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One particular not-so-secret cause Apple built its own Maps for iOS 6

Par reedy :: 24/09/2012 à 7:47
Within the uproar more than iOS 6's move to Apple's homegrown Maps service, the driving theme is user frustration (not to say outright anger). Even one of the most ardent apologists must acknowledge that Maps has critical problems, and the company's critics are possessing a field day.

Several of the challenges could be remediable inside the short term, although other individuals may take far longer to address successfully. Apple is reportedly undertaking deep-dive recruiting in to the fallow, contract-complete engineering pool that assisted to build Google Maps in the 1st spot. Yes, this stuff is tough.

We're going to dive in to the Maps conundrum (plus a tiny product launch from Friday) on tonight's Talkcast, so bring your recommendations, complaints and consolations. It is possible to connect to us live here at 10pm Eastern Sunday night, or listen in immediately after the fact.

For iOS 6 users, particularly people who upgraded without realizing that Maps was shifting under their feet, issues are awkward. In the brief term, we're seeing plenty of workarounds and substitutions for every thing from Google's Street View feature (the $0.99 Live Street View app does a fine job) to transit directions (if they cover where you reside, Embark's offerings are sharp and precise) to merely going using a bookmark towards the mobile version of Google Maps itself.

We're also seeing lots of enthusiastic attribution of motives: "Apple wants to force its customers to use its own products, even when they aren't as very good as those from rivals," opines Joe Nocera in the New York Occasions. "They place their own priorities for corporate technique ahead of user expertise," suggests Anil Dash. "Apple place crapware on their most significant item on objective to be able to screw a rival at the expense of customers," claims Mike Elgan more than at Cult of Mac. iPhone 3G/3GS/4G USB Data Sync Charger Cable.(Elgan's post suggests that Apple is obsessed with Google, but he also says that "Google+ is the Google Maps of social networks," which makes me wonder if maybe he hasn't got some other issues mixed up.)

Individuals assertions make for strong narratives and very good, meaty, angry articles. They are forceful, and have the ring of truth. But to recommend that the only cause Apple would make this change is for the sake of forcing Google off of iOS -- punishing users in the process, with no a care or even a caution -- is naive and mistaken. Apple's move away from Google's maps is not about screwing customers to make a corporate political point; it is about trying to give iOS customers a better maps knowledge within the long run.

What is the a single huge thing that Android devices -- since 2.0, in 2009 -- have been able to perform with their maps that iOS devices, natively and without pricey third-party apps, couldn't do? Realtime, turn by turn navigation. The function that lets you replace your $100-and-up dashboard GPS unit with only your telephone and your voice, included within the box with millions of Android phones. A precise, unarguable and easy-to-market differentiating function. Droid does; iPhone doesn't.

Why doesn't the Google-backed Maps app on iOS 5 do realtime nav? Effectively, as Ars Technica pointed out in June, it really is just not permitted within the Google API license agreement for Maps. Effortless sufficient for Google to provide the feature to its own operating method (after the underlying map data licensing hurdles were cleared when it turned over from NAVTEQ data to its personal geobase inside the late 2000s), but third parties? Nope. This was confirmed as a constraint when developers asked the question at WWDC many years ago. No realtime nav, no vector map tiles, no way.

But, certainly, Google and Apple could make a deal to obtain about that pesky license? Offered the special relationship in between the two firms? Apparently not. As iMore notes and the Wall Street Journal delves into, Google was not willing to license turn-by-turn to Apple. Possibly Apple drove as well hard a bargain; possibly Google's team wanted a lot more access to user data, or to bundle the Latitude find-your-pals application in to the mapping suite. Some recommend that Google wanted to maintain turn-by-turn as a competitive tool for Android. But Charles Arthur's assertion in the Guardian that Apple "didn't want it" with regards to realtime nav appears to become unfounded. Apple wanted it; Google would not give it up.

Google's role because the mapping provider for iOS was by no means an easy fit from a corporate point of view, however it became downright untenable once the intransigence over turn-by-turn kept the iPhone's mapping capability a generation behind the Android front line. Navigation is not a trivial feature; acquiring a solid app for your driving directions can expense genuine funds, or require an ongoing subscription. Apple's customers were finding the fuzzy end in the lollipop simply because Apple didn't own the engineering -- and that's the horse driving the cart in this situation, not the other way about. If Apple can't build items that consist of the features users want most, they will not be insanely wonderful, they will not delight, and they won't sell.

That is the not-so-secret reason for the alter to Apple's Maps. If iPhone users can't do turn-by-turn directions at no cost, Apple forecasted, at some point they would stop becoming iPhone users. Possibly that's a crass, commercial reason, but it's not politics; it really is real characteristics for genuine clients. And it is part and parcel with other Google-controlled or blocked characteristics (voice search for Maps, requiring a Maps tile to show whenever the geocoder is utilised, high-quality vector Maps for Retina) that were dragging the platform behind.

None of that assists the current details on the ground, since it had been, when it comes to Maps in iOS 6, even though Apple should have leapt off long ago. In fact, users of pre-iPhone 4S devices may be extra peeved, as they do not even get the benefits of the turn-by-turn nav as they're sacrificing the data depth and accuracy of the Google infrastructure. This stuff is challenging, and possibly Apple's sin here is a single of hubris -- thinking that the firm had the smarts to solve numerous genuine problems at as soon as, with out realizing that the difficulties are truly that tough.

It is unfair and unfactual to say, as Joe Nocera does, that the Maps iOS 6 scenario would not have come off the tracks the way it has if Steve Jobs had been nevertheless operating the business. Goodness knows, hubris -- and failure -- were items Steve had lots of expertise with. But what is true is that Tim Cook and his team now face the challenge of rebuilding some user trust, explaining why they chose this path, and truly fixing the Maps app with no resorting to any reality distortion fields.

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