Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

Google Maps announces a 400 year advantage over Apple Maps

September 20th, 2012 by admin

UPDATE September 24, 2012: The Comment Cycle for the following entry is now closed. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.

I had a call from Marc Prioleau of Prioleau Advisors this morning and speaking with him prompted me to look into the uproar over Apple’s problems with its new mapping application. So, this column is Marc’s fault. Send any criticisms to him (just kidding). While you are at it, blame Duane Marble who sent me several articles on Apple’s mapping problems from sources around the world.

In my June blog on Apple and Mapping , I postulated that the company would find building a high quality mapping application very difficult to accomplish. Among the points I made were these:

• However, it is not (mapping) San Francisco that will give Apple heartburn. Providing quality map coverage over the rest of the world is another matter completely.

• Currently Apple lacks the resources to provide the majority of geospatial and POI data required for its application.

• My overall view of the companies that it (Apple) has assembled to create its application is that they are, as a whole, rated “C-grade” suppliers.

• Apple seems to plan on using business listing data from Acxiom and Localeze (a division of Neustar), supplemented by reviews from Yelp. I suspect that Apple does not yet understand what a headache it will be to integrate the information from these three disparate sources.

• While Apple is not generating any new problems by trying to fuse business listings data, they have stumbled into a problem that suffers from different approaches to localization, lack of postal address standards, lack of location address standards and general incompetence in rationalizing data sources.

• Apple lacks the ability to mine vast amounts of local search data, as Google was able to do when it started its mapping project.

Unfortunately for Apple, all of these cautions appear to have come true. So much for the past.

In this blog, after setting the scene, I will suggest what Apple needs to do to remedy the problems of their mapping service.

Given the rage being shown by IOS 6 users, Apple failed to hurdle the bar that was in front of them. I have spent several hours poring over the news for examples of the types of failures and find nothing unexpected in the results. Apple does not have a core competency in mapping and has not yet assembled the sizable, capable team that they will eventually need if they are determined to produce their own mapping/navigation/local search application.

Perhaps the most egregious error is that Apple’s team relied on quality control by algorithm and not a process partially vetted by informed human analysis. You cannot read about the errors in Apple Maps without realizing that these maps were being visually examined and used for the first time by Apple’s customers and not by Apple’s QC teams. If Apple thought that the results were going to be any different than they are, I would be surprised. Of course, hubris is a powerful emotion.

If you go back over this blog and follow my recounting of the history of Google’s attempts at developing a quality mapping service, you will notice that they initially tried to automate the entire process and failed miserably, as has Apple. Google learned that you cannot take the human out of the equation. While the mathematics of mapping appear relatively straight forward, I can assure you that if you take the informed human observer who possesses local and cartographic knowledge out of the equation that you will produce exactly what Apple has produced – A failed system.

The issue plaguing Apple Maps is not mathematics or algorithms, it is data quality and there can be little doubt about the types of errors that are plaguing the system. What is happening to Apple is that their users are measuring data quality. Users look for familiar places they know on maps and use these as methods of orienting themselves, as well as for testing the goodness of maps. They compare maps with reality to determine their location. They query local businesses to provide local services. When these actions fail, the map has failed and this is the source of Apple’s most significant problems. Apple’s maps are incomplete, illogical, positionally erroneous, out of date, and suffer from thematic inaccuracies.

Perhaps Apple is not aware that data quality is a topic that professional map makers and GIS professionals know a lot about. In more formal terms, the problems that Apple is facing are these:

Completeness – Features are absent and some features that are included seem to have erroneous attributes and relationships. I suspect that as the reporting goes on, we will find they Apple has not only omissions in their data, but also errors of commission where the same feature is represented more than once (usually due to duplication by multiple data providers).

Logical Consistency – the degree of adherence to logical rules of data structure, attribution and relationships. There are a number of sins included here, but the ones that appear to be most vexing to Apple are compliance to the rules of conceptual schema and the correctness of the topological characteristics of a data set. An example of this could be having a store’s name, street number and street name correct, but mapping it in the wrong place (town).

Positional Accuracy – is considered the closeness of a coordinate value to values accepted as being true.

Temporal Accuracy – particularly in respect to temporal validity – are the features that they map still in existence today?

Thematic Accuracy – particularly in respect to non-quantitative attribute correctness and classification correctness.

When you build your own mapping and POI databases from the ground up (so to speak), you attempt to set rules for your data structure that enforce the elements of data quality described above. When you assemble a mapping and POI database from suppliers who operate with markedly different data models, it is unwise to assume that simple measures of homogenization will remedy the problems with disparate data. Apple’s data team seems to have munged together data from a large set of sources and assumed that somehow they would magically “fit”. Sorry, but that often does not happen in the world of cartography. Poor Apple has no one to blame but themselves.


1. Unfortunately for Apple, they need to take a step back and re-engineer their approach to data fusion and mapping in general.

2. I suspect that the data and routing functionality that they have from TomTom, while not the best, is simply not the source of their problems. Their problem is that they thought they did not have a problem. From my perspective, this is the mark of an organization that does not have the experience or know-how to manage a large-scale mapping project. Apple needs to hire some experts in mapping and people who are experienced in mapping and understand the problems that can and do occur when compiling complex spatial databases designed for mapping, navigation and local search.

3. Apple does not have enough qualified people to fix this problem and needs to hire a considerable number of talented people who have the right credentials. They, also, need to develop a QA/QC team experience in spatial data. They could establish a team in Bangalore and steal workers from Google, but if they want to win, they need to take a different approach, because this is where Google can be beaten.

4. Apple appears not to have the experience in management to control the outcome of their development efforts. They need to hire someone who knows mapping, management and how to build winning teams.

5. Apple needs to get active in crowdsourcing. They must find a way to harness local knowledge and invite their users to supply local information, or at least lead them to the local knowledge that is relevant. This could be accomplished by setting up a service similar to Google Map Maker. However, it could also be accomplished by buying TomTom, and using its MapShare service as part of the mapping application to improve the quality of data. I think something like Map Share would appeal to the Apple user community.

6. Speaking of acquisitions, Apple could buy one of a number of small companies that integrate mapping and search services into applications for use by telephone carriers. The best of these, Telmap, was snapped up by Intel earlier this year, but other companies might be able to do the job. Perhaps Telenav? Hey, here is an interesting idea – how about ALK, now being run by Barry Glick who founded MapQuest?

7. I suppose Apple will want to hire Bain or some other high power consulting group to solve this problem. That would be the biggest mistake they have made yet, but it is one that big business seems to make over and over. As an alternative, I suggest that Apple look to people who actually know something about these applications.


There is no really quick fix for Apple’s problems in this area, but this should not be news to anyone who is familiar with mapping and the large scale integration of data that has a spatial component.

Of course there appears nowhere to go but up for Apple in mapping. I wish them the greatest of success and suggest that they review this blog for numerous topics that will be of assistance to them.

If you want to know more about map data quality see ISO (International Organization of Standardization), Technical Committee 211. 2002. ISO 19113, Geographic Information – Quality principles. Geneva, Switzerland: ISO. Available online from http://www.isotc211.org/

And, I urge Apple to keep a sense of humor about these problems, as have some of its users. I had a great laugh at a comment about Apple’s mistaking a farm in Ireland as an airport. The comment was “Not only did #Apple give us #iOS6… They also gave us a new airport off the Upper Kilmacud Road! Yay!

Until next time.

UPDATE on September 24, 2012. I have closed the comments period for the Apple Maps Blog. Thanks to all who have contributed.


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Posted in Apple, Authority and mapping, crowdsourced map data, Data Sources, Geotargeting, Google Map Maker, Google maps, map compilation, map updating, Mapping, MapQuest, Personal Navigation, TomTom

106 Responses

  1. eric

    TL;DR: Apple, please hire me.

    Hi, Eric:

    One of the things that I have learned over a long, fun career, is “Be careful what you wish for.”


  2. Abhi

    Hey Mike
    Of all the pieces that I have read on the blogosphere about iOS 6’s missteps with Maps, yours was the best so far. Well thought, great insights and fairly balanced imho.

    As an Apple user, I am hoping that Apple plays catch-up fast enough.

    Hi, Abhi:

    Thanks. Apple will be just fine. I am not sure how quickly they will remedy the problem, but that’s just a time value of money question for them.


  3. Ollie Jones

    Heh heh. My first job out of school I worked in a civil-engineering mapping company, who were trying to do some automation. They knew how to make excellent maps. But their nontechnical COO thought the computers (Intergraph OEM PDP-11 stuff) would get rid of the need for ground truth.

