Lessons from Apple’s map app story

The old realities don’t change so easily and with Google Maps app returning to iPhones, we can once again conclude that: “Let the professional do the job”.


(the original photo is at: )

For those who don’t know the story, here is quick recap:

The idea was that Apple thought they can replace Google Maps app from their next iPhones with their own home grown mapping application. So they did turn on the switch this when they launched iOS6.

What happened actually was a big dent to Apple’s stature as the best tech company that produces quality stuff. People were unable to find locations, would reach in strayed areas to meet snakes instead of their destination, would   find doctors serving on the streets and so on. Some details here and some interesting screen shots here.

As a result Apple CEO Tim Cook had to make a personal apology on the website and it is speculated that two of the main guys (including iOS guru Scott Forstall and the Map team’s Manager) at Apple parted the ways due to this controversy. More details here.

Finally Google Map came back to iPhones on few days back to become the most downloaded app for iOS.

And the saga continues…

Do I need to talk about lessons as some of these are there already? 🙂 Well, let me emphasize on the professionals doing their job.

Google Maps being the best mapping solution is an acknowledged fact because they possess all the knowledge needed to build such app. You like it or not, but your competitor can be better at some places so there is no harm in giving them the credit. See Google didn’t refuse to build an app for iPhones thus supporting their competitor sell more phones than Android based phones. If all of us can learn to play a teamwork, where we multiply our strengths by calling in a professional do their part rather than becoming too smart to “do it all myself” failures, this perhaps is one of the biggest warnings 🙂

What other lessons you have from this story?


13 responses to “Lessons from Apple’s map app story”

  1. Haris Hasan says :

    I don’t think Apple didn’t have enough professionals for the job. They actually aggressively hired people from all around the globe (including Google) for the job. I think they wanted to have something out there “As Soon As Possible” which went wrong. Given enough time and testing they would have done the job. I think key take away is Not to release something as critical as Maps out there without enough maturity and thorough testing 🙂


    • majd says :

      Thanks Haris and you brought up a very good point: time to market pressure can force for a release that does not meet quality standards. So we have learned one more lesson 🙂


  2. Masooma says :

    Its no about having enough professionals. its about area of expertise. Apple did wonders. Another important thing i want to mention here is that we should appreciate the efforts when someone try to come out of the box. May be this was not their time they will make it next time.
    And yes Lack was at QA side. Being something really new, it should be tested fully and deeply. And for this they need a tester like me :p. Now it would be really difficult for Apple to make people trust their maps.


  3. H Hamid says :

    I initially thought that blunders of this level have stopped happing in the recent times, as companies have realized the importance of testing. But this recent example of Apple’s map has proved that the “test is not dead” – *wink*

    I agree that being an expert in one thing doesn’t make you an expert in everything. Google has proved itself to be a leader when it comes to Maps, whereas Apple is undoubtedly a leader for introducing innovation in the domain of smart devices. Google’s Chrome book, Chrome OS, GooglePlus were among failures, proving that Google was not a leader in those areas.

    However, it can be safely said that with more testing (possibly using the crowd sourcing), this situation could have been avoided. Apple has the potential to come back, but it will take some time and effort to build that trust again.


    • majd says :

      Right Huma, so all of us can imagine how tricky and distributed is the testing of a mapping application. Any new effort in some established domain requires more than writing code and as you rightly mentioned Google’s failure in social domain w.r.t. Facebook.


  4. Touseef Ahmad Rehan says :

    I don’t think QA team could do much for testing these maps. It might not be possible for Apple QA team to check each and every route. But still I feel there were a lot of things which they probably missed out. The information provided for these maps was at fault for which police in Australia for example had given warning regarding use of these Apple Maps. Google Maps get all their map data from Tele Atlas who are world leader in navigation and location based services.

    I am very much hopeful that Apple, in their next release will have a much better version the maps but they will need some conivincing and still a long way to go if they are to come anyway close to competing google maps.


  5. Zaki Shaheen says :

    Even though this is an old post, I think I should put in my 2-cents 🙂

    One of the key factors that is ignored in this particular case of maps in iOS 6 is that google maps is majorly a crowd-sourced product. That includes both data entry and quality assurance. Being free and most easy to use, it became the de-facto mapping standard for most of the world. It took Google 8 years to create a mapping system that we see today. On the other hand, Apple’s implementation is “closed source”. Its based on data provided by another company, graphics engine by another company and then apple did put in some of their own stuff. I would say no company, without the crowd behind them, can pull off a decent mapping application for the globe.

    Now, if I can understand this, Apple can’t? Of course they can, and they must have. But needless to say, its a sacrifice they had to make to meet the iOS 6 schedule, which has hundreds of other important features that “do” work good. Does it put a dent in Apple’s repute – not really. A scratch, sure.

    As Maroon 5 says in ‘she will be loved’:
    “Its not always rainbows and butterflies; its compromise that moves us along”.



    • majd says :

      Thanks Zaki for your analysis and I mostly agree to your comments. The ‘closed’ world of Apple brings some benefits to it’s system and then problems like these. Great companies learn from their mistakes and we have since heard of much improved version of Apple Maps.


  6. Zia Khan says :

    In the end, it was that Apple did a bad job for whatever reasons.. they should have either done it right or should have continued with utilizing Google map.

    Is it possible that similar problems may also happen in the context of different teams in a company?.What about individuals in a given team ?


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