Apple may be getting high praise for the iPhone 5, which is available in stores today, and the iOS 6 software it runs on. But critics are slamming Apple's new iOS 6 Maps app, saying it is inferior to the Google Maps app it replaces. "The more people use it, the better it will get," Apple says.
"We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it," Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller says. "We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better."
I had a more positive experience testing the app in New York and San Francisco than some other reviewers did. Apple's Maps are attractive and easy to follow. I didn't run into the general weirdness and inaccuracies that have caused a ruckus online -- notably complaints of mislabeled or missing landmarks and cities.
But not all is peachy, either. When it comes to Maps, give Google the advantage.
I'm not pleased that the public transportation routing feature that had been available in the Google Maps app for the iPhone is not included in the Maps app that Apple delivers with iOS 6, at least directly. You can still get those directions for buses and trains through third-party options that pop up when you request such routing through the new app.
For example, when I asked for transit directions from my Midtown Manhattan office to a building on the Upper West Side, more than two dozen app options appeared, most of them free but some that will cost you a subway ride or two.
It's also too bad that the new Maps app lacks the "Street Views" Google provided.
Others have pointed to fewer listings for points of interest, stores and restaurants in the databases Apple is using compared with its rival. And some of the slams are coming from as far away as "across the pond." BBC News, for example, wrote that users "reported missing local places, such as schools, or strange locations" and provided a screen shot that "showed a furniture museum that was apparently located in a river."
Some of the data Apple uses are supplied by TomTom, which also feeds some mapping information for Research In Motion, HTC, Samsung, AOL (MapQuest Mobile) and, yes, Google.
TomTom's Lea Armstrong says users' experience is determined by the map it supplies and features added by handset makers and third-party software providers based on "their own vision and needs." In other words, don't blame us.
On the plus side for iPhone users, Apple's Maps app now provides the kind of spoken turn-by-turn directions that Google kept out of the iOS version of Google Maps.
Google reserved audible navigation for Android handsets, not the iPhone -- while still providing a decent, if not optimal, experience on competitive devices.
For now Google hasn't released a Google Maps app for the iPhone and won't explicitly say if it will.
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