    It didn’t. We screwed up quite a few routine bread-on-the-table projects — parking lot surveys, bridge reconstruction plans, etc — until that COO realized that he needed to listen to the cartographers who said stuff like, “there’s no sidewalk on that side of the road!”

    It’s not hard to imagine that Apple might think it was all just data. Street names like “Infinite Loop” are cute until you try to edge-match them with the rest of the world. Then they betray a certain arrogance.

    They’ll figure out out. But the Keyhole / Google team already is doing a good job.

    Hi, Ollie:

    Great comments thanks. Need a spare RLO2?


  4. David Hobbins

    I can’t help feeling that Steve Jobs would have carried Maps in his pocket for a little while. Then gone ballistic. Then gone back to the office to bang heads together.

    A bad omen for Apple’s future

    Hi David:

    I agree with you – the release was premature, but it is hard to conclude that this was news to Apple. Fixing these problems will take both knowledge and management skill. If anyone can was capable of recovering from this sort of setback , it would be Apple. For those of you interested, there are a lot of mapping jobs open at Apple, or so I hear from my contacts.



  5. William Payne

    I guess Apple should stick to what they are good at – hardware, leave the data management to the experts: Google. As for the software … well, I am a bit stuck there. I do not know anybody who is good at software – I guess we will have to muddle through on that one ’till somebody comes along.

    Hi, William:

    I suspect that Apple will have some surprises in store for us. While they were slow out of the blocks, they might be able to redeem themselves in the eyes of their users.

    Don’t know about you, but I think Google is pretty good at software. Apple is not bad either and their mapping problem is, as you noted, with data.



  6. Prasanna

    Very interesting insights. Thanks for the detailed write up on why Apple is behind Google on this, and what makes this such a tough domain to crack. Hope Apple sees this and double-down and brings out a great v2.

    On your title – what’s the significance of ‘400 years’?

    Hi, Prasanna:

    Apple is such an interesting company. I suspect Apple will rebound, but it will be a challenge for them.



  7. Arnt Karlsen

    ..when will we see the first iMap
    mockery apps on Google Play? ;o)

    Hi, Arnt:

    Looking forward to it.


  8. Grant Ritchie

    Yes, data integration is a huge problem. There are more and more niche data sources that need to be fused together to create these types of mapping products. Data integration for local business places is what Saturn, Locationary’s platform does. We just launched it out of beta. Check it out here: saturn.locationary.com

    Hi, Grant:

    Thanks for the info. Best of luck.


  9. oak

    Mike, is this a blog post, or a job application? 😉

    Hi, Oak:

    That sounds like a good idea, but it would involve work – something I am trying to escape for a while – I am a consultant who is “on the beach” by choice after a grueling contract. I am content to write my blog, update my travel website, improve my photography (yes, the truth is that I work to buy toys), and generally relax. Anyway, I suggested several companies they could acquire that could help them solve this problem ;-)> (for those of you wondering, this is a bearded winking man).



  10. albert

    Mike, you hit the nail on the head with point #3. I suspect Apple’s current software folks may still believe you can do anything with software. My former bosses certainly though so!

    I suspect Apples motivation was more to squash Google than to provide a good user experience.

    Will hubris drive them to hire some expensive mapping experts?

    Apple still hasn’t learned from Microsoft, though they are quickly becoming microsoftian.
    a) Fight your competition by proxy.
    b) Buy your technology if you can’t do it yourself.

    Hi, Albert:

    You raise a number of interesting points. I hope Apple does well in mapping, as we need viable competition to improve everyone’s products.



  11. Court Kizer

    Apple does have the know-how and team to do this properly. They just chose to focus on getting the initial launch of the application with turn by turn. They used the teams resources to work on features customers would use to see what changes. If they didn’t they would have just dropped in a google replacement that looked exactly the same without the new features.

    The teams is setup similar to Google’s team, Apple knows everything you mentioned. Most of the employees are from Google’s own mapping team, and the rest are from the NRO (National Recon Office).

    They will make the changes in a hurry, and will have something for submitting. Also Apple is using the phones to collect data right now which is a huge advantage of what Google had to do back in the day. Give it 6mo and you will be very impressed.

    Hi, Court:

    Let’s just say that we disagree on this issue. I hope to be happily surprised by Apple’s prowess.



  12. Chris Devers

    In re: “Apple needs to get active in crowdsourcing.”, do you think it would make any sense for them to turn to OpenStreetMap.org for at least part of this? The credits for Apple’s initial maps copyright attributions do say that there’s at least some OSM data in there, but maybe this can be taken further.

    That seems like it could be a good deal for both Apple & OSM — Apple’s maps can benefit from the “wiki-esque” contributions from OSM users, and OSM can gain a mountain of new data from Apple iGadget users. The achilles heel might be in quality control with OSM’s data, but it could hardly be much worse than what they have right now.

    Then again, since any organization can use OSM data, Apple might decide that helping OSM could, indirectly, be a way of helping Google, which could be an argument against going down that route.

    Hi, Chris-

    These are interesting questions. I think that Apple will eventually want to “own” as much of these data as practical. Mixing too much OSM data might be problematic in respect to their future strategies for mapping and location. However, the future on these endeavors is not clear right now, so your suggestions might help them as a temporary fix.



  13. Robert George

    As a city dweller, my biggest objection is the lack of innate public transportation directions. It’s just shocking — from both a smart-business sense AND a “clean-energy business” sense — that Apple failed to realize that the most important aspect of any map is helping people to get from Point A to Point B. Given that aspect, it would follow that reliable directions for big-city dwellers who rely on public transportation would be the part MOST important to get correct.

    That said, my suggestion would be for Apple to buy Hop Stop — certainly the best stand-alone pub-transit site/app out there. If they can figure out a way to incorporate that seamlessly into MAPS, maybe they’ll have something there. In the meantime, I’m holding off from buying an iPhone 5 until — maybe — a new Google Maps app is approved for the App Store.

    Hi, Robert:

    Thanks for your comment. Public transportation is a huge hole in Apple’s offering, but today they indicated that they are moving to fill it. I think this is a timing issue in terms of development. Of course, it has been a public relations disaster, but not including public transport was clearly a strategic decision.


  14. Martin

    “I guess Apple should stick to what they are good at – hardware, leave the data management to the experts: Google.”

    My understanding is that Apple didn’t have a choice. Google was unwilling to give Apple the kind of map access they had under the original 5-year agreement which just expired.

    Hi, Martin:

    There are many issues related to the Apple/Google relationship that we will likely never really know. However, the business logic on both sides of the strategies related to this issue do not seem to make sense. That may be because they have been taken out of the context within which they were decided. Who knows?

    Thanks for sharing.


  15. Jon

    Great article and ideas! I like the idea of using crowd sourcing. Maybe Apple can rally a crowd sourced backed UAV project to build accurate Orthomosaics, Digital Elevation Models and POI databases. http://dronemapper.com offers this service via cloud backend. Interesting stuff! Thanks

    Hi, Jon:

    Thanks for your interesting comment.


  16. Brad

    I used to work at Motorola and I remember talking with a fellow when the iPhone was still just a rumour. Hi comment stuck with me… Regarding Apple’s entry into the cell phone market “They have no idea what they are getting into, they will be lucky to sell 10 million units”. I am not an Apple fanboy, I don’t own a single Apple product but I do know that they don’t just jump into things without a strategy, so I suspect you’ll see the maps improve rather quickly.

    Hi, Brad:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I expect that Apple will fix many of the problems rapidly, but their lack of a source for “active” crowdsourcing and a lack of a comparable tool to Street View for map compilation purposes will make it difficult to address all of the errors for quite some time.


  17. getaneditor

    “User’s look..”

    Woah, here comes an S!

    Hey, “getaneditor” Dude:

    Thanks for the suggestion. Tell you what – when you find an editor to correct the error in your single sentence comment, send me their address! 😉


  18. Alok

    * That Apple will catch up with whatever mapping was on the latest iPhone a few weeks ago is guaranteed, what is uncertain is the time it will take.

    * That there are alternatives to the Apple Map on the latest iPhone is a known fact, what is uncertain is the quality of experience, and use cases, where the new product lags or lacks from the previous Google aided version.

    * In ever in flux job markets people jump ships, talent can be acquired. Question that remains is at what price and how quickly.

    The power of user data is very lucrative for both Google, Apple and also Amazon, Microsoft and other such computing service companies.

    What business are these companies in? Not Advertisements, not hardware, nor supply chain or office computing. Those are the means to conduct their actual business. They are in the user experience business. They serve an experience to the user. It is not the tools but the experience of using the tools which brings in their moolah.

    And which of these companies are renowned for creating premium user experiences? Take a look at the stock market.

    Hi, Alok:

    Thanks for your comments.


