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iOS 6: without Google, Apple's new software is a road map to frustration

Apple
by James Laird
, 20 Sep 2012
iOS 6: without Google, Apple's new software is a road map to frustration

Ahead of the iPhone 5's release this Friday, Apple officially launched the latest iteration of its mobile operating system yesterday, with techies and more casual users alike itching to get iOS 6 and its 200-plus new features installed on their iToys.

Not everyone is totally happy with the OS update, however, with a range of problems being reported across the digital sphere in the short time that the system refresh has been available.

One initial iOS 6 grievance related to Wi-Fi connectivity, with a number of users reporting a bug wreaking havoc on their ability to access the Internet. Apparently, once the software update was completed and users tried to get online via Wi-Fi, Apple's Safari web browser attempted to port them to a page on Apple.com - presumably to thank them for putting their faith in the new operating system - that didn't exist. Judging by our recent iOS updates, the problem has now been fixed, but not before it generated over 450 comments on a thread in Apple Support Communities.

Then there's the contentious dropping of Google Maps on iOS 6, with the popular cartography app being replaced by a native Apple mapping programme on the new software. Despite the Cupertino-based firm acquiring three different mapping companies to assist with building the app, it appears to be struggling to get off the ground, with a number of users reporting basic locational failures.

Twitter user Dean, known in the micro-blogosphere as @HungryInLondon, ventured that data inaccuracy has struck him as a problem with the new, Apple-built Maps.

"My local off-license is categorised as a petrol station and my minicab office as a hotel. Wonder what their nightly rate is," he said.

"And my local pub is marked as a Firkin. Don't think they've been around since at least 2001," he added in a subsequent tweet.

Similarly, @Jim_Watford has noticed a number of eccentricities with the new software: "Oh great the local train station has moved and the nearby pub is in someone's garden."

For what it's worth, our initial play with the new cartographic software seems to confirm that the new point-of-interest database - powered by Yelp - is considerably weaker than its Google counterpart. For instance, our local boozer in SE1, the Anchor, is shown as a part of the militaristic Financial Times compound across the road, as opposed to down by the Thames (see image, below) where it is actually located. And the only Greek God Taverna we know of in London is some two miles away in Covent Garden, but fortunately we're not craving a gyro at the moment.

Public transport directions also stick out as a major weakness at this stage. All UK queries, even a simple request for help getting from London Bridge to Waterloo (it's two stops on the Tube), simply redirect to a list of third-party transportation apps - hopefully one of them is capable of doing what Apple's new Maps programme cannot.

Of course, the new Apple Maps app does boast some neat sounding features, like the Flyover 3D mode - but even that's currently restricted to select buildings in a limited number of major US cities. Don't just take the word of a permanently cranky tech hack, though - the New York Times is among the mainstream print media outlets reporting similar deficiencies with the new mapping application.

The bigger issue here is Apple's deconstruction of its relationship with Google. In addition to resulting in a sub-par Maps application, YouTube is no longer integrated into iOS 6 as with previous versions, though it's available to download as a standalone. Google Maps, on the other hand, is nowhere to be seen at present, though the search giant has vowed to bring a dedicated app to the new platform. Obviously, it's immediately accessible via the mobile web: just go to the Google Maps homepage and create a home screen icon via the share button in the middle of the menu bar if you find Apple's new Maps service to be as lacklustre as we do.

Updating to iOS 6 is surely an inevitability for most Apple users, and those taking the potentially more prudent route of holding off on the refresh while the new software has its creases ironed out will surely find most of the early bugs are fixed reasonably quickly. The Maps quagmire is potentially a deeper rooted problem. Things like the point-of-interest fails being widely reported could take months or even years to remedy as Yelp and Apple bring their information database up-to-date and users help populate it with more current information. There's no instant fix to improve accuracy either, and the lack of public transportation directions - when the option is foregrounded like it is - is kind of mind-boggling. iOS 6 no doubt has much to recommend it, but Apple's in-house foray into cartography certainly doesn't look like one of the stronger features of its new software.

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