Of Maps and Men: is Apple relying on us to fix the iPhone 5?

September 27th, 2012 by

microtask_iphone5As a long-time Apple Fanboy, I’ve done my fair share of preaching from the book of Jobs. But since He passed away/ascended into heaven, many people have been wondering if Apple can continue to delight the world with groundbreaking products. The iPhone 5 was a crucial test for the new leaders of the world’s most valuable company. So far the results have been less than brilliant.

Is Apple as lost as we are?

The main criticism levelled at the new phone is that the changes are only incremental. Bigger, lighter, faster, but where’s the wow-factor?

Just as damning, perhaps, is the substitution of one of the most useful apps – Google Maps – with a half-baked Apple version. All over the world stories are emerging of problems with the service, including woefully incorrect directions to destinations, confusion over place names, plus the absence of public transport information. Not since Deep Impact have so many landmarks been found underwater. (Check the Amazing IOS6 Maps Tumblr for screenshots of some absurd results from here in Helsinki.)

That’s possibly where we, the devoted crowds of Apple worshippers, come in. Like when Siri was released, it seems Apple Maps is Apple’s version of a minimum viable product: released well before it was perfected, on the basis that the feedback we give Apple when using the service will allow it to improve it.

Trudy Muller, of Apple, told AllThingsD “as Maps is a crowd-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get.” This led PandoDaily to proclaim: “In essence, every iPhone 5 user becomes part of a massive crowdsourcing experiment.”

What are we supposed to be doing?

But exactly how the crowd is set to improve the service remains unclear. Apple sources data from the crowdsourced OpenStreetMaps initiative, which means it does rely on some crowd-based information. Its maps also crowdsource traffic data. But, unlike Google’s Map Maker, there is no collaborative mapping tool.

But neither of these crowd-based solutions will address the problems with Apple Maps. My Google searching did not shed any light on this issue, although it did reveal that I’m not the only one scratching my head over it.

Right now l’m wondering if the only way we can help is to simply log errors, and wait for ex-Google Maps staff to fix them.

If this is Apple’s solution, then perhaps a more effective crowd-based solution would be to use the crowd-based app Waze. That or go directly to the former Google Maps staff by using Google maps on your iPhone’s web browser. Somehow I don’t think this is what Apple intended.

If you can help shed some light on this issue, I’m all ears!

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.kg Matt Kennedy-Good

    Still on the iPhone 4 (embarrassing, I know), I find iOS6 is barely worth it. No panorama camera setting and dysfunctional maps to deal with. Hope it improves soon!

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.kg Matt Kennedy-Good

    Tim Cook’s open apology seems to indicate error reports is what they mean: “The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.”


  • Paul Mackay

    If they use OpenStreetMap why are there so many of these errors? I find it hard to believe OSM has some of the issues that have been found.

  • http://www.parliamodivideogiochi.it Tommaso De Benetti

    Actually I understood that it’s a patchwork of several different maps (OSM, Tom Tom and others) because no one else has mapped things as extensively as Google has. This seems to be especially true for Europe/Asia. Probably the info in those different maps are not consistent.

  • pip010

    OSM is superior in many cases to gmaps. it is a very questionable decision why not using OSM alone!