  19. TJCrebs

    Agreed mapping is all about ground truthing and interpretation,
    and Apple should have done more QC. But hey, I used the turn-by-turn
    navigation today and it was much better than Motion GPS or Navigon, and
    was MUCH faster at recalculating new routes when I made deliberate bad turns.

    Also the integration of map navigation with SRI’s Siri is simply awesome for this
    60-something (aka geezer).

    Hey, TJ:

    I agree. I noted in the blog that the problems with Apple Maps are generally not related to navigation and routing, or the data supplied by TomTom. If you enter a valid origin and destination, the routing portion of the product is actually fairly nice. If you are searching for a business listing or POI the problems become more apparent. In some places, however, the comprehensiveness of the map coverage that Apple shows is deplorable.

    Of course these problems are fixable and I wish the Apple Team great success as they work on solving the current limitations in their mapping application.

    Thanks for you note.


  20. getaneditor

    Which error?

    Me saying “an” S? While I usually follow the ‘only if it actually starts with a vowel’ rule, I think the rule is actually if it SOUNDS like it starts with a vowel. (So, “an historical” is still just wrong.)

    Hi, “get an editor”:

    Thanks for your second note.

    As noted in my first reply, I hope you enjoyed the article.

    What has been your experience with Apple Maps?


  21. Mark

    Great article! In regards to Google Streetview I predict Apple already have something in play. I was very curious as to why they introduced a panoramic app, then realized that crowdsourcing panoramic images would be almost what streetview offers. With all those iOS users it wouldn’t take too long to start showing ground or streetviews of local areas around the world.

    I look forward to something better in a few months.

    Hi, Mark:

    Thanks for the insight. I need to find out more, it sounds interesting.


  22. Scott

    I think you’re spot on with your criticism, the crowd-sourcing especially. It is the one thing that I think is missing most from many critiques of the new Maps app.

    I really believe Apple went about this very wrong, and the “Well you’ll see where they’ll be in 6 months” apologizers seem to be fundamentally missing certain aspects of Apple history. Apple has messed up big before, and fixes were NOT usually quick in coming. (I’m not going into a list here, and I’m sure I’ll stir up a hornets nest saying that, but I’ve been an Apple guy for over 30 years…I can call it fairly.) But for one, look at their OS update cycles and intransigence towards pulling “built-in” apps OUT of the OS cycle; they do NOT. Their seeming arrogance on this issue, to me, belies their hubris…as you rightly pointed out.

    The “right” way to have dealt with this, IMHO, would have been to release this maps app 6 months or a year ago into the App Store as a stand-alone product. Yes they would have pissed off Navigon/Garmin & TomTom by directly competing. But Apple has crushed smaller devs doing the same before without shedding a tear. And it was a feature that EVERYONE could see Apple needed to regain parity with Android, so no real surprise. Secondly, Apple needed/needs to implement their maps as a web site. Just like you said, crowd-sourcing (or to show that you’re TRYING to fix what’s borked quickly, easily, and accepting help to do so) is the key to allowing p-o’d users to help fix mess ups. Google does this quite well, and I even find myself, from time to time out of complete boredom/OCD, sitting in front of Google Maps for hours “fixing” my little town! Game theory at its best. Apple has a rabid fanbase to harness, yet has put forward NO mechanism to do so. None. And that should have come first. Complete failure there. And finally, why didn’t Apple release some component of this into Mac OS X 10.7 a year ago? It could have laid in stealthy wait, again harnessing the Mac community? Some reports are saying Apple’s been working on this for 4 years, I can’t imagine that a year ago their mapping data, at least, couldn’t have found a home in Address Book or a simple Google Earth style app in OS X.

    No, this “Here ya go! A new feature!” says something else to me…that your critique is SPOT ON. Head shaking, what were they thinking, SPOT ON. I hope they can get it working, but Apple has a shaky history with projects that fail out of the gate…they tend to abandon them. And Maps is a feature they can’t afford to abandon.

    But great blog post!

    Hi, Scott:

    I am glad that you liked the post.

    Thanks for sharing you views, I found them informative.


  23. Nick

    While indoor mapping is still a nascent field, I’m curious to see how Apple will attack it. Google (and even Microsoft) have a head-start in this area, for which acquiring data is an even more hands-on task.

    There are a few indoor mapping and positioning companies out there that could make a good supplier/acquisition for Apple: http://bit.ly/indoornavigation

    Hi Nick:

    Indoor mapping will be a challenge for all involved, but you are correct that it is an important growth area. Thanks for sharing the info. I will look it over this weekend.


  24. Rick


    I loved reading your post! People with great knowledge and experience often do not show wisdom AND leadership by example. Class act you are . I would love to have worked for you…..I could learn a lot. The Marine Safety business is a lot
    like the Mapping biz it seems, requires good judgement and a lot of organizational control. You get a lot more done happy
    than you do mad and reactionary.

    I think Steve Jobs in the past pulled a couple of these kind of ” put it out there anyway because I painted us in a corner and we have to” things in the past . We just no longer have his Increadiable Reality Distortion Field Generator to run interference . The Mobile Me team, iPhone 4 antenna ( because Steve and Jony were in lust over the look of the band) and thinking he could overcome the battery draining issues of Mobile Flash only to vilify it out of existence when he could not.

    But I do worry about Apple today. The current team is fighting about embellishing or not embellishing the UI with stuff that no longer is done or needed. Microsoft gave it up in Windows 8 and on the new phone. Bob Mansfeild wanted out and the
    Apple Store is being run by a new hire from the UK, the home of the “Lean” business model……he fired 40% of the folks who worked at the stores then they said they made a mistake but only brought back a small percentage .

    If Steve made it so that Jony Ive could not be ” leaned” and told what to do when it came to the final word on design , it feels like he needed to the same with a sage overseer of his keen quality freakiness as well.

    I think they need to hire you for that job! Bob Mansfeild needs to give you a call. Save Apple for us :> }

    You are one cool dude!

    Hi Rick:

    Thank for your comments, they are quite insightful.

    I am pleased that you liked the blog. I am sure that Apple can manage their way out of this conundrum without my help, but I appreciate your kind words,


  25. Joe

    So what you are saying is that this is the sixth time the anomaly has arisen? What if this time “the one” is for real???

    Hi, Joe:

    You are ahead of me on this one, but I appreciate hearing from you.


  26. Matt

    They should have just bought TomTom – yeah, the data ain’t perfect but it would solve another issue – trading a couple of gigabytes of storage space for having the maps with you, no matter the signal. When I need turn-by-turn, I’m least likely to be in cell-signal range. :)

    I believe they will iterate quickly on this – but they really should be actively crowd sourcing this information. They also have stores, resellers and service providers all over the world. For pennies of incentive they could put them to work verifying crowd sourced data.

    It does highlight the poor quality of data sources, inaccuracy of tools like post-codes (where available) and the utter vitriol spat by their ‘loyal’ user base when they step short of the mark.

    Is it better than the first public release of Google Maps?

    Hi, Matt:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I think the first version of Google Maps was better. At the time Google was using Tele Atlas, NAVTEQ and software supplied by the company now called DeCarta. They were not in a rush to”get to market” and let the product bake until it was ready to be released. When (and where) Google began compiling its own data an not licensing it, is when they hit their first real quality problems.


  27. Peter Hoag

    Mike – Beautifully said – both the prognosis and the recommended correction. I’ve forwarded your article to a number of sites. I developed my own, commercial GIS product for monitoring fair lending compliance in the banking industry way back in the mid-1990s. I’ll never forget the time and effort required to develop this product, despite the fact that we required a fairly limited amount of census tract data for use in a limited number of US metro centers. I mentioned in a Tweet that Apple might well consider now asking ESRI for some help! – Peter

    Hi, Peter:

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Yes, ESRI could be of assistance to Apple on this issue.


  28. Phill

    Hi Mike,
    I’m glad I found your blog and you did a great write up. Now here is my point on the map issue. Apple Failed so badly, I will not buy I phone/pad for years to come. The reason I will not buy, because I live in South East Asia. Trust me, all my friends use Google Maps all the time for Thailand, Philippine, etc,etc. Apple really forgot the over seas market when they came up with this idea. Maps are extremely important for anybody who lives overseas and Google is way ahead in this game. I remember being in San Jose Costa Rica around 2003 and using Goggle. One day Google maps were so so, the next week, Pow Google map came to life! I was able to see my house and details in the park next to me. The same story happen while I was in the Philippines in 2010, poor maps then great maps.
    Honestly, if you are overseas, living, working or just retired, Google Maps wins the game.
    Sorry Apple, you a long way to go. Phill

    Hi, Phill:

    Great information. Thanks for sharing, as it is a clear example of the need to have a mapping system that is comprehensive both in terms of data and coverage.



