Although I’m hopefully getting an iPhone 5 tomorrow, last night I installed the iOS 6 update on my iPhone 4. I’m liking the Facebook integration and Do Not Disturb, but like many others, I’m disappointed by the new Maps app.
We’ve known that this change was coming since June, when iOS 6 was officially unveiled, and whilst it adds turn-by-turn navigation for iPhone 4S and 5 users, it also loses some features. This is because Google is no longer providing the data for the maps, so we lose Google Street View, and its search results that have been progressively refined over the years.
I’m not going to comment too much about how the maps look – I prefer Google’s look but that may be more due to familiarity rather than it being better. The major complaint has been mapping errors – missing points of interest, outdated information or misplaced data. Some of these seem quite serious – Paddington Station in London is missing, the whole of Stratford upon Avon town centre is a hospital and Dublin in Ireland has acquired a new airport, according to The Guardian. As you’d expect, there’s a tumblr blog of some of the errors users have spotted.
In the attached screenshot I tried to search for the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford (5 minutes walk from my location at the time), and instead it found an Alhambra Cinema in Keswick in the Lake District, around 90 miles away. Specifying ‘bradford’ returned no matches at all.
The aerial photography included is also a mixed bag. In Bradford, the images were actually more current than Google’s – taken last summer by all accounts. But elsewhere, such as in central Scotland, it’s greyscale or very low resolution.
The generally pro-Android crowd on Google+ seem to have nicknamed this the ‘mapocalypse‘, but platform fanboyism aside, the new Maps app isn’t up to the standard that we’ve come to expect from Apple. It’s a distinctly beta product that should have spent longer in testing. In my opinion, Apple should have kept Google as the main map supplier in iOS 6 but offered its own map app as an optional download, at least until a later point release such as iOS 6.1 when the data quality will have hopefully improved.
Google hasn’t yet released its own native iOS app for Maps, but in the meantime, you can visit maps.google.com in Mobile Safari, and then add it to your home screen, as a web app.