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Early reviews say new Apple Maps leave a lot to be desired

Apple’s(s AAPL) decision to part ways with Google(s GOOG) as a partner and build its own maps app is looking like a bit of a hasty decision right now. The first round of handpicked reviewers have gotten a chance to use the iPhone 5, and though all of them gush about the phone as a whole, the Maps app is the biggest complaint.

It was an unusual move for Apple to fix something that wasn’t broken — Google’s Maps app had shipped with the iPhone since the original model and was highly regarded by users. But Google, being the fierce competitor that it is, was holding back the valuable turn-by-turn directions feature from its iOS product while including it with the Android version of its app. Did Apple have to move away from Google Maps? Could the company have negotiated, paid Google more for turn-by-turn directions, or struck any other sort of compromise? That’s not clear. It’s possible Apple could have just decided it didn’t want to promote a competitor’s product on the iPhone.

iOS Maps’ turn-by-turn directions.

But from the snippets of reviews included below, it looks like Apple’s Maps app needed more time and development before it was pushed live. The general consensus is that while they look better and have welcome additions that weren’t included with Google Maps, there are still some key features missing.

For Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, Maps was the only negative he found in the iPhone 5:

The biggest drawback I found is the new Maps app. Apple has replaced Google Maps with a new maps app of its own. This app has one huge advantage over the iPhone version of Google Maps—it now offers free, voice-prompted, turn-by-turn navigation. … Apple’s navigation worked very well, with clear directions displayed as large green highway signs.

But the app is in other ways a step backward from the familiar Google app. For instance, while Apple’s maps feature a 3-D “Flyover” view of some central cities, they lack Google’s very useful ground-level photographic street views. And they also lack public-transit routing. Apple will instead link you to third-party transit apps.

MG Siegler of Techcrunch says they’re not terrible, but also admitted they’re inferior to Google’s offering:

No, I don’t think they’re as good as Google Maps, but they’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve looked up local venues and found them all. I’ve looked up places overseas and found them too. I’ve played with the 3D stuff, which is pretty, but probably not all that useful day-to-day. And, of course, I’ve used directions. … A non-welcome subtraction is transit directions — as in, they no longer exist natively in the app. Instead, Apple is saying they will partner with other app makers on this, but none are live just yet so I couldn’t test it out. If you live in a city where public transportation is key, this sucks.

The CBC‘s Peter Nowak misses Google Maps:

The new [Maps] app is functional and includes transit stops, but these are incomplete. While there are plenty of streetcar stops marked in Toronto, for example, some subway stations are inexplicably missing. Real-time traffic data, for Toronto at least, is also almost non-existent. It also doesn’t include Google’s popular Street View, so you can’t swoop down to take a pedestrian-level view of locations.

The Daily Mail‘s Mark Prigg said Apple’s maps are easier to follow and have a cleaner look, but:

… there is one big omission for commuters – transport directions. Currently Apple points people towards third party apps for these, but it is something the firm will need to address in the future to compete with Google.

Engadget‘s Tim Stevens thinks Apple’s maps are fast and good-looking, but he too dings them for lack of public transit directions, among other things:

The biggest drawback is the unfortunate lack of public transportation directions. If you haven’t quite mastered New York City’s subway system, you won’t get any help from your iPhone 5. Curiously, the app offers to give you public transportation directions, but should you choose that option it pops you straight into the App Store with a search for “Routing Apps.” Right now, there are zero results.

It also lacks the detailed layering that you can apply in Google Maps and Google Navigation, showing you whatever you want to see. Maps will list some important POIs — mostly gas stations and convenience shops — but if you want to see all Mexican restaurants on your route you’ll have to dig deeper. Finally, while Maps does show traffic, we never saw it give a warning about traffic along a route currently being navigated. That’s important information for road trippers.

28 Responses to “Early reviews say new Apple Maps leave a lot to be desired”

  1. Graham wells

    Yes apple should have developed this app a lot more i think most people won’t use the app to navigate thay will use a specific app for this like waze ect

  2. Naveen Suri

    Fan boys of apple will still say it is a very good map application. They think every thing apple does is great and divine. When in reality this was a very hasty decision. I can understand their decision of moving away from google, its the conflict; Understandable. But the consumer will suffer now. Google map are complete in every sense and used over years and gotten used to sorts. But that is my opinion.

  3. Adrian Lombard

    I am really, really disappointed that Apple didn’t rely more heavily on OpenStreetMaps data, which would address a lot of concerns from users (especially outside of the US) regarding incomplete map data. It’s unclear whether they are using OSM data for the actual map layer – the “report a problem” tool gives options such as “information is incorrect, place does not exist, my problem isn’t listed”, and under OSM licensing rules Apple would have to push changes to OSM if they update the map.