  29. Jim L.

    Hi Mike, Good read. Got interested in mapping from Geocaching years ago. Seems such a travesty that 100’s of years of quality maps were discarded in the internet age, when certain companies decided that navigation for people could be accomplish without locally verified data. Here in Maine we chase map inaccuracies daily as guests inquire how to find a place that appears on their GPS, but doesn’t appear when they drive into the GPS location. Apple may help the situation in the long run with the publicity about GPS map accuracy.

    Hi, Jim:

    Thanks. Yes, collecting your customers comments can lead to improving data quality. I hope Apple has a system to achieve just that.

    Guess you don’t see those Street View and NAVTEQ vehicles very often, as most of these efforts are weighted towards population density. However, I would think that DeLorme’s products are fairly accurate in Maine.


  30. yoyo

    so i’ll do what millions are going to do
    not update the phone
    and not buy a new one before the maps is back..

    Hi, Yoyo:

    I think a lot of people are considering doing just that. However, even with the news of the Apple Map problems, the stock added value yesterday and reached a new high.

    Thanks for your comment.


  31. Phill

    Why did you remove my post? I Think I had a good reason for not buying Apples I5. Living in S.E.Asia, good maps are important.
    Did I miss something?

    Hi, Phill:

    I have included both your comments and wanted to thank you for following up. When I first saw that note I thought that I may have accidentally deleted your original comment, but found that it had arrived during our evening. I think you mistook my need for sleep for active editing. I review all comments to weed out those that come from spammers, and got to yours the first thing this morning (well, I sleep late, but it was the first thing in my day).

    Thanks again.


  32. Andy crichtOn

    All I know about maps is I lost al lot of money believing gps would never take off on a phone. But after reading your article I feel like mapping is really interesting and a lot of layers to a project that seems wrongly to be a matter of tapping into data that you assume has been around for years. Thanks

    Hi, Andy:

    Thanks for your comment. I have spent most of my career involved in maps and learn something new about them almost every day. It is a fascinating topic.

    Thanks for your comment.


  33. Watts

    Your memories of the original Google Maps are apparently more positive than mine. :) While they certainly didn’t have people pouncing all over their errors the way Apple does, I’m not sure how much of that is a function of Apple’s data set having more errors than Google’s initial data set (which it undoubtedly does) and how much of it is a function of the audience in 2012 both being much larger and having far higher expectations than the audience in 2005 did.

    Apple’s core strength as a company has always been user experience, and the design of their maps app is actually very impressive. I don’t get the impression that the complaints about “lack of detail” compared to other map programs — at least in areas they have data for — are really fair; Apple’s app makes different decisions about which zoom levels to show/hide information, but I don’t think those decisions are wrong. (I don’t think Google’s are wrong, either. Just different.) I admit I’d much rather have seen Apple attempt to work out a licensing deal with Navteq, but presuming the entire reason Apple got into this business was to avoid relying on services provided by direct competitors, that was never going to happen.

    I am curious about what you mean by “active” crowd sourcing, as distinct from “passive,” presumably.

    (As as a final passing observation, I live about 10 miles from Cupertino, and Apple’s maps are pretty good here. :) I was amused that it has my apartment complex one block down the street it’s on, though — precisely the same error that Google Maps was making a year ago.)

    Hi, Watts:

    Thanks for contributing the history and your experience with Apple Maps. Once again, there may be hope.

    I consider “passive crowd-sourcing to be the use of a device’s GPS to track you as you go about your daily business. Most phones and Personal Navigation Devices are capable of reporting the paths that they follow. Many traffic services are partially built on the the concept of using your device as a floating probe that measures the resistance (traffic) of a roadway. The use of these systems does not actively involve the user, other than as a transport for the device. In “active crowd-sourcing”, a contributor must personally interact with an application or system (say OSM) to convey the data of interest to them (say a street name or a store location).


  34. James in LA

    For the sake of the user community, can Apple please return us to google maps? At least until the requisite 400 years of labor passes?

    Hi, James (“in LA”):

    I don’t think I am one of Apple’s favorites at the moment, but if I could help I would.

    I had a great laugh yesterday on this same topic. I was being interviewed for a national radio program in Australia on the topic of Apple Maps and the host asked me what did I really mean by the use of “400 years” and then added that there had been a lot of discussion there about what I had really meant. I was embarrassed, as I had to tell him that “400 years” had no real significance, while admitting that I was being “cheeky” and only meant to infer that this would not be a quick fix.



  35. James

    Interesting seeing all of the reasons why Apple won’t succeed, many by people who have never even tried the phone/iPad. Mileage on maps vary by where you are. I find in the Denver area they have been spot on and sometimes have better information than google maps, after 3 days of looking at them with my iPad and 1 day with the iPhone 5. They may be thin in other areas, but here they are fine. 3D flyover of downtown Denver, CO USA is good and very bad, depending on the buildings. But the 3D visualization of the flat maps I find to be useful and an upgrade from the iPhones Google Maps (though not my Android) I look forward to the upgrades coming, but not a bad first step for Apple, And I have seen Facebook status’s around the USA saying they have no issue with the maps…. So I guess flames by those who haven’t used it, and real issues in some locations appear to be the real thing.

    Hi, James:

    I am pleased to hear from someone who has had a good user experience with Apple Maps, as that means there is hope.

    I did not comment on the imagery problems as these are easily solvable. In some cases they need to replace their imagery, in others they need to fix an error in their algorithms – but both are relatively simple.

    Where there will be more difficulty is assessing map data coverage and comprehensiveness and bringing in the right solution. In addition their fusion of listings data seems to be flawed. I suspect it is a combination of errors in the data and problems, spatial indexing and geocoding/reverse geocoding.

    Thanks for your comment


  36. Katch

    If history is to be followed, apple will ultimately deliver the best mapping expiriencce as maps is an iOS work in progress . We have been here before with other implementations. Katch

    Hi Katch:

    I hope you are correct. It would be good for the industry.

    Now let’s see how long it takes Apple to reach the goal.


  37. Stu Mitchell

    This is the best analysis I’ve yet seen about iOS maps. The key part for me is that the problem is one of a data quality issue, and not of algorithms or mathematics. Apple just didn’t see how vast a requirement they had to fulfil. Google had years to work on their maps, and yet Apple just didn’t get that it was never going to be as good.

    The recommendation for now just has to be that GM is included on iOS for the foreseeable future, until AM has enough of a USP for people to switch for at least some of the need to use maps on iOS. I can see a stage in the future where you’d use GM for certain uses, and AM for other uses. Frankly I don’t want SatNav; I want good quality 2D maps that I can discover more about where I am and what’s around me, over and above prescriptive routing algorithms. Once Apple realise maps are used for a multitude of reasons, and that there’s a multitude of data quality issues to overcome, they might just get it.

    Hi, Stu:

    Great comments. I hope that someone from Apple reads them.



  38. Jason

    Great blog post. It’s good to see a balanced piece on the subject.
    I suspect the is a fair amount of Apple complacency involved here. The thought that they (Apple) could do no wrong has clealy gone to the corporate heads of Apple and here is the result. Clealry they did not “need” to get rid of Google maps. If the money and reputational loss were not so high one could say this is just stupid childish corporate behavior.
    I suspect it will be many months if not years before Apple can release a product even on par with Google. Until that time I’ll be sticking with the superior Google service.

    Hi, Jason:

    Thanks for your comment.

    One wonders how these decisions were made, but it is likely that we will never known the real issues. The problem for Apple now is a very inadequate mapping product. Hopefully they can find a way to recover, as their entry to this market could (eventually) help to improve the offerings of all players.


  39. ade

    i was one of the early adopters to google maps in 2007 – there were initial moans in the groups about wrong names, etc but everyone accepted that this was “uncharted territory” and was grateful for the ability to actually map and poi your locale. – over the years gmaps have become the defacto map *everyone* goes to

    apple on the otherhand seemed to have missed a completely and utterly fundamental in thinking that in 2012 no-one is going to ridicule their attempt at a better version of gmaps

    until google have their own native iphone app i am not moving to ios6 – i cannot see the point – neither can i see *any* developer switching their app maps to appl
    e from gmaps – the user experience is so bad that invariably its the deveopler of the app that will get the grief from their users not apple

    Hi, Ade:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with Google.

    I have heard from a number of people who share your view about IOS 6. No doubt about it, Apple has a lot of work to do to be considered a credible player in the world of mapping/routing/LBS.



  40. Paco

    Nice article.

    Your recommendation #3 seemed to leave out some key info. Anything you want to share with the class about what new approach might beat Google?



