While Apple apologizes, map app competitors show users the way

Apple maps on the iPhone and iPad.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has finally admitted what others have been saying for days. Apple's new map function isn't cutting it. Cook published an online apology to customers for the incomplete, frustrating and widely-criticized map function Apple built into its latest operating system. He promised that Apple is “working non-stop” to fix its own maps and invited Apple users to try offerings from Bing, MapQuest -- or even Google.

This came as welcome news and something of a birthday gift to Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski. Habdank works for Waze, one of the navigation apps Cook recommended. The unexpected attention meant Habdank didn’t get to take Friday off for his birthday.

“It’s gonna be a record-breaking day for us,” he said. “No question about that.”

Waze already has a five-star rating in the App Store and claims 25 million global users. But a shoutout from the head of Apple certainly doesn’t hurt.

“We know that people like us,” Habdank says. “But to get validated from Tim Cook, that was really cool.”

MapQuest and Bing are among others that will likely benefit from Apple’s map mishap.

Analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies is disappointed Apple removed Google’s mapping service and replaced it with the Apple software that the company now admits “fell short.”

“[Apple] really should not have taken away something that worked and given users something that didn’t work,” Kay said. “And to just say, ‘I’m sorry, you know, here, try these,’ I don’t think is really enough.”

Kay predicts some customers will switch to Android phones to get Google Maps. Danny Sullivan keeps track of all this as editor of Search Engine Land. Don’t forget, he says, Google Maps was far from perfect when it came out. And it’s going to take Apple time to catch up.

“What they’re gonna have to do is just as quickly as possible improve the mapping quality that’s out there.” Sullivan says. “And unfortunately, that’s not gonna be a quick process. It’s gonna take years.”

And while Apple spends those years finding its way, other map providers can cash in.

Mark Garrison: Today is Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski’s birthday. He wasn’t expecting a gift from Tim Cook. Habdank works for Waze, one of the navigation apps Cook recommended. And thanks to Cook’s big apology:

Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski: It’s gonna be a record-breaking day for us. No question about that.

Waze, and that's W-A-Z-E, already has a five-star rating in the App Store and claims 25 million global users. But a shoutout from the head of Apple, doesn’t hurt.

Habdank-Kolaczkowski: We know that people like us, but to get validated from Tim Cook, that was really cool.

Waze, MapQuest, Bing and others will likely benefit from Apple’s map mishap, says tech analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies. But he’d rather see Apple restore Google’s maps.

Roger Kay: It really should not have taken away something that really worked and given users something that didn’t work. And to just say I’m sorry, you know, here, try these, I don’t think is really enough.

Kay says some customers will switch to Android phones to get Google Maps. Danny Sullivan keeps track of all this as editor of Search Engine Land. Don’t forget, he says, Google Maps was far from perfect when it came out. And it’s going to take Apple time to catch up.

Danny Sullivan: What they’re gonna have to do is just as quickly as possible to improve the mapping quality that’s out there. And unfortunately that’s not gonna be a quick process. It’s gonna take years.

Years that other map providers will spend cashing in while Apple finds its way. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.

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