    I did a quick comparison of a non-US city: Mumbai, India which I’ve heard some complaints about. I did a OSM vs Google vs Apple lineup that you can see here for yourself

  4. I live i Sweden and big parts of Sweden that was covered by Google maps isnt in Apple maps and subburb names is placed in the wrong spot on the map and some dont seem to exist any more.
    For me these new maps is useless and for the first time ever since iPhone came out i am thinking about switching to an android phone
    A dissapointing move by Apple!

  5. I just downloaded the new iOS this morning and tried the maps – I actually find it really nice. Of course I need to test it on a larger scale. This is Apple’s first version of maps so there will be lots of items missing but I’m sure Apple will fill these as time goes on. I personally think it’s a great move.

  6. Well as a user in the UK after 5 mins I just wanted to delete the app as its a waste of memory space. I used the old app mainly to check where I was on the ground – but as they dont have any detailed sat images outside major city areas its useless.

  7. The new iphone map is awful! Talk about a step backwards. My town isn’t even on it! You can’t zoom into where I live, the so called sat nav doesn’t work and there is no street view. For the first time since having an iphone i feel like I have an inferior product. Not happy. BRING BACK GOOGLE!

  8. Suhail Ishaq

    Unless you use the public transit system, you are overreacting! I hated the fact that Apple did not have the turn by turn navigation. I am glad Apple ditched Google to create this function. Public transit will be added in the future, I bet!

  9. Alecs Bains

    The maps are better because Apple made them. Anything Apple does is better. People just need to learn to appreciate them. For those that can’t afford their own cars and need public transport info, you should sell you iDevice and take responsibility for your life..

    Mitt Romney

  10. I dont live in the united states, so this app is crap where i live, satellite view of my city was taken at least six years ago, and before the update, the satellite view was a year old maximum, when i compare this app to my google maps app in my android phone, apple maps are way behind, i cant even search a mcdonalds near me because it cant find one ( in my android device i can), in this app i cant make a single route, not even to the biggest hotel in my city ( in my android device i can make routes even to small “family type” restaurants) maybe the routing works perfectly in the United States, but in my country ( Honduras) this app is useless… Good thing i have google maps in my phone, so i can do some decent routing…

  11. Brisbane B

    Being in Australia Google Maps didn’t give public transport options anyway. So for Austalians it sounds like this is only an upgrade. Unless you’re already using the WhereIs app which does everything but doesn’t work as fast or look as good.

  12. Yeah it is going to be behind GoogleMaps for awhile.

    But it is obvious why Apple ditched GoogleMaps. Just look at the effort MS put towards making programs for OSX. :)

    It’s called a conflict of interest.

    Plus I am sure they want to stick it to Google.

  13. Maps is beyond horrible for me. It’s basically “okay” if you drive a car, but if you don’t drive it’s awful. It’s very hard to even *find* the walking directions in the app as you have to pick that option *before* you do the search instead of the exact opposite which is the way it was in the old app.

    The poor quality of the database also seems to have affected the “Clock” application which is similarly horrible. The update wipes out all of your world clocks and when you try to put them in again, it can’t find the cities. Big cities too, not little ones. it can’t find the city in which I work for instance which is kind of useless.

    Very clearly there wasn’t a lot of care that went into this app, it’s almost a beta quality wise and a lot of very strange and stupid decisions have been made in it’s creation IMO. I’m shocked that they haven’t changed the icon either since it was pointed out months ago that the “directions” implied on the icon would actually get you killed.

  14. I’m a bit confused. The article points out that it was Google that allegedly refused to allow turn-by-turn navigation in iOS. But everything that I’ve read about the matter over the past few years indicate that this was always an issue Apple, specifically Jobs, refused to allow to be included in iOS because it’s a relatively high power draw. Apple touts one the advantages of iPhones is its battery life so including something like functional navigation was a no-no.

  15. The maps app is a disaster. It is not as fast as Google maps, traffic information is limited and does not show all streets, just ones with heavy traffic identified with silly red dots. Google was much more intuitive, Apple maps was just not ready. Apple better be improving it very quickly or my next phone will likely be the Samsung Galaxy SIII just for this feature alone.

  16. Jack Modelia

    I am sure Google will release an iOS app for their map solution. In the meantime, with the exception of streetview, you an get most of the benefits of google maps under iOS 6 by pointing your mobile browser to and adding it as a home screen icon. Now, for those time when you need transit direction, use google. Problem solved.

  17. Ron Miller

    I’ve been using the maps app for a while, and it is definitely inferior to Google maps as far as just looking at maps or searching them goes. However, my experience with the navigation app has been really good, so at least you are getting an upgrade to go along with the downgrade. (flyover is also very cool, although less useful).

    As far as the navigation goes, besides being pretty, I’ve found that the traffic updates work much better than on any other device I’ve tried (including Google maps). At different times of the day, Apple’s navigation suggests different routes, and mostly I’ve agreed with their suggestions. I’m not sure how they do it, but I suspect they are using information from iOS users to get instantaneous traffic status.