    Hi, Paco:

    It has been my experience that you need “subject-matter” experts when dogging problems of data quality in street-level mapping. It can be very difficult for teams located far from the geographic area of interest to remedy what are “local problems.” I think a distributed model, involving professional editors who have a familiarity (or can be trained to be spatially inquisitive) with specific geographies (and sources within these locations), coupled with a crowd-sourced system that is “geographically tuned”, might be one approach worth exploring. You might find the two blogs starting here of interest . They are dated but still informative, I think.

    Finally, I apologize to all of you who think that I was lecturing – my writing style is probably a holdover from my years teaching map making at SUNY Albany, oh so many years ago.

    Thanks for your question.


  41. GadgetGav

    A great post. I came here from a link on Twitter and it’s one of the most thought-out pieces I’ve read on the iOS 6 Maps problems and digital mapping in general. I’ll have to take some time to read through the rest of the site.

    For Apple’s immediate problem, I wonder where the incentive will come from for their customers (of which I’m one) to help crowd source improvements to the map data. For people who have good coverage where they travel, there’s no improvements needed. For people who find Apple Maps poor and lacking good data, won’t they just switch back to using Google Maps, either via the browser or a native app if and when it’s released? Just reporting a problem with a map doesn’t fix it, so even if the user is public spirited enough to file the error report, they still need to find a reliable mapping service. I can imagine that even the most ardent Apple fan is only going to file a few reports. Maybe that will bring in a total of a few million error reports, but even so, there’s still the issue of what to do with that information. As you say, an algorithm is not going to help here. It’s going to need a human looking at the error report and comparing Apple’s data to a known good map of the same area (is Google Maps going to be the gold standard here?) and deciding whether or not the error report is correct. When they’ve done that enough times, they’ll roll out an iOS update that includes a change to the mapping data. But by then, will it be too late..?


    Great comments. It may be that all of these issues are part of Apple’s strategy for mapping, but it sure looks like a blunder. I think it is likely that Apple could create a great, crowd-sourced update system based on their current users, but innovating and managing a system that has incentives and rewards for these users (in part by fixing these errors on a timely and reliable basis) will be the fly in the ointment. It is not an impossible task, but one that takes know-how and people. Based on Apple’s performance to date, these two requirements may be in short supply.



  42. GadgetGav

    Correction – I came via Techmeme, not Twitter. FWIW

    Thanks, again.


  43. Philip

    Mike: This is probably a dumb question, but i’d love an informed answer. When I did a Google search for a local restaurant and got an address, did that information go into Google’s mapping database? When I do those searches now, will Apple be able to harvest that data?

    Hi, Phillip:

    There are no dumb questions, only dumb “answers.” Since I am replying to this one late at night, I hope it makes sense.

    Your search data and more will flow into a resource that supports the Google mapping database and more Google database than you might think. Yes, they will mine your data and, if you are on an Android phone, will look to see if you possibly drove to a location that they can associate with that address. If they could not find the restaurant at that local address when you searched for it they will then start a process to attempt to find the reference and add it to Google’s business listings database. They will also try to use your search and those of others to determine the popularity of the restaurant. The amount an analytics that are used to process our searches is amazing. I just wish they had a database that could tell them when I actually purchased something for which I was searching on Google. Google now haunts me with advertisements for products I bought months ago. On the other hand, anyone using my computers would know what I wanted for Christmas by looking at some of the Google ads that appear.

    I doubt that Apple has the same capabilities as Google in this regard, but they are attempting to build them. Google is such a powerhouse, because it has so many smart people working for it and it has more data to mine than anyone else.


  44. Walter Elly

    Brilliant analysis and recommendations. Can you please explain how you came up with the headline though?

    Hi, Walter:

    Thanks and “ouch” again. The title was me being cheeky. My intent was to suggest that while Google seemed to be really worried about Apple Maps before it was launched, after seeing the product Google will have realized that a competitive product from Apple has not yet been birthed. However, if I were Google I would not get too complacent. Apple will bounce back.


  45. Kindroid

    In your reply to Paco you suggested that localized teams with the requisite knowledge be used along with crowd sourcing as a new approach for Apple…that could result in a better product. It’s my understanding that Google uses over 6000 contractors doing just that. Can you shed any light on this?


    Hi, Kindroid:

    Unfortunately, I cannot add any light to the number of contractors tied to Google.

    My intuition tells me that this number it too large, but I have been wrong before.

    If you read my review of the Atlantic article on Google, I note where it is indicated that Google receives a couple of thousand notifications a day of map errors. If they actually had 6 or 7K contractors, I would expect the number of error messages to be lower. Of course, it may be that the contractors are desk jockeys or a team that scrapes the internet. In essence, I am not sure of their skills, backgrounds, numbers of specific job descriptions. Wish I knew, but Google is a very secretive company and so far, it has served them well. However,although it is a difficult model to build, one could establish goals for quality levels and coverage and then work backwards to determine the infrastructure needed to support reaching this goal in a desired time frame.

    Thanks for commenting.


  46. Hlame Flatz

    400 years?

    Hi, Hlame:

    Caught again.

    I was being sarcastic and indicating that Google has a very long lead over Apple Maps and will retain one for some time barring a major flub by Google or a technological breakthrough on the part of Apple. Apple appears to have sacrificed a lot of the basics in order to role mapping out with IOS6. Now, Apple will need to figure out how to add all the ingredients that could make them a potential competitor to Google Maps.



  47. arnav kalra

    A great post.
    I live in india and apple maps coverage here is just awful. Their satellite imagery around my hometown(a city of 250,000) is a bit worse than google but they do not have any data. In google maps all streets have been marked since 2010. In apple maps only the national highway has been marked, no state highways, nothing. Except the name of the city and a few roads they have no other data.
    Google has data about some local businesses, schools and other important places. Even though google was not allowed to drive street view cars in india they have a lot of data because of a large number of android phones. In cities like new delhi google’s coverage is good enough for navigation purposes as it has transit timings and all other features. Even in one of the world’s largest cities apple has no data. I feel it will be very difficult for apple to get data for countries like india as here they will have to collect it by hand. Google is able to get local business listings because it offers free advertisement and other incentives. Apple has no such service and will not be getting one.

    Also, making a search for gangtok in apple maps takes you to some random street in taiwan. It is a state capital in india and a popular tourist destination.

    Apparently apple does not have good imagery for hilly areas as they tend to be black and white, covered with clouds and blurry. They should do something about that too.

    Hi, Arnav:

    Wow. What a great summary of Apple’s coverage problems in locations where it does not have data from TomTom/TeleAtlas or other authoritative data suppliers. I appreciate your sending this info to us.

    I think the imagery is something that can be easily fixed, but acquiring the mapping data will be much more difficult. Crowd-sourcing could help, as could the use of strategies such as those used by Google, but Apple currently lacks the infrastructure to manage either approach to this task.

    Many of us forget that Local Search is one of the ingredients that makes Google Maps so special. Google has more data on the things people are searching for in local domains and can harness that information to tune their map data collection and coverage.

    As to the incorrect location in Apple Maps, it is clear that they need to work on data quality and perhaps rethink spatial indexing.

    Thanks again.


  48. Toxmarz

    You said the way they could beat Google is:

    3. Apple does not have enough qualified people to fix this problem and needs to hire a considerable number of talented people who have the right credentials. They, also, need to develop a QA/QC team experience in spatial data. They could establish a team in Bangalore and steal workers from Google, but if they want to win, they need to take a different approach, because this is where Google can be beaten.

    Google already already has 7000 +/- working just on Maps, and has been developing it for ten years. And even they didn’t start from scratch, they bought a great mapping company and went to town with it. Apple has a total of 13000 non retail employees, and most aren’t in Mapping. Apple first needs to get basic functionality up to speed before it can even start thinking about beating Google. It has no time to do anything but focus on basic functionality for the near future. Once they get there they can take a look where they are and Google is and then assess “where Google can be beaten’. Trust me Google, is not standing still and is not hampered by trying to provide basic functionality that every day you don’t leaves you a laughing stock.

    Hi, Tomarz:

    Thanks for your comment, as it includes some interesting and informed perspectives.

    I am not sur that Google has been in the mapping business for 10 years and I am not sure would agree that they bought a great mapping company that gave them an insurmountable advantage, but this may be a matter of semantics. You may remember that they started with Telcontar, now de Carta and dropped them before developing its own platform. It also once worked with both NAVTEQ and TA, before it switched exclusively to TA and the dropped them in major markets.

