Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bad move Apple: ditching Google Maps is a huge mistake for consumers

(CBS News) Google has made no plans to launch a Google Maps app for the iPhone 5's mobile operating system iOS 6, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt told reporters in Japan.

Apple released its iOS 6 last Wednesday. The new mobile operating system dropped the Google Maps app, which has been included in the iPhone since its initial release in 2007, opting for its own Apple Maps app instead.

Users who have updated to iOS 6 have complained of getting lost, missing landmarks and lack of public transit directions. Reaction to Apple maps have ranged from cheeky tweets to the London Underground suggesting iOS 6 users pick up physical maps.

According to Reuters, Schmidt spoke to a small group of reporters in Japan at a press event to announce the Nexus 7 tablet. His opinion is that Apple has made a mistake by dropping Google Maps.

"We think it would have been better if they had kept ours. But what do I know?" Schmidt told reporters. "What were we going to do, force them not to change their mind? It's their call."

Whether or not Google Maps would be approved as a stand-alone app at the Apple Store is Apple's choice, Schmidt said, his comments suggesting that Google has not submitted an app for review.

"We haven't done anything yet," Schmidt told reporters.

It was rumored that Google had submitted a Google Maps app to the App Store, pending Apple's approval. Citing "roundabout sources," The Guardian reported last week that a Google Maps app will appear in time, but there is no official timeline. Neither Apple nor Google responded to CBS News' request for comment on the rumor.

google maps ios

When two partners in business slowly make the transition to rival companies, there are bound to be some casualties. Apple and Google are perfect examples of this. As each company tries to find their happy medium of involvement with each other, services are going to be killed, support squashed and new alliances formed. Consumers should never be at a disadvantage because of it, but that's exactly what has happened with Apple introducing their own mapping service instead of sticking with Google's.

Fans of Apple's iOS and Google's Android often find themselves in heated debates on just about any difference you can come up with between the two platforms. Discussing mobile policy and how it affects the future of technology is healthy. Especially when both sides can respect each other. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work like that.

One of the oldest arguments between Android and iOS fans boils down to the specs and services each platform boasts. "The iPhone can barely hold a candle to last generation's Android phones! Let Alone the flagships," Android fans shout out in the comments. "Apple doesn't need to jump on the spec bandwagon. They're all about making changes for the sake of consumer good," reply the Apple fans. In my eyes, both the Android and Apple fan are right. Android phones do tend to be more experimental, always on the cutting edge of technology. And if Apple doesn't see a huge benefit, or enough of a tradeoff, for adding a new feature or service, they won't. Or at least they didn't.

Now that iPhone 5 reviews are starting to trickle online from all sorts of respected technology publications, and there are a couple common themes being echoed by those who have spent some quality time with the device. One of which is that the move away from Google Maps is bad. Even John Gruber, who is well noted for his love of Apple and everything they do, took to his blog where he rounds up quips and quotes related to his interests to say that it, "seems pretty clear the new Maps is going to be the biggest problem with iOS 6." He then goes on to say that it might not be Apple's fault though. Who knows if Google wouldn't play, or if Apple is just being arrogant.

The bottom line is this: it's unanimous, Apple's new maps suck compared to Google Maps. There's entire websites dedicated to it. Finding venues is hard, directions are wonky, and search is lacking. In the past, Apple was known as the company who would go above and beyond for the sake of consumers. They didn't include LTE in the iPhone until this year because LTE support wasn't wide spread, and because battery life took a hit. But this is different.

Apple is essentially screwing consumers out of the best experience possible because they don't want to improve Google Maps any more, by providing Google with precious data. Google has done the exact opposite recently. Google is working hard to release as many apps on iOS as possible. And they aren't half-baked ports or dumbed down Android apps. Apple let Google take the reigns with YouTube, and Google made it better. Google has released a robust Google+ app, an app for Google Drive and a search app very similar to what's available in Jelly Bean out of the box.

You can argue that Google is doing it just to get as many people using its services as possible because that's how they make money, but that doesn't matter. Those apps make the iPhone a better device for consumers. Apple's maps do not.

It's also being argued that once iPhone users start ditching Google Maps and use Apple's native solution, Google's experience will get worse, and Apple's will only get better. Give me a break. Usage is only a fraction of the equation. Google is still light years ahead of Apple in maps, and in case everyone has forgotten, Android owns nearly 70% of the overall global smartphone marketshare.

Even if Apple maps do catch up, it could take years. Years that iPhone users are being forced to use an inferior service because Apple wants Google as far away from iOS as possible. How could you possibly defend that?

The only reasonable response I'd even begin to entertain is that Google will be releasing their own Maps app for iOS, so everybody kinda-sorta wins. Apple gets more map data and gets to cut Google out of the equation, and Google gets complete control over how Maps works on iOS devices. But even that still isn't in consumer's best interests.

The platform wars are bad for consumers, there's no doubt about it. But rarely, so far, do the battles between companies have a direct, immediate affect on consumers. With Apple cutting out Google and choosing to implement their own mapping solution, consumers are being punished. Not cool, Apple. Not cool.

Sent iPadn Ť€©ћ№©¶@τ

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