Apple Admits Maps App Falls Short in Open Letter, Offers Alternatives

Apple Admits Maps App Falls Short in a Letter and Offers AlternativesTim Cook released a letter to Apple customers on Friday in an attempt to quell outcry over its new Maps application made available to iOS users in iOS 6. The Maps app, which replaced Google Maps on iOS devices, was intended to introduce turn-by-turn navigation and a 3D flyover feature to the platform.

Unfortunately, this release was met with mixed reviews as customers found the maps inaccurate, especially in areas outside of the US. In addition, some visual glitches popped up here and there as customers put the Maps app to the test.

So what makes this letter interesting? It’s an admission of Apple having fallen short of customer expectations, which is a rare thing. Further to the point, Tim Cook outlined several free alternatives to the built-in Maps application.

Here’s a quote from the open letter describing alternatives available to iOS 6 users.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest, and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their Web app.

It’s not like Apple can suddenly change its mind and put the Google Maps application back. The decision to go its own way was a very expensive one that was made in the wake of ongoing legal battles over Android and iOS. Apple wants to move away from depending on Google, and it’s because of this the Maps application needs to stay where it is (with improvements on the way). By offering alternatives (which includes Google Maps as a link), Apple is doing what it can to pacify upset customers.

This may not have been an easy thing for Tim Cook (or Apple) to do considering several of these companies are in direct (and often heated) competition with Apple. If anything, this letter represents a responsible and entirely reasonable response to a hot button issue. It addresses the problem, promises an eventual solution, and offers alternatives that don’t directly benefit Apple.

Chris Pirillo, LockerGnome’s founder, gave his thoughts on this letter through a post on Google+.

Tim Cook apologizes for the state of Maps, explains why, and what many of us (myself included) suggested earlier: use free alternatives, including Google Maps. So, yeah — it was a reasonable way to respond.

Google Maps is Still Available as a Web App

Google Maps is still available for iOS, though you’ll need to add it as a link rather than a stand-alone application. You lose some of the benefits of having an integrated app, but you do get to take full advantage of the Google Maps service. The video (above) walks you through the process of adding Google Maps to your iOS device by way of a link to the home screen.

My Personal Favorite: MotionX GPS Drive

If I were to give a recommendation for what I believe is the best alternative for turn-by-turn directions, it would have to be MotionX GPS Drive. The app comes complete with narrated directions in a voice that’s clear and easy to understand, a robust interface for finding and mapping out your planned stops, and integrated Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia services.

Traffic is also taken into account with MotionX GPS Drive. I’ve been using it for years and it’s improve substantially over that time. I trust it more than my dedicated TomTom GPS in rural areas, and the price ($10 for one year of live voice navigation) isn’t that bad, either.

What are your favorite alternatives to the built-in Maps application on iOS 6? Do you feel this letter by Tim Cook is the correct response to the situation?