Apple’s Old Maps App Still in Use, but for How Long?

If you haven’t heard by now, Apple’s latest offering to the world, the iPhone 5, has been released for sale as of a few days ago. Sales are doing well, and the tech giant has managed to sell over 5 million iPhone 5s. Apple is running into supply problems and likely could have sold even more had more phones been in stock. While this isn’t a new problem for Apple on a product launch, the direction its apps are going is.

There has been a lot of news lately about the big tech companies pushing out other competitors’ offerings when it comes to apps. I wrote briefly about that in a post about the new Amazon Kindles, where Amazon decided to solely use Nokia Maps instead of Google’s map app, Google Maps. Now Apple has hopped on the bandwagon.

Apple Maps met with Complaints

In the attempt to further differentiate its products and offerings, like Amazon did with its new Kindles, Apple decided to nix the Google Maps app in its new iOS 6 for the iPhone 5 and older iPhones. In the last few days, this decision has been met with much criticism.  CNN reported on the issue and titled it simply “Apple iOS 6 maps are a mess.” The article even quoted a comedian who tweeted, “What Apple has done with iOS6 maps is like planning a mission to outer space and NOT TALKING TO NASA.”

Okay, so it’s probably not that bad, but people are obviously upset at the quality of Apple’s maps. Today an article on Reuters updates us on the latest developments in the maps fiasco. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, “We think it would be better if they had kept [Google Maps]. But what do I know? What were we going to do, force them not to change their mind? It’s their call.” It’s interesting to me that the Google CEO would comment on something as small as an app for a phone. But that just demonstrates how important the choices are that companies make, especially when it comes to the usability of a product like a popular smart phone.

Ultimately, Google takes the distant approach when it comes to this issue. As the Reuter’s article points out, with “over 500 million” global Android users Google “can make more money by providing search functions and selling advertising.” They don’t need to rely on marketing and branding like Apple does.

Older iOS Versions to Remain the Same

For whatever reason, Apple is fine with leaving the maps apps as they are on iOS 5 and lower. According to CNet, only “100 million of Apple’s 400 million iOS users have upgraded to iOS 6.” Could it be that many are holding back because they want to remain using Google Maps? I think it’s likely.

While Apple is trying to move in the direction of having completely in-house offerings, the likability and effectiveness of Google Maps for users may be a thorn in Apple’s side for some time. In fact, Google hasn’t said much about how—or if—it plans to address being left out of iOS 6. But one option for Google is to create its own 3rd party map app for users of iOS 6 and newer versions to come.

Whether Apple would allow access to the app remains to be seen, but Google has said before that it wants to, as CNet quotes, make Google Maps “available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system.”

Small Changes make a Difference

In my opinion, Apple’s situation with the map apps is one it created entirely on its own. I think it falls in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category. Google Maps has been the standard for map apps for years. I don’t know of any app that does maps better. People like it and enjoy using it. Apple made a change, which customers see as unnecessary, and many customers are understandably upset.

If you run a business, you’re likely faced with many decisions about your company every day. Some choices turn out to be good ones, and others might not end up so great. It can be hard to tell, but whether or not to remove a perfectly fine and well-liked map app for your signature product seems like a no-brainer to me. Don’t do it! Of course, you probably don’t have to make decisions like the one Apple made, but keep in mind that small changes can really make a difference. If you run a brick-and-mortar shop, at the very least, you might want to make sure your business shows up properly on Apple Maps and Google Maps, and make sure directions to your business are accurate using any maps platform.

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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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