It started with the fanfare release of the iPhone 5 and its software upgrade in September, which included a big switch from Google Maps to a homegrown alternative from Apple. The upgrade did not go well. Almost immediately, users began noticing that the maps were … unreliable. Not bad enough to slow iPhones sales but bad enough to dominate the news cycle for days.
But the damage was already done. Everyone seemed to be having a field day with Apple’s self-inflicted wound. More than two months later, the drama continues.
This week, Apple fired a senior executive, Map Division head Richard Williamson. Previously, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook showed Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS Software, the door when he wouldn’t go on his own. Cook himself wrote a quick and sincere apology, which seemed to quiet the clamor.
In the tech press, too, things got gleefully hyperbolic. In September, Forbes contributor Peter Cohan wrote of “Apple Maps’ Six Most Epic Fails” — which included bad renderings of three bridges, the lack of Jerusalem, and a route to a Washington airport that, assuming a complete idiot of a driver, might lure a vehicle to a fence near a runway instead of passenger arrivals. Huffington Post’s Britney Fitzgerald described the maps as “pretty ridiculously horrible.” Marguerite Reardon at CNET also left nothing to the imagination: “Apple Maps Stinks.”
There have been voices of reason. Consumer Reports — which did not recommend the iPhone 4 because of a problem with its antenna — said Apple’s maps were “competent enough.” Then there was NBC News digital technology and science editor, Wilson Rothman, whose tongue-in-cheek piece report begins thusly: