Mapsgate is Apple's Clint Eastwood Moment
Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" poignantly summarized the rambling speech made by Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention thusly: "A truly hilarious 12 minutes of improvised awesome in a week of scripted blah."
If you don't recall, the Oscar winner proceeded to address President Obama as an empty chair. This performance made Republicans very uncomfortable, because it was indeed not scripted, not controlled, just as Apple's flawed new Maps app for the iPhone 5 has threatened to overshadow the biggest Apple product launch ever.
Apple lost control of its biggest event — a company that is all about controlling its image. And its software has become a punchline.
Just look at the Tumblr called The Amazing iOS 6 Maps to get a feel for just how hilarious and troubling some of these errors are. The new Maps misspells roads and landmarks, is chockfull of 3D images that looked warped and has lots of ancient data. But not everyone is laughing.
Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said some of the errors could be dangerous. Meanwhile, some users have reported getting the wrong information when searching for nearby hospitals.
So why did Apple decide to pull the plug on Google's Map app for iOS 6 in favor of its own product? It's not just Apple's hatred of Android's creator. As the Wall Street Journal reported, mobile ads for mapping and location is big business. It accounts for a quarter of the $2.5 billion spent on ads on mobile devices, a big spike from 10 percent just two years ago.
However, based on early reactions to the Maps app, it looks like Apple detoured from Google too soon.
Apple is doing its best to get back on message, highlighting what Maps does well, such as Siri integration and free turn-by-turn navigation (a feature Google has kept exclusive to Android). Apple also wants to remind its customers that this new map service "is a major initiative and we are just getting starting with it" and that because it's a cloud-based solution, "the more people use it, the better it will get." That's good to know, but I would argue that this is a bigger deal than the Siri backlash because at least that tool had a beta label to fall back on.
There's another weakness of the new Maps app that has people scurrying for alternatives — or using the Web-based version of Google Maps. The app doesn't include local transit directions. For example, I couldn't get subway directions to an impotant meeting directly from within the app. Instead, Apple is relying on third-party apps for this information. The company says that it is "working with developers to integrate some of the amazing transit apps in the App Store into iOS Maps." Apple hasn’t provided a timetable for this integration.
Does this black eye mean fewer people are going to buy the iPhone? Absolutely not. People stll lined up across the country to be among the first to get an iPhone 5 in their hands. And the flawed Maps app doesn't change the fact that the device itself is still a marvel of design, delivering all the things iPhone fans have been waiting for — a bigger screen, 4G LTE, longer battery life — in a package that's lighter and thinner than its predecessor.
But you have to wonder at what point the most Apple faithful will finally admit that the company is not infallible. That the Apple mystique doesn’t trump reality. Heck, Jimmy Kimmel proved on video that current iPhone owners would believe that the iPhone 4S was the newer, better iPhone 5.
To borrow words from Jon Stewart:
"I can never wrap my head around the world and the iPhone 5 that Apple fans describe bears so little resemblance to the world and the iPhone 5 that I experience. And now I know why. There is a world and an iPhone 5 only Apple fans can see."
Apple will overcome this fiasco, but it's still a "fistful of awesome" for Android fans.
Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP's online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark's SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter.