Oh, what a difference a week makes. Last Thursday, Apple issued a largely unapologetic statement about the sorry state of its new iOS Maps app, saying that it was “just getting started” and that “the more people use [the app], the better it will get.”
Fast forward to this morning. Apple CEO Tim Cook himself has taken the unusual step of posting an open letter on Apple’s website to address the continued user discontent—and he sounds considerably more apologetic than the earlier statement. Take a look:
To our customers,
At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. 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.
We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.
There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.
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.
Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.
I’m surprised to see Cook recommending third-party alternatives to his company’s own software, but I suppose that’s all he can do to appease users right now. Apple can’t easily bring back the old, Google-based Maps app, and improving the new one is going to take some time. (Remember, it took Google many years to get its mapping service to where it is today.)
Cook’s recommendations may not be all that helpful to international users, though. Some of TR’s editors are located in Canada, and up there, the Bing and MapQuest apps seem to be unavailable. As for web-based services, they lack the speed and responsiveness of their natively written counterparts. That leaves Waze, a “fun, community-based traffic & navigation app” that, while providing turn-by-turn directions, lacks features like public transit information and Street View.
In the end, I doubt it matters how heartfelt Apple’s apology is. Mapping on iOS devices remains fundamentally inadequate, and right now, the best way to get around that may be to switch platforms.