Apple's Maps app for iOS stands out as one of the company's biggest failures -- a fairly small list, considering its lifetime of products. CEO Tim Cook apologized for the quality of the app last fall and promised fixes, some of which are now appearing in a variety of updates.
Flyover support, through which users can soar over cities, has been added or expanded for more than two dozen cities, and 3D buildings have been updated for standard view and turn-by-turn navigation for a dozen more. For Japan, road information and pronunciation has been improved, there are updated labels and icons for such locations as freeways, subway stations and hospitals, and 3D buildings have been added for such landmarks as Tokyo Station or the Japan Imperial Palace.
For China, Chinese fonts are easier to read, there is an updated road network , and maps are colored to matched the vector-based versions. Globally, there are new city labels, improved satellite imagery and additional location information for a range of restaurants, airports, transit stops, airports and businesses -- including Apple stores.
Warning by Australian Police
Despite the improvements -- or because the improvements have not yet matched the expectations -- there are still a variety of complaints being voiced across the Web about Maps. Users are pointing out, for instance, that the app is chock full of missing cities like Tampa, incorrect information on hospitals, outdated data about businesses, and other errors.
Other critics point out that the flyover fixes are not critical components to finding your way around, and revisions in China and Japan will not help, say, travelers in the U.S. or Australia.
The reference to Australia is not exactly hypothetical. In December, police in the town of Mildura in Victoria, Australia, issued a warning that travelers in the area should not use Apple Maps, since its erroneous information resulted in motorists being stranded in the middle of Murray Sunset National Park.
Can't Find Canada
The Maps app showed Mildura as being 43 miles from its actual location. That would perhaps be the basis of a funny story over dinner sometime, except for the fact that there is no water supply in the park and temperatures can reach 114 degrees Fahrenheit. The police reported that some motorists were stranded in the park for as long as 24 hours without food or water, and had to venture over dangerous terrain to find help.
The relatively small list of fixes so far is unlikely to quell the complaints over what was a deeply flawed product. Shortly after the release of Apple Maps, for instance, one blogger noted that street view was missing from 41 countries, traffic information from 24, and transit information in 51. There were also countless other mis-identifications and misplacements, including mislabeling the Washington Monument. Some freeways in Oakland, Calif., were shown going vertically, and a search for Canada with Wi-Fi enabled produced "no results found."
In iOS 6, Apple Maps was intended to replace the Maps app provided by one of Apple's competitors, Google. Apple's reason at the time was that Google's app didn't provide free, step-by-step, voice-guided directions. Google Maps had been part of the iPhone since that smartphone was launched, but was banned with the launch of Apple Maps. Following the storm of criticism about Apple's app, Google Maps has been allowed back on the platform and has since been downloaded more than 1 million times.