Why Is Terrible iOS 6 Maps Being Inflicted On Us?

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 21 2012 10:19 AM

iOS 6 Maps Is Terrible, But Why Is This Happening?

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Where Apple thinks the Dupont Circle Metro Station is.

Chris Kirk wrote yesterday about the new incredibly half baked Maps application that Apple's bundled with iOS 6 now that Google Maps is no longer part of the iPhone experience. The problems are sufficiently noteworthy that they have their own Tumblr.

I'm left struggling to understand what the underlying business dynamic is. Superficially the issue is that Apple and Google used to be sitting in a tree and then Google decided to launch the Android mobile OS and now they're enemies. But this kind of cross-ecosystem warfare doesn't stop Gmail from being compatible with the iOS Mail app, doesn't stop Google from being the default search engine on Mobile Safari, and doesn't stop me from using Google's online services from my Mac. And why should it? Apple makes money selling hardware, and they make more money if the hardware is as good as possible—i.e., if it provides access to Google's services. And Google makes money selling ads, and they make more money if people use their ad-supported services—i.e., ig they're accessible on as many platforms as possible.

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The mobile maps blow-up seems like pure lose-lose. Apple's products are now instantly worse even as they need to spend more money developing this inferior map product. Maps are a crucial smartphone use case, and now for the first time the iPhone is markedly inferior to competing products on a core smartphone function. But Google is both losing users in the short-term and losing their data in the long-term which, as Farhad Manjoo wrote, may be a big problem down the road.

It seems like a nearly pure lose-lose driven by . . . what? Ego? Hubris? Nobody's yet uncovered which company pulled the plug on the old Maps deal, and it speaks volumes that it's impossible to make a clear inference about it. Neither Apple nor Google seems better off than they were under the old arrangement.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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