Maps and Other Small Apple Missteps
Matthew is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Small things matter. Sometimes they matter a lot. Usually not on their own, but small things have a funny habit of adding up to something big over time. With the official release of iOS 6 last Wednesday, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) appears to be developing the smallest of cracks in their once impenetrable armor. The company known for its near flawless execution of marrying great hardware to great software and services has a small habit of missteps developing.
With the release of iOS 6 came with it the release of a new version of the ‘Maps’ app. The formally Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) powered Maps has now been released by Apple’s own in-house creation. The response by users and the media to Apple’s attempt at navigation services has been mixed at best, with many accusing Apple of putting the company rivalry with Google ahead of actual customer experience and satisfaction. The Maps app itself has been described by many as glitchy, the map data as outdated and incomplete, the satellite/aerial imagery as poor quality and the directional-routing an inaccurate. Basically, not up to the high-standards normally associated with Apple products.
As one might imagine, Apple’s troubles have delighted its smartphone rival Google. According to sources within the company, Google is absolutely thrilled with the bad press Apple is receiving from the media and iPhone users. In Apple’s attempt to take back a vital part of the iOS experience away from Google, Apple has inadvertently demonstrated how great Google’s maps actually were and how critical Google was to Apple’s overall mobile strategy. It appears that it is not as easy to simply replace Google as Apple once might have thought.
For Google’s part, they are apparently looking to take advantage of the situation. Google is reportedly in the process of completing and submitting an official Google Maps third-party app for iOS 6 sometime in the near future. There are questions as to whether Apple would even allow Google to do so, but with the potential backlash from such a move, it seems unlikely that Apple would block Google’s attempt to release an official Google Maps app. At this point, Apple might even be wise to suck up their company-pride and welcome back Google with open arms. And if Google were a bit petty, it might be wise for them to let Apple continue to receive bad press before actually submitting their Google Maps app.
This situation has not been Apple’s only app-misstep lately. Somewhat lost in Apple’s map-related issues are problems with another app that saw its official release with iOS 6; Passbook. The Passbook app is another Apple first-party app that allows users to manage plane boarding passes, live-event tickets, story loyalty cards and coupons. Or it would allow users to do all of that, if it actually worked. As of the time of this posting (Saturday; 4-days after its release) the app currently displays a “Cannot connect to iTunes Store” error for many iOS 6 users. No official response or fix has been released by Apple thus far, although users have discovered a rather convoluted workaround that will fix the problem for some people.
Another example of a buggy app release was Apple's new ‘Podcast’ app. Released in June ahead of iOS 6, the standalone podcast app for iOS was launched as a practically-unusable, buggy, awful mess of an application. Even after multiple updates since its release, it was only the most recent update a few days ago that finally made it usable and up to the quality we normally expect of Apple.
While these issues are small by themselves, they have the potential to add up to something bigger. Will a terrible Podcast app, a Passbook app with connector errors and a Maps app replacement of inferior quality doom Apple? Of course not. Not on their own, at least. By most estimates, Apple will sell more iPhone 5 units at launch than they did with any other previous iPhone release. But if Apple’s recent sloppy execution of these small things persist, it could continue to add up into a much larger problem for the company in the future.
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