New iOS 6 Maps: The Data Seems to Be Messy

Apple debuts its all-new Maps app, but users are reporting difficulty in navigating with the program

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iOS 6 Maps

[UPDATE: Apple has released a response to complaints about iOS 6’s Maps that acknowledges the issues, at least sort of:

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 and Siri integration, and free turn by turn navigation. We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it. We are continuously improving it, and as Maps is a cloud-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get. We’re also working with developers to integrate some of the amazing transit apps in the App Store into iOS Maps. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.]

When I reviewed the iPhone 5 and discussed its all-new Maps app, I said it didn’t trump the previous version — which was a collaboration between Apple and Google. That’s because it’s missing a couple of extremely valuable features: Street View and public-transportation routing.

The iPhone 5 doesn’t go on sale until tomorrow, but the new Maps entered the wild yesterday, when Apple released iOS 6 as a free upgrade for existing devices. And the tech blogosphere is abuzz this morning with reports of unhappiness among users over the quality of the app’s mapping data. Some things are missing; other items are just plain wrong.

Anil Dash writes about the (many) issues he’s encountered as a user of the iOS 6 beta. The BBC has a story that says a lot of stuff in the U.K. is missing, including the town of Stratford-upon-Avon. (Memo to Shakespeare: hold off on that iOS 6 upgrade.) Lance Whitney of CNET rounds up other reports of glitches from spots around the world.

Some of the new Maps data is provided by TomTom, a company that has been doing mapping for a long, long time; I don’t recall widespread complaints about its own products. Absent an explanation from Apple about what’s wrong and its strategy for fixing it — which I doubt we’ll get, at least not in great detail — disgruntled iOS 6 users may just have to bide their time and see what happens.

Meanwhile, as Marketing Land’s Danny Sullivan reports, it’s not clear whether Google is going to release an App Store version of Google Maps. You can still use the browser-based version, but it’s not a replacement for a full-blown mapping app.

For the record, when I used the iPhone 5 to navigate my way around the San Francisco Bay Area, Maps knew where stuff was and got me where I wanted to go. With one exception: On a trip to my accountant’s office in San Mateo, I searched for the company’s name. Maps found the company and got the street address right but had the city wrong — it thought the spot was in nearby San Bruno — and declared the location to be “approximate.” (When I gave the app the correct address, it routed me there without a hitch.)

I didn’t mention this in my review because one data point seemed to be insufficient evidence of a glaring problem; Google Maps occasionally messes things up too. But now we seem to have lots of data points.

If you’ve installed iOS 6 and used Maps, I’d love to hear your impressions, pro or con.

(MORE: Five Alternatives to Apple’s iOS 6 Maps)