Apple Makes a Wrong Turn as Users Blast Map Switch

Originally published September 24, 2012

By Ian Sherr

Apple Inc.’s move to replace Google Inc.’s mapping software with its own on its mobile devices sparked a world-wide consumer backlash, marking a rare strategic blunder by a company more accustomed to rave reviews from users.

As Apple prepped its stores for the first sales of the iPhone 5 on Friday, the company faced vociferous complaints from consumers over the mapping application it released this week, which replaces the Google maps that have been part of the iPhone since the device’s initial 2007 release. The new maps come installed on the iPhone 5 and will be seen by other users who upgrade their iPhones and iPads to the company’s latest iOS 6 mobile operating system.

The criticism poured in world-wide as users of the new maps found misplaced labels for businesses and landmarks, cities with missing roads and erroneous features like a fractured river in Ann Arbor, Mich. A search for the Golden Gate Bridge yielded a marker roughly four miles away in San Francisco.

Complaints of the application came amid praise for the new iPhone and mobile software as consumers and bloggers took to dozens of websites—including Facebook, Twitter and a newly created blog sarcastically called “The Amazing iOS 6 Maps”—to circulate screen shots of the mapping errors and compare them to Google’s service.

But more than an embarrassment, the misstep highlights Apple’s challenge as it takes on Google and others with Web services.


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(Published Sept. 21, 2012, on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.)