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September 29, 2012

How Google Made a god King Bleed


By now most of you have all heard about the inaccuracies in Apple's new iOS Maps it released last week. After spending sometime searching for locations and using the much requested turn-by-turn navigation, I thought I'd share my thoughts and experiences on Apple's flagship feature in iOS 6--Maps.
The following events occurred about a week ago after I had been using iOS 6 for a little over 24 hours. I was on the phone with a friend having a conversation, and during which I asked her to get me some KFC from wherever she was. She said she was driving around Springfield, VA. And that if I could look up the nearest KFC around there she'd be happy to deliver it to me. So I grabbed my iPad and launched the new Maps. Woo-hoo! This would be my first test of putting the new Maps through real world scenarios--I was psyched. After entering the search phrase: "KFC near Springfield, VA" it returned the below image.

The nearest KFC was on Kingstowne Ctr according to the app, but when I relayed that information to her she said she was nowhere near that location, and that couldn't I find something around Backlick Rd––which was the street she happened to be on. I re-did the search thinking it would return a different result––same image as above. So I told her to forget it.

I received a knock on my door a few minutes later, and she was standing there with the KFC in her hand. I asked, did you go to the one on Kingstowne? Nope she said. There was a KFC right on Backlick road, and she saw it after we had ended the conversation. I was bemused. Why couldn't I find it on the new iOS Maps? So I navigated to maps.google.com on the iPad to see whether I would get a different result from Google. I entered the same phrase as I did above and as you can see in the image below, Google Maps was able to pull up the nearest KFC to Springfield, VA. Which was exactly on Backlick Rd as she had pointed out. 
The address of the KFC on Backlick Rd showed up as, 6310 Backlick Rd., Springfield, VA. I plugged that address in the new iOS Maps search field and received nothing. Zilch. Zero. It didn't even display any businesses on that entire block of property.

For comparison sake, I launched the Google Maps mobile site on the iPad and entered the same address, and not only did it display the KFC, but it displayed two other businesses: A BB&T bank, and another business titled Paper Moon (which happened to be a gentleman's club) on both sides of the KFC. As you can clearly see in the image below.

How does Apple explain this? These are 3 establishments that have been completely wiped off from the face of the iOS user. 

Tim Cook (CEO, Apple) tried to explain things in a very humbling letter to Apple consumers, and it served as an apology rather than an explanation. I didn't know what to make of the letter. Are we supposed to feel sorry for Apple? I feel they've failed it's users on delivering products and services that just works. As Jobs eloquently, and frequently said. Apple, to me is not your average consumer-technology company. They don't have the average user-base––they have fanboys and girls that expect nothing but the best from the world's most valuable company. I'm a passionate user myself, having gone strictly all-Apple since the Fall of last year. Their consumers sleep on streets on the eve of a product launch, and go to extreme extents of breaking into Apple stores with their BMW X5 to steal iPhones and iPads. To put it simply, this is a different company. Shipping a half-baked product and following up with an apologetic letter directed at your hundreds of millions of users is not "being different". Not to mention the most bizarre part of the letter was when Cook referred users to downloading alternatives such as Bing, MapQuest and Waze. Huh? Apple sending it's cherished users to competitors? I understand, Cook is not a product guy. He's not the perfectionist Jobs was, His specialty is in supply chain management and operations. Whose fault is it then, Forstall and his iOS team? I'm not going to start pointing fingers, the folks in Cupertino know what they are doing, or don't they? This was a collective fiasco from the entire team. Apple should have done better, they have all the manpower and resources at their disposable––and no matter the story behind the reason for Google Maps getting dropped from iOS 6, users don't care about the politics. They just want shit to work.

Some have opined that Apple had one more year left on the Google Maps deal––that's why iOS 5 users can still use Google Maps with comfort. Others have said that Apple didn't want to continue sending Google all the billions of hardcore data Google Maps was collecting from iOS users. So Apple decided to engineer it's own mapping solution and include turn-by-turn navigation, which according to Forstall was the most requested feature. What happened to transit directions though? Wouldn't it have made sense to at least include it for the heavily-networked metro cities like NYC, DC, Chicago and LA? Was that really hard for Apple to do? I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Google on the other hand sees it's competitor bleeding as a result, will they stand and gloat? Or will iOS users be put out of this misery by Google releasing a standalone maps app for iOS 6.

Time will tell. 


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