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iOS 6's Apple Maps: Yes, it's that bad

Galen Gruman | Sept. 25, 2012
A flawed cornerstone app ships despite developer warnings, signaling that perhaps pride is prized over quality at Apple

I don't believe, as some pundits suggest, that the Maps problem or potential bezel problem signals the end of the Steve Jobs era, indicating that the company's singular attention to quality died with him. After all, Apple has been here before. Its had display problems with an earlier generation of iMacs that it downplayed, ongoing issues with its Thunderbolt technology that caused a series of firmware updates, and a flawed but unacknowledged charging system in a previous MacBook generation that killed batteries after a year. Apple's quality may be better than the competition's, but it wasn't perfect under Jobs and isn't perfect now.

The bigger issue is how Apple handles such problems, which has usually been through denial and then quiet fixes that pretend there wasn't an issue. For example, a couple years ago a purported flaw in the iPhone 4's bezel design caused some users to lose 3G signals, which Apple initially ignored, then claimed as false, and finally resolved in a backhanded way with free bumper cases -- all without ever admitting there was a real issue. A couple years before that, Apple's MobileMe service debuted with gaping flaws, causing an angry Steve Jobs to fire the project leader on the spot -- but nothing was said publicly.

At the end of his life, Jobs seemed a bit more able to admit to mistakes publicly. Just last year, for example, he was able to joke about the MobileMe failure when introducing the replacement iCloud, promising Apple wouldn't repeat the MobileMe mistake. But, it has done so with Apple Maps.

Who knows what new CEO Tim Cook will do. He certainly knows how to play hardball with suppliers, so I doubt he's averse to holding the maps team accountable. He responded to the outcry over his Chinese supplier's labor practices this winter, and Apple reversed course publicly on its withdrawal from the EPEAT green manufacturing standard. So there is evidence that Apple may be more publicly responsive to the mistakes that do happen. But for Maps, that hasn't happened yet.

Wall Street praise, user complaints
Interestingly, while users are complaining worldwide about Maps, Wall Street financial analysts have been giving Apple nothing but high-fives for its iPhone 5 rollout. They note that Apple has shipped more than twice as many iPhone 5s in its debut weekend as it did the iPhone 4S last year, despite analysts' fears of component shortages. And they note how much faster the iPhone 5 rollouts are to countries outside the United States, signaling a more effective supply chain and stronger carrier relationship program. Some even say this indicates that Apple now has a "production vision" rather than a product vision.

 

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