    I welcome your estimate of the size of the Google Maps workforce, and note that if the number is true and we could agree that on a fully-burdened rate each employee cost Google $50,000, then Google is spending approximately $350 million a year on labor alone for its mapping. Do you think this is directionally correct? However, I would caution here than numbers of employees do not tell the tale, rather we need some measure of their experience, skill and training to set a hurdle rate that would represent Apple’s required spend to reach Google’s quality and coverage levels. That would be fun to model.

    I realize that Google is not standing still, but mapping is a competitive market and technology in respect to map compilation is the wild card in this mapping arms race. While I have great respect for Google and its accomplishments in mapping, I do not share you sentiment that they cannot be beaten. Why, with a new owner, NAVTEQ could give them a real tussle.

    It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Thanks for sharing.


  49. john

    NAVTEQ already has an owner that is aggressively leveraging it as a competitive asset and horizontal platform. Nokia may be struggling in smartphones, but their mapping service is of considerable quality around the world.

    Hi, John:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I am not of the same opinion as you, but these are the types of differences in opinion that make the world interesting.

    It is my belief that Nokia’s ownership of NAVTEQ has harmed the company. The previous management team who understood the business were sent to Siberia, or left of their own volition. Navteq today could be rescued by a competent owner and you must know that the company has been on the block for some time.



  50. Stefan

    >7. I suppose Apple will want to hire Bain or some other high power consulting group to solve this problem.
    No, definitely not. That is contrary to everything I have heard about Apple in the last 20 years.
    They will hire, buy small companies, license. They will not talk much how the are going to improve maps.

    Hi, Stefan:

    Thanks for your input. It sounds reasonable to me and I hope, for Apple’s sake, that you are right.


  51. Pete

    I must admit I have a strong antipathy against Apple and all its products – of course I’m a satisfied Android user. I’m happy each time I hear of a failure of Apple (which is unfortunately happening quite rarely).
    As other people already mentioned, the easiest thing would have been to make their new map service a beta, where users can just search and submit found errors. And a way for users to take part on solving those.

    Hi, Pete:

    Good thinking. I too have wondered why they did not take this path. It might not have satisfied their users, but at least they might have been willing to expect that the experience would improve.


  52. Walter Elly


    Thanks for the response! I actually scanned the comments earlier in the day for an answer before making my comment, then came back later in the day to post mine and should have scanned again because I see you had already addressed it. Sorry about that and thank you so much for taking the time to answer every post, that is really awesome of you!

    Hi, Walter:

    No problem.
    It’s Sunday and I was up till 3AM reading the latest Jack Reacher novel and got up late. Now I am dragging, but still working my way through the comment pool. I have an ulterior motive in responding to the comments. Almost every one of them contains something that I had overlooked or might not have had the right perspective on, or maybe did not even know. How humbling.

    Thanks for your comment.


  53. Phil Payne

    Why is the data Tom Tom supplied noticeably poorer than that usde in its own products?

    Hi, Phil:

    I suspect that Apple’s implementation is the problem and that the data from TomTom is not the problem. While I suppose Apple could have licensed a subset of TomTom’s data that scenario seems unlikely to me.

    If my recollection is correct, an official TomTom release on this problem indicated that other companies had licensed TomTom data and not encountered the problems experienced by Apple. In fact, TomTom indicated it was willing to send a tech team to Apple to help out, but this had not been requested at the time of the release.



  54. LionelatDell


    Like others have said here… appreciate the insightful blog post here. Speaking of Nokia, where do you see there mapping solutions compared to Apple and Google? I know it will be the standard for the forthcoming WP8 platform. Do you expect Microsoft and Nokia to compete well here, or not?

    Hi, LionelatDell:

    It is my opinion that NAVTEQ has lost some of its capabilities as a result of mismanagement by Nokia.

    Microsoft is the wild card here. They are very capable at mapping, but whether their cooperation with Nokia ever generates enough customers to make a difference in the quality of their mapping application is a key question. The link to the number of customers is important here as this will be their main source for the majority of active and passive crowd-sourced data. As opposed to Apple, NAVTEQ has a polished and accomplished, map data base with significant coverage and knows how to integrate data from a variety of sources. This is an example of the kind of situation where a “report a problem” functionality on a mobile mapping application can help a company transform from good to great, but this depends on user volume and I am not sure the Nokia/Microsoft cooperation will result in this kind of benefit.

    Thanks for broaching this issue.


  55. Mason

    Regarding crowd-sourcing, there are options in search, one of which is “report a problem” with finer grain drill-downs such as “location has closed” and “pin is at incorrect location”.

    Would this not be considered crowd-sourcing?

    Hi, Mason:

    Yes this is crowd-sourcing, but I think this process does not add all that much value when a company is at the starting stages of building a map application. These tools are really for “one-off” situations when most of the map is correct and there is some important issue not yet resolved (like a no left turn restriction). When your database has significant lack of coverage, categorization errors and major data errors, I think you can gain more by a solution such as Google Map Maker or OSM. These platforms allow users to make massive corrections, add missing data and make the changes right then.

    My experience with “tell us what’s wrong” type of crowd-sourced systems is that the feedback is detached from the experience. Second, trying to make these corrections on a phone is not a rewarding experience. However, as you have noted, it is a step in the right direction and for which Apple should be applauded.



  56. Ethan Jewett

    I’m a bit confused by the assumption throughout the article and most of the comments that Apple’s maps has no active crowd sourcing functionality. On any location there is an option to report a problem. This brings up several options including the ability to manually reposition the pin. This information is then submitted to Apple.

    This leads me to believe that perhaps Apple is not as closed to the need for human intervention in the map-making process as you seem to believe.

    Otherwise, thanks for the great analysis!

    Hi Ethan:

    My concern here is that Apple apparently does not have the staff to adequately take advantage of this source of inputs. In addition, if your maps are really bad, as Apple’s are in some areas, this is not a source that will provide a comprehensive solution. While allowing your users to correct some of your information is a step in the right direction, the present method is slow, cumbersome and unlikely to make a significant difference at the early stages of the process of building a comprehensive map data base. You need, in my opinion, something similar to Google Map Maker or OSM that provides a platform for your users to edit your data, complete data coverages that you might not yet have collected or input data that you may not have thought of collecting.

    Thanks for your comment.


  57. Bryan

    Great article. I am not an expert on ths topic, but everything you stated makes sense.

    However, given that Apple has a (potential) huge crowd-sourced infrastructure, I believe their long-term focus should be to gather and integrate that data. There is too much flux in the data to keep current “the old fashioned” way. Heck, they could write an app that would standardize their data collection. Wht do you think?

    Hi, Bryan:

    I am a proponent of crowd-sourced data for map updating. If properly engineered it can be a difference maker, but without specific safeguards it can become an opinion poll and not a map compilation tool.

    A few years ago I wrote a brief blog here on the issue of folksonomies and local search. You could also apply this as one technique leading to the standardization of data collection in crowd-sourced systems.

    Thanks for your comment.


  58. Tunde

    I think this an opportunity for the apple fanboi massive, to help Apple achieve Mapping success.

    With the new panorama feature in ios6, apple fans could upload street view panorama pics to a apple server which automatically creates a complete street view of the world based on the millions of uploaded images.

    Hope apple puts something like this into practice.

    Hi, Tunde:

    You have singled out a very important issue and one that we should all track, as it could make a significant difference if properly implemented.



  59. Larry

    In my career as a developer the usual cause of this sort of issue is excessive management urgency and importannce to a big complex issue. “We need to deliver the moon and it must be delivered next month”
    In this case it seems political, Apple decided that screwing Google was more important than customer satisfaction. Having a captive cult following makes this more feasable. People will whine but be unlikely to give up the Apple religion.

    Hi, Larry:

    Thanks for your comment. We must have had some similar experiences, as your quote from management was one that I have heard before.


  60. Albin

    Seems to me Microsoft made a more serious effort to compete with Google mapping over more years than Apple, and not succeeded. So if Apple is supposed to “be alright” just because it is, after all, Apple, tell me if I’m wrong: that is the first big post-Jobs pipeline initiative by Apple, and it isn’t boding well.

    Hi Albin:

    I agree that Apple Maps is a blemish that does not seem to fit the Apple mold (hmm, that does not read quite right). When I consider the problem, I find it hard to come to any conclusion other than Apple knew it had a flop on its hands before it released the product. It may be that this was of less concern to them than not having maps or the data rights that they might have had to cede to Google Maps if they could have continued the association.

    I am sure it is an interesting story, but it is unlikely that we will ever know all of the details.

    Thanks for you comment.


  61. Robert C

    I hope they don’t buy ALK. I’m a novice but still have had a great interest in navigation software for many years and I have tried many different developers. ALK with their CoPilot Live navigation software have gotten better and better over the last few years and I use it now to replace my TomTom so I don’t have to carry multiple devices around. If they buy ALK, there goes a decent navigation software for Android.

