People who have been using beta versions of iOS 6 for the past few months have known how awful Apple's (AAPL) new Maps app is, but for the most part they held out hope that the company would make some serious refinements by the time its new iOS 6 software was released to the public. But iOS 6 officially took flight on Wednesday and sadly, Apple's new Maps app is still awful.
Updated with Apple's response to iOS 6 Maps complaints after the final paragraph.
An unsightly blemish on what is otherwise a beautiful OS, Apple's new Maps application is enraging users. Google Maps wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but Google (GOOG) has spent many years and boatloads of money creating its mapping experience. The result is a fantastic product that iOS users had taken for granted. Until now.
Apple is often criticized for valuing form over function by enthusiasts who avidly support rival companies. Those who use Apple products argue that they function quite well, but this is an instance where the naysayers are correct. Apple's new Maps application is absolutely gorgeous but in terms of performance, it takes multiple giant leaps backwards compared to Google Maps.
In my own testing over the past few months, I have found the new Maps app to be remarkably frustrating and after a while I avoided it at all costs. I would check back in from time to time to see if any notable improvements had been made, but each time I checked I was met with disappointment.
Put plainly, Apple's Maps app just isn't smart. A search performed just a few days ago for a restaurant I was standing no more than 100 feet away from yielded a result in Kansas. I was in New Jersey at the time. While I'm sure Kansas has terrific Chinese food, Google Maps would have known that serving a result 1,100 miles away probably isn't as smart as serving a result 100 feet away.
I have had a great deal of trouble when searching for most business names in Apple's Maps app. This is especially problematic when I'm rushing to a meeting that I am already late for. Sadly, this happens often. Searching the name of a hotel or event center in Google Maps always took me right where I needed to go. The same cannot be said of Apple's Maps app. Even if I'm within a mile of the place I'm looking for, Maps in iOS 6 often serves results that are across town or even in a different city.
To make matters worse, searching exact addresses isn't always better. A recent search for an address on Broadway in Manhattan would only return a result on West Broadway — an entirely different street. Sometimes, even after I tap the locate button and the app has pinpointed my location, searches for business names or addresses yield results in different towns or even different states when there are closer, far more logical results to be found. It's just not smart.
And so we have our first big gripe with iOS 6, and by extension, the new iPhone 5: Apple's new mapping solution is awful.
Apple knows how bad its Maps application is, and I'm sure the company is working hard to improve it. Many assume Apple launched the new service in this state because it was in such a rush to oust Google from its devices, and this may or may not be the explanation. Regardless, users are being punished. Thermonuclear war or not, there's no excuse for punishing users.
UPDATE: Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller issued the following statement to AllThingsD:
Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service. We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn by turn navigation, and Siri integration. We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.