Problems in a map application can have more serious consequences than, say, a glitch in a video conferencing app. On Monday, police in Victoria, Australia issued a warning to travelers against using the Maps app for Apple's iOS6, after it led motorists to be stranded in a national park.
The police from the town of Mildura in Victoria tested the Maps app, and confirm that it lists the town as being in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park. This is about 43 miles from its actual location in the real world. The police advise motorists to use some other form of travel guide when venturing into the area, and they have contacted Apple to ask them to correctly identify Mildura's position.
No Water Supply
There is no water supply in the park, and temperatures can go as high as about 114 degrees Fahrenheit. The police said some motorists who used the Maps app were stranded for up to 24 hours in the Park without food or water, and had to walk for hours over dangerous terrain to get help.
The incidents and police warning are the most recent, and most dangerous so far, consequence of the much-criticized Maps apps. The company has issued a rare apology by its CEO, Tim Cook, promised that it is working to rectify the app's shortcomings, and has fired two of the executives that had oversight of Maps.
The complaints about the app, as initially released, could fill volumes. There were no public transit directions for bus or pedestrian routes, and directions could not be edited if a traveler decided to make changes while en route. There have been many reports of missing or incorrect information. By the calculation of one blogger, which compared the Apple Maps app to Google Maps, street view is missing from 41 countries, information from 24, and transit information from 51.
There are many reports of incorrect identifications, such as the misidentification of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., and a visual depiction of freeways in Oakland, Calif., showing some parts of the roads going vertically. There have also been a variety of baffling findings, such as a search for Canada that produced "no results found" -- which appeared be fixed if Wi-Fi was turned off.
'No Longer Walks on Water'
Apple is facing several major competitors in the maps space. Nokia has adapted its years of data and experience in mapping to create a Here mapping app for iOS and other platforms, Google has a browser-based version of its popular Maps app, and the search giant is also reportedly getting a new iOS version ready for launch.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, noted that Apple "has had this expectation of being pretty much perfect" in various arenas, such as app development, which she said had been propelled by the press and "the Apple fan boys." Even after problems with AntennaGate in the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2's light leakages, she said, "the criticisms didn't stick."
But the situation with Maps could be different, she said, because in the real world, there are problems "if you make the wrong turn in the Australian outback."
As a result, DiDio said, "Apple no longer walks on water, and Tim Cook and company still have a lot of work to do to assure customers beyond just saying, 'We're working hard to fix Maps.' "