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Apple’s Maps App Loses Its Way

Last month saw the launch of the iPhone 5, which went relatively smoothly overall with handsets selling out at record pace, though 5 million in the first three days still fell short of Wall Street projections.

Less smooth was the release of iOS6, which affected existing iProduct users as well as those with deep enough pockets to acquire the new hardware, with headlines dominated by stories and embarrassing screenshots of Apple’s less-than-polished iOS6 Maps app.

Google’s own Maps app comes shipped with Android phones and was also pre-loaded onto Apple handsets up until the iPhone 5’s release, with Apple until now providing their own Maps software, but leaving the real fight over mass-market map and navigation software between Google and Microsoft’s Bing Maps.

Notwithstanding the importance of making a fresh entry into this hotly-contested corner of the market, it seems strange that such an obviously broken application would be allowed to ship with a new handset at a time when Apple is fighting for market share against the Android OS and embroiled in disputes over patents with Samsung.

The embarrassment of the Maps scandal has already prompted Apple CEO, Tim Cook, to issue a public apology to its users, no more than one week after the launch of iOS6 and the iPhone 5.

In an open letter, he admitted that Apple “fell short” on their commitment to delivering “the best experience possible to our customers”, promising to work “non-stop” until their Maps app lived up to the company’s standards for making their products “the best in the world”.

Diplomatically, in what is a pragmatic and probably smart move, Cook suggested that users take advantage of Bing, Google and other competitors’ offerings while they worked on fixing Maps.  This openness and honesty is probably the only way that Apple is going to draw users back to their new and improved Maps when it arrives, but one thing is for sure: in the current tablet and phone market, Apple can ill-afford another software release as poor as this one.

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