    Hi, Robert:

    I guess that was a downside I had not though of. My apologies.


  62. Gordon B

    Thank you for a very insightful and informative post. As an end-user and heavy traveler, accurate maps are very important to me. This blunder by Apple has made me decide to not upgrade to iOS 6 on my iPad-3 and iPhone 4S and I probably won’t be upgrading to the iPhone 5 anytime in the near future – in fact I may well consider switching to an Android phone for my next phone purchase in order to have the best maps available to support my travel needs.

    Hi, Gordon:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think other travelers may vote with their wallets, just like you. I suspect that Apple will be able to lure you back in a couple of years, but time will tell.


  63. Dalan

    A few months ago I would have been tempted to regard this maps brouhahah as much ado about nothing, as Google Maps here in Puerto Rico is largely useless outside of the San Juan area, and even inside have no Street View, turn by turn, or labels for most streets that are accurate enough for directions. Then in July, my wife and I went to Florida to visit her grandmother, and for the first time I tasted Google Maps as you all know them. Wow! I kept exclaiming aloud over them. How could Google Maps be free? They were so much better than any TomTom or other device I had ever seen before leaving the States. My wife and I work constantly with tourists. Now I know why they so cavalierly dismiss our carefully written lists of directions to sights of interest saying, “Don’t worry, I have GPS on my phone.” And then are hugely confused later to find it’s not the same! Here we give directions like “Take a left at the old closed Shell gas station, then a right by the second Burger King on the right side of the highway, then go four streets down before taking a U-turn by the hot dog cart. If the hot dog cart isn’t there, look for the bar that has a palm tree on the balcony.” I kid you not. We don’t go by street names (they change with every election or new mayor) and we don’t trust GPS (the entire center of the island is a white blank and the coordinates from the satellite never lock on to the coordinates where they are supposed to be on the map). You all are truly blessed up there to have Google Maps, and I can see why you’d be upset by a lousy imitation from whatever company!

    Hi, Dalan:

    What a great commentary and perspective.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  64. SGT

    I read many comments from TomTom iOS app users who say that their apps shows correct directions and Apple maps shows failing directions. Especially from areas outside US/Europe, like middle east. So I agree with you that the TomTom data set is not the problem here. I also see that some countries have very little POI’s, because Yelp is not a common service over there. Apple seems to not have leveraged TomTom’s POI database, which AFAIK covers a lot of POI’s in Europe.

    The company to benefit from the current deal with Apple is TomTom I believe. Maybe not in terms of revenue. I think TomTom prefers data over money. Apple users are now giving TomTom vast amounts of data, and TomTom has the procedures and tools (MapShare) in place to make map corrections faster than Apple, who neither has the tools nor enough staff to revise all the feedback and errors they are now receiving.

    Apple’s geo-team is simply too small and only present in Cupertino. Therefore a TomTom acquisition would be a sane thing to do for Apple. But it’s no longer necessary from TomTom’s point of view. They were a company with a huge load of debt ($ 4 billion) after acquiring mapping company TeleAtlas, but they have deleveraged 90% of that debt. Two years ago, in the middle of an economic crisis, they might have been more eager for cash injections than they are now.

    The choice for data rather than money (which is my assumption only) will allow TomTom to increase map quality and expand their traffic products to countries where those products are not yet present. On the other end Nokia is a troubled company which is heavily divesting in Navteq. So in 3-5 years TomTom might end up as one of the best mapping and traffic companies around, without being a very cash-rich company, though.

    Hi, SGT:

    You raise a lot of interesting issues. Using the word “de-leveraged” to describe how TomTom has worked through its debt problem is an interesting choice. “Writing down debt” might have been another choice. TomTom is not the financial powerhouse it was in 2008 and it may never recover. However, that makes little difference to your central premise, which is an interesting one, but raises some difficult strategy questions for Apple. If they plan on being in the mapping business long-term, they will likely not share their data with TomTom. It will, however, be interesting to watch.

    Thanks for your comment.


  65. Lemmingrush

    I’ve never been a big Apple fan because of the constantly insulting things they do to their customers. However, I’ve always been impressed with the polish on their products. This mapping mess is incredibly confusing though. How the hell did they screw up as bad as they did. I agree with most of the points in your article, but it still leaves an interesting question out there is this gonna be a trend going forward.

    I also noticed a bunch of people whining about how much better Google is. I can point out numerous issue with them as well (nothing near as bad as Apple’s but they are there). I noticed only one guy mentioning Nokia’s maps, as someone who has traveled all over the world they DESTROY google in terms of accuracy, especially rurally. Google and Nokia both work well in large cities when you get outside of those areas you really see a big difference. Google can rarely find rural roads where as Nokia can.

    This is Cassville, MO unfortunantly google has two names for the city including a city (Kirksville) in northern MO with the same name. That’s a big problem and has sent numerous people to the opposite side of MO.

    Here’s Nokia’s info on it. Hint it’s accurate:

    On a side note, most of southern MO roads will NOT be found by Google. While this may seem minor, if you drive your ass 7 hours in wrong way it not only costs you time it cost a 100 bucks in gas and you WILL be pissed (that’s experience speaking). This is not the only place I’ve seen Google practically ignore roads they have driven down taking pictures. If you get out in the country Google get hideously inaccurate. God forbid you’re in a country other than the US.
    Just wanted to throw my 2 cents into the mix. Apple really has their work cut out for sure.

    Hi, Lemmingrush:

    Good stuff! I appreciate your sending these examples. I agree that Google has room for improvement, as do all of the other players in the online mapping/navigation/local search market.

    I think you will uniformly find that the map data quality decreases with increasing distance from population centers. There are several reasons for this, but one of the important denominators is starting to be the amount of probe data (passive crowd-sourcing) that companies can mine from the GPS traces of their users, which will serve to widen the gap between urban and rural map data quality.

    Thanks for your comment.


  66. Tim

    It’s hard to believe that Apple didn’t see this fiasco coming. Even harder to understand why the world’s richest technology company didn’t just buy a comparable or better map technology. They HAD to know it wasn’t ready for prime time. I’m also sure they’ve better tools in the pipeline. Somewhere at the top of Apple someone made a calculated decision that it was more important to send out a crappy app with the new phone rather than let Google monetize any more of the Apple masses.

    It’s good to hear Dr. Marble is as sharp as ever. It’s been over 15 years since I’ve seen him. I remember discussing Terak systems and data structures with him as long as 25 years ago. Barry Glick would be a great candidate to run Apple Maps. Held in high esteem by all. I worked with his Donnelley group for several years. They used my DLG apps to produce national phone book maps.

    Hi, Tim:

    Thanks for your comments. I frequently exchange emails with Duane and he is still as sharp and vigorous as he was when you last saw him. Terak – now that is a term from the past.

    I have reached the same conclusions as you about the Apple strategy, but I am relatively sure they did not quite know how bad it would turn out. However, as you note, they may have decided that the upside outweighed the downside. The problem I have with this is that they knew this was a problem months ago and yet gave a preview of the product and set very high expectations for it in June. Stringing your loyal users along as part of “fantasy-marketing” strategy is just the wrong thing to do.


  67. JM Paris

    Counting on Google to provide maps to Apple was probably the most serious confirmed mistake that Steve Jobs made half a decade ago. The decision to rectify this situation must have been a tough decision to take for Apple and Tim Cook is to be commended for taking it. In the end, there was no sensible alternative. Fortunately, Apple is quite capable of solving the problems that will crop up and, in a few years, it will have a product that rivals or beats Google’s.

    Hi, JM:

    I agree with your history, to a point. The acquisitions of mapping companies that Apple used to create the core of the mapping capabilities were accomplished when Mr. Jobs was still active at Apple, although they may have been engineered by Mr. Cook.

    It may well be that your prognostication on Apple’s future success are correct. It will be interesting to see how and when that progress occurs.

    Thanks for your comment.


  68. plan

    navteq is not for sale. it is an integral part of nokia and the mapping has been deeply embedded in windows 8 and windows phone 8. it works very well and it has a much better geographic coverage than google or apple. they are also rapidly expanding venue mapping. see the benchmarking of maps.

    Hi, Plan:

    I looked at the site your referenced a couple of days ago, but I appreciate your pointing it out.

    I guess we will just have to disagree about whether NAVTEQ is for sale – or about whether Nokia is for sale. However, don’t be surprised if it happens.

    I am aware that NAVTEQ has expanded “venue” mapping and that it is embedded in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Unfortunately for Nokia and Microsoft that may not be a game changer.

