Apple: Killing the Killer App
For me, what makes an iPhone invaluable is that it gives me instant information, everywhere. Practically anything I need to know can be found through a quick search – weather, schedules, store hours, a phone number, etc. Location information is especially important since I take the iPhone when I’m heading to an unfamiliar place. And I find the iPhone is better than my GPS since it can find an up-to-date address when I don’t have a clear idea where I need to go.
Case in point: the other day, I needed to meet someone halfway between Seattle and Tacoma. One easy meeting spot is Southcenter Mall, so I took out my iPad, opened up the maps app, and typed: starbucks southcenter. In a flash, it figured out that I was looking for a Starbucks store near Southcenter Mall, and it reminded me that there is one just next to our favorite soup-and-salad restaurant. Perfect!
Apple iOS 6 was released this week, and I heard that the updated maps app had serious problems. So I tried the same test in the updated maps app. Here was the result:
A complete failure! On my computer, I tried the same search on Google Maps and Bing Maps:
Both did a good job of guiding me towards what I wanted. In fact, they suggested that I wanted to search for Starbucks near Southcenter Mall. Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted, and good job anticipating my needs. Much better than the new maps app, which finds nothing and suggests nothing, either.
Apple apologists are saying “Give it time, Google Maps wasn’t that good when it was new.” Who cares today what Google Maps was like when it was released in 2005? Apple has to complete with Google Maps in 2012. And Google – and Bing and Mapquest – have a product that works great. Afterwards, I learned that I could find a Starbucks near Southcenter if I first search for Southcenter, then, while looking at that map, search for Starbucks. That’s twice as many steps for something I need to do quickly while I’m on-the-go.
At first, I thought that this isn’t such a big deal, since Google or Mapquest could release an app, and in the meantime, we could use web-based maps. On second thought, a 3rd party map app is only a partial fix: many other apps will continue to rely on MapKit.framework, the native mapping API inside iOS. Which is still stuck with Apple’s half-baked new maps.
Yes, I know very well that geolocation data is hard to get right. That’s why it was a huge mistake for Apple to try to build fresh when there are great solutions available today.