-informed geography lessons. They also feature many woefully distorted 3D images which spawned the ingenious Twitter hashtag #ios6apocalypse. Apple was predictably terse "We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it". But it did not answer the bigger question: why start at all?

Arguably Apple did not answer, because it is aware we all know: iOS Maps is not a solution to a problem customers needed fixing, it is a solution to a problem Apple wanted fixing. It's name? Google. Apple's strength is its homogeny, but it comes from being a paranoid control freak and ever since Google announced Android, Apple knew it could no longer rely on a market rival to supply core parts of its operating system long term.

Consequently Apple bought three mapping companies - Placebase, Poly9, and C3 Technologies - in three years, but in a most un-Apple-like twist it still has to rely on correlating data from no less than nine third parties: TomTom, Yelp, OpenStreetMap, Waze, Getchee, Localeze, Urban Mapping, DMTI and MapData Sciences. Yes Apple embarked upon one of the largest and most data complex projects imaginable and risked alienating huge chunks of its customer base because of self serving insecurity.

Go to comments


September 24, 2012, 2:30 pm

...I dont like sushi too...stupid article


September 24, 2012, 5:37 pm

I can't help but feel massively disappointed with Apple over this. My family has a large number of Apple devices accumulated over the years as our need shave changed, grown etc. and while I would never accept the 'Apple fanboy' title, principally because it is a childish generalisation ignoring rational reasoning, I would consider us as an Apple leaning family...it hasn't let us down yet (whereas various implementations of Windows, Linux, Symbian etc have)...

This release of iOS6 though smacks of bean counting which was always a worry when Mr Cook took the helm. Get the product out, make the money, fix it later does not a happy customer base make. I have actively told my wife that she should hold off upgrading to an iPhone 5 (as her contract is ending soon anyway) and we don't even use or frankly need the Maps app. I can't be the only one that worries what other bugs lie within.

The transient consumerism of mobile phones will not put up with this for long.


September 24, 2012, 9:42 pm

stupid comment


September 24, 2012, 9:45 pm

I think - Maps aside - iOS6 is a polishing of iOS5 so it feels like Apple is treading water. I know how you feel, the iPhone 5 is the first iPhone I'm not overly tempted to own. It is difficult to put my finger on why, but I think with the 4S iPhone hardware was no longer the limit, iOS was - this hasn't changed with the iPhone 5.

It feels like the lack of excitement you get when buying a new PC or laptop when it will run the same version of Windows as your old laptop.


September 24, 2012, 10:05 pm

It's a bit unfair on Apple. Google was deliberately holding back features of Google maps such as turn by turn navigation to give Android a competitive edge. Apple was forced to put its own mapping solution on the iPhone and it has cost Apple hundreds of millions of dollars so far, so it is hardly fair to accuse the company of bean counting. Apple was forced into this position by Google.


September 25, 2012, 1:58 am

Yes, you can understand lack of innovation on the desktop where Mountain Lion felt like a polishing of OS X 10.7 and Windows 8 is the same as 7 except with a Touch OS bolted on.

However, on mobile devices you still feel there's room for innovation. Look at Windows Phone 8 (with its live tiles) where Microsoft have had to innovate to try and claw back market share. And Android keeps getting meaty updates, despite only a small percentage of users able to upgrade to the latest version.

It does feel like iOS has stagnated a bit, and that this can't be the pinnacle of Touch design. Still, I see that iPhone 5 has sold 5 million in its first 3 days - maybe people don't mind a familiar, though uninspired, mobile OS?


September 26, 2012, 8:58 pm

Apple was not forced into this position. They had a year left on their contract with Google but chose to exit early, taking Google by surprise.
The iOS Google Maps app was written by Apple under the same terms of service that Google offers all developers who want to use their maps functionality - these terms specifically exclude providing turn by turn functionality.
Based on their jobs postings (looking for Mapping engineers some 2 months ago) it seems that Apple was fully aware of the inadequacy of their iOS mapping solution, but they chose to put a corporate hissy fit ahead of their customers.
In any event - why shouldn't Google use their data, infrastructure and APIs to offer some customers an advantage? AFAIK Apple still don't permit other MP3 player manufactures proper access to iTunes interfaces, and indeed regularly update iTunes to prevent it.

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