I will just say it. For the first time in the five year history of iOS, the operating system is a mess. While some of the enhancements are wonderful and much needed (Siri especially), there’s a lot wrong with iOS 6.
And it’s not just Maps, which just about every tech pundit known to man has thoroughly trashed. The problems extend to the tighter social integration, iMessage, and even Passbook – so much for “it just works.” In reality, a worrying portion of iOS 6 doesn’t. How could Apple have made such a historic miss? The answer is pretty simple: It’s doing too much, too quickly.
The maps are just the beginning
Apple Maps is the company’s biggest gaffe, so much so that an entire Tumblr blog is devoted to its failures. The system’s US data might be acceptable, or close to it, but outside the States, the application’s issues make it unusable in places. We touched on some of the frustrations and problems UK users are encountering with Maps in this article yesterday.
And at least one politician is already speaking out on the issue already, calling Apple Maps “dangerously misleading” after the app labelled a 35-acre farm as an airport. “I have arranged that Apple be informed of the error and requested that it be urgently corrected,” Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter was quoted as saying in a statement yesterday. Ouch.
That’s not the only problem. Apple’s fancy 3D Flyover mode only deals with US cities. And when it works, it might be a thing of beauty – but US users are complaining about issues here, too, such as the flattening of the Statue of Liberty. Indeed, portions of cities look like the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Spelling errors and mislabelling abounds. How about Chicago skyscrapers labelled as gas stations? This seems almost unreal for a company that until recently prided itself on perfection. In all honesty, it feels like Apple has gone ahead and pushed an early beta version of Maps to millions of users.
The issues don’t stop with Maps. While it’s great to see tighter social integration, and posting statuses to Facebook and Twitter from several apps, this only works when it wants to. Siri is back to his slow self at times. And iMessage? It’s failed several times on me the past two days.
On iMessage, I’m not sure exactly what is happening, though. I don’t think Apple made any changes to the way it works in iOS 6, but it has been unstable more than any other time since it was first introduced last year. Passbook is another issue – I had to follow a set of steps to force it to work after it repeatedly told me “Cannot Connect to the iTunes Store.” (If you’re having that same problem, GottaBeMobile has a guide on how to fix it.)
Pretty frustrating stuff.
Going it alone
While I understand Apple’s desire to go in-house for its mobile payment solution, it highlights a common theme that runs across iOS 6: Apple wants to do it all itself rather than work with the broader community.
Passbook would have been infinitely better had Apple added NFC support into the iPhone 5 (yeah, that wouldn’t have helped us old-school iPhoners, but it would have shown initiative). At the same time, it should have found a way to keep Google Maps on iOS until Apple Maps is actually ready for prime time. The only thing I’m glad Apple did is scrapping native YouTube – Google’s new YouTube app is ten times better than the native app ever was. Apple has bit off way more than it could chew with iOS 6, and we’re paying the price for it.
To me this is just maddening: Apple’s strategy has always been to under-promise and over-deliver. Here, they’ve tried to shoot for the stars, and are barely reaching escape velocity. With Tim Cook now in full control of Apple, the blame is on his shoulders for allowing the company to release something like this. We worried what Apple would be like after Steve Jobs’ death, and it would seem we have our answer.
Obviously, the next question is whether or not Apple will be able to manage the public relations disaster that is about to ensue. With the iPhone 5 being released today, millions more will be using iOS 6 and experiencing the same problems in short order. Journalists – not just the tech media – are going to be looking for a story. For a company flying so high, a piece on its failures and shortcomings is just too juicy to pass up.
While Apple may want us to focus on the usual queues of folks around the block grasping for its next-generation smartphone, the real story will be the mess it got itself into by going it alone.