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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Apple takes a wrong turn with Maps app

Those using devices running on iOS 6 get wrong locations and poor details.
The Straits Times - September 25, 2012
By: Trevor Tan
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Apple takes a wrong turn with Maps app On Appleā€™s new Maps app (above right), a search for City Square Mall in Kitchener Road turns up Northpoint Mall in Yishun, while the Google Maps on an Android phone (above left) puts it in the right location. -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIM

ACCORDING to Apple's new Maps application, Bedok Reservoir is the same as Bedok North.

That is what businessman Leonard Wee found out when he used the app in his new iPhone 5 to trace a Housing Board block near Bedok Reservoir.

"Luckily, I knew the place and didn't have to rely on the app to get there," said Mr Wee, 38, adding that the app pointed him to Bedok North, about 1km away from his destination.

Singaporeans and consumers elsewhere have voiced frustrations over the app's inaccuracy in pinpointing an exact location, as well as the lack of details of buildings, sites and points of interest.

The problem affects those who are using the iPhone 5, which runs on the iOS 6 operating system, or those who upgraded devices like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S to iOS 6.

The brouhaha started last Thursday - just before the iPhone 5 was launched - though the brickbats did not dent demand for the smartphone, which notched sales of over five million in three days.

Apple, which replaced Google Maps with its own Maps in iOS 6, had relied on Google's navigation service in its products, like the first iPhone and iPad, since 2007.

Some analysts think the move to drop Google Maps could be linked to Apple's wariness of Google's own attempts to be a major mobile phone player.

Apple Maps' features include turn-by-turn spoken directions to get to destinations, and Flyover 3-D views that you can pan, zoom into and rotate. But it does not have public transport information, which Google Maps has.

Some 3-D views look either flat or comically distorted, while the Flyover feature is not avail-able in Singapore.

Said technology consultant Kenneth Tan, 42, who had upgraded his iPhone 4S to run on iOS 6: "The 3-D views do not show the buildings as advertised."

And when he used Apple's Maps app to seek out City Square Mall in Kitchener Road, it showed Northpoint mall in Yishun.

Other users have also noted that a search for directions to the KK Women's and Children's Hospital would either point them to the right location, or that of the Singapore General Hospital.

According to analysts, the shortcoming is more acute outside the United States.

A Tumblr blog titled The Amazing iOS 6 Maps has been set up by a student in Britain to showcase screenshots of Maps' mishaps. Some screenshots show Las Vegas and Chicago "melting" and cities that look like they have had an apocalyptic transformation.

Apple has tried to minimise the damage to its reputation. In a statement to technology news site AllThingsD, Apple's spokesman Trudy Muller said: "Maps is a cloud-based solution, and the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better."

Users can report any bugs to the company using the "report a problem" link in the Maps app.

However, there are some who are willing to give Apple time to iron out the kinks. They note that the app is not without its charms or usefulness. "It's actually more fun; I'm amazed to see these little cars in satellite view," said marketing executive Sharon Ng, 34.

Commenting on the turn-by-turn instructions, membership relations manager Celine Yeo, in her mid-40s, said "as long as it is able to direct me from A to B, it is good enough for me".

Mr Muh Hon Cheng, 31, developer of apps like SG NextBus, said you can still bookmark Google Maps on your home screen.He thinks Apple is being harshly judged as Google Maps has set a very high standard. "I think compared with other available maps, Apple Maps is probably not far off," said Mr Muh, who feels Apple will act swiftly to fix the issue.

Earlier, there were reports of some users here and elsewhere who had trouble logging into Wi-Fi networks with their iPhone 5 or any other iOS 6 device.

The problem was traced to the gadgets using an Apple webpage to ascertain whether they were connected to the Web, and that page was down. It has since been fixed; the problem will go away by turning the Wi-Fi switch on the iOS 6 device off, and on again.

How to get Google Maps back on your iPhone

YOU can get Google Maps back on your iPhone in the form of a Web app.

In other words, it is a shortcut key that brings you to Google Maps on your mobile browser.

You will be able to get transit directions and more location information. However, there is no Street View or turn-by-turn voice directions.

Here's how to do it:

  • Start the mobile Safari browser and go to "maps.google.com".
  • Once it has finished loading, it will prompt you to tap on the arrow icon.
  • Then tap on the "Add to Home Screen" option.
  • You will then have Google Maps as a Web app on your home screen.
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