Fixing Apple’s (AAPL) awful mapping application is a hard row to hoe. Getting the fledgling service to a point where it can even approach the quality of Google’s (GOOG) mapping solution will take years and a tremendous amount of manpower — just ask Google, which has 7,100 people around the world always working to improve Google Maps. And Apple knows this, of course, which is likely one of several reasons company executives were “seething” when the Google Maps app for iOS was welcomed home like a death row inmate who was finally freed after having been wrongfully accused. So, where does Apple go from here?
In the long months and years ahead, Apple will beg, borrow and buy in its effort to get its mapping solution up to snuff. Deals will be made, tech and data will be licensed, and companies will be acquired. Maybe TomTom, who knows?
In somewhat troubling news, however, one deal Apple is working on in these early days is one that would see Foursquare share data with Apple’s iOS Maps app, according to The Wall Street Journal. My initial reaction upon hearing the news:
The worst big-brand mobile mapping solution ever and the most annoying social network on the planet, together at last. j.mp/WkEx5u—
Zach Epstein (@zacharye) December 18, 2012
I was joking, of course. Sort of. Maybe.
While Foursquare would indeed offer a mountainous hoard of local data and such a deal would give Apple’s Maps app a unique feature that Google’s alternative does not have, it also doesn’t solve anything.
Apple’s problem isn’t the fact that its Maps app can’t tell people how many Foursquare users have checked into a local restaurant, it’s surfacing a result in Wichita, Kansas when someone searches for a local restaurant in New York. And Apple’s problem also isn’t the fact that it can’t guide people to the most popular establishments based on Foursquare ratings, it’s that it guides people into the middle of the Australian outback and leaves them for dead.
Foursquare, sadly, will not be of any help in either of those areas.
And beyond all that, Foursquare offers crowd-sourced data. This, as we all know, is a tricky endeavor and it certainly won’t measure up to data collected directly over several years by several thousand workers.
The Foursquare deal is surely one of dozens of ways Apple is looking to fix and enhance its mapping solution, but I wonder if this is even something Apple should be investigating at this time. Maybe I’m wrong and a Foursquare deal will add real value and bring millions of iPhone users crawling back to Apple Maps.
Me? I’ll continue to search, actually find, and actually navigate to the various places I seek out using Google Maps.