    Further, the real problem with NAVTEQ is that Nokia does not understand how to manage the company for success. NAVTEQ’s budget has been stripped, its identity decreased and the morale of the staff, who created what was one a great map database, has been savaged. It’s bread and butter audience, in-car navigation OEMS , is wondering how NAVTEQ lost its way and has concluded that NAVTEQ has been “Nokia-ized.” If the management at Nokia wants to maintain that NAVTEQ is in prime fighting shape, they are free to do so and pump out marketing materials supporting that point of view. As for me, I am not one who thinks that NAVTEQ has benefited from ownership by Nokia.

    However, thanks for contributing your point of view. I hope that you are right and that I am wrong. I have followed NAVTEQ since its founding and once knew many people at the company (and still know quite few, although we have not spoken in eons).


  69. Wesite Maker

    Apple give me new roads, hope we have a new earth.

    Hi, Website Maker:

    Thanks for your comment. I suspect that Apple will do just that.


  70. Mike Sanderson

    Thanks for a great article on what has gone wrong. However despite the ISO standards and the work of OGC, geographers still haven’t worked out how to enable the enterprise IT community to do these things without needing specialists. Apple aren’t the first and won’t be the last to fall down trying to handle geometric data.

    Hi, Mike:

    Thanks for your comment.

    That was a sage comment – so thanks for contributing it.

    For those of you who do not know – 1spatial has some great products and is another company that could help Apple on the road to recovery.


  71. Agent T

    My biggest issue with Apple maps is that lack of seamless integration between modes of transportation, walking, public transit, biking, and driving. I live in an urban environment and at a one minute glance, the actual Apple map seemed decent enough. My problem is that I am not limited to a single mode of transportation. I bike, take bikes onto public transportation, rent Car2Go/Zip cars on the fly, and need to walk around town. I’m also new to this town, so not familiar with the lay of the land. So my mapping getting from point A to be point B is a mix of things. I want the ability to plot a full course from A alllllllll the way to B, without having to jump to a 3rd party app provided by my local transit provider. In some ways, that model reminds of the new Apple Passbook. Passbook aggregates the apps from other service providers. Having such fragmentation to a doesn’t work for me for mapping.

    Hi, Agent T:

    I agree. I suspect Apple will address these problems over time, but that does little to help you out now. Multi-modal transportation, such as you described, is difficult to implement to the the need to make sure that the “network” of modes connects and can be used to route you between the correct origin and destination. I am sure Apple is working on this, but I can understand your disappointment.

    Another interesting and related question is what was the strategy behind Apple’s release of a mapping application that was missing obvious features and had an incomplete implementation of some of those that were included in the release. It is unlikely that Apple management did not know the product had all of the “lacks” that you and others have pointed out. It would be interesting to hear the real story from an insider, but I suspect that isn’t going to happen. It could be that Apple simply did not have the time to complete a completely viable product and went to market with what it thought would be a good start that could be improved. Hopefully they can get back on track.



  72. Jay

    Even if apple employs best people to improve map data, they will not achieve what google has unless they get the data from users itself. Google map maker was great thing from google to get data from all around the world. Even smallest village in the developing country is accurately listed in google map.

    Hi, Jay:

    Thanks for your input. You have put your finger squarely on an important problem for Apple. It will be interesting to see their response over the next few months (or longer).


  73. Roham

    Thanks for a great blog.
    I’m not in the field, but rather a frustrated iSO6 user with a simple question: isn’t this what beta testing is supposed to be for?

    Hi, Roham:

    Thanks for a really provocative question.

    I am one of those who agree with you, although many of my colleagues consider me a neanderthal for this stance. It is my view that the the entire notion of product releases cycles and the status once attached to them has been altered by Internet publishing. Sometimes I think it’s great, and at other times I think it is a disaster.


  74. Khanh T Ngo

    Great great. Thanks, Mike!
    Because I don’t use iPhone, I wish you went a little bit more specific on the problems with examples. It’s all over the internet now but you provide unbiased and insightful knowledge.

    Hi, Khanh:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I did not write about the specific errors because I though they were well covered elsewhere and did not want to “pile on.” In addition, I was more interested in why they occurred and what might be done about it.


  75. Fred Zimmerman

    @Court Kizer — what is the source for your information about the staffing of Apple’s mapping team? from your LinkedIn bio there is no obvious reason why you should have detailed knowledge of their backgrounds, and no one else on the thread seems to be on the same page.

    Hi, Court Kizer:

    I appreciate your questions. I could be wrong, but do not think so.

    I hope this does not sound self-serving, but my background in mapping is extensive. In addition, my perspectives are enhanced by the data I collect and the professionals in the field with whom I speak. My current consulting practice and my entire career has been focused on mapping and geography. In essence, I think that I have a good history and background for interpreting what is going on the the mapping community, how it might play out and I share some of those insights on this blog. You do remember that I wrote why Apple Maps would be a disappointment – last June.



  76. jon w

    Apple, as an organization, may suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect: They don’t know that they don’t know. This is surprisingly common, especially among smart people successful in other areas.

    I also wonder if they can successfully buy their way out of this one. Apple is traditionally the biggest sufferer of NIH in the valley! Purchase and integration isn’t something they know how to do well, and they might not even know that they don’t know. (Spot the trend? :-)

    Hi, Jon:

    Well put and succinct (wish I could do that). I enjoyed your insight.


  77. Ninetails

    I think Apple has created a classic no win situation for itself.

    If it caves and allows a Google app back then many users will flock to it and ignore the Apple version.

    If they don’t cave they’ll face more and more users wondering what they paid for.

    Nobody was really inconvenienced by New Coke. You can’t say that about New Maps.

    I also see many people trying to put the blame on Tom Tom. At the same time most of the complaints are coming from outside the US. The very areas Tom Tom is considered strongest.

    Which gets to the other problem. The US is the market with the highest Apple market share. All those troubled non US maps aren’t going to get a great deal of user input. At the same time people who travel are the ones who most need a working map system. Of course some Apple users are going to choose to not upgrade.

    Hi, Ninetails:

    Thanks for these comments. I do not think TomTom is the major problem, though their map coverage in some locations is lacking.

    As you have noted, Apple has created a challenging situation for itself and it will be interesting to see their reaction to it.


  78. Tom

    Thanks for an informative post.
    An assumption underlying the Apple’s move to do mapping themselves is that this was entirely their choice. I am not sure of that – I was aware that the current contract for map data was up for renegotiation, and it is possible that they simply could not negotiate the terms.
    As such, their launch of new maps app may have been more forced on them rather than pure hubris (which i am sure that they are capable of…).
    Having said that, it does appear that certain locations are well covered – especially in USA, but I have had a success in navigating from North London to Sheffield, as well as in several places in London – both pretty good experience.

    Hi, Tom:

    I agree that we will never know what prompted Apple to create their own mapping application. Now that they have, I hope they are focused on improving it and adding the special sauce that differentiates Apple’s offerings from most others.

    As I noted in the blog, I do not think the major problems with Apple Maps relates to TomTom data or routing software, as long as you can find a valid origin and destination to navigate between. I was pleased to hear that you had a good experience. I hope more people have the same reaction.

    Thanks for your comment.


  79. Tim


    Thanks for your comments. Dr. Marble has to be near 90, right? He seemed to be about 70 last I saw him. Great to know he is still around and active. Makes me feel old reminiscing. I knew Dr. Marble from his apprentice, Dave Cowen. I was Dave’s software person for many years at USC and wrote much software for he and Chris Heivly..not sure if you know him. I’ve heard your name so many times.


    Hi, Tim:

    To me Duane is “timeless.” I recently worked with Dave, John Jensen and Steve Guptill on a series of reports for the US Census Bureau. It was challenging, but rewarding work. Chris and I have crossed paths many times. We were briefly colleagues at Rand McNally & Company.

    Thanks for you comment.


  80. Bavan

    As someone from one of the “high power consulting groups” I totally agree with your assertion that we wouldn’t be able to help for this specific problem. This is a situation that obviously requires very specific expertise, and strategy consulting works better with the bigger questions. Acknowledging my own bias, I happen to think a strategy firm would have been useful earlier in the process looking at the overall strategy for iPhone / iOS or in fact Apple itself, but would have left it as a recommendation to “build a as good or better mapping service compared to Google”, with the detail for the experts to fill in.

    Hi, Bavan:

    Thanks for your insights. I too wonder about whether a strategy firm was involved earlier in the process and I agree with you that if not, one should have been.


  81. Stu

    Interesting read about the amount of human effort involved in the Google project, and this from a company that hung their hat on algorithms being superior to human efforts, as opposed to Yahoo that used a human-powered directory. Google still talks to the public through only a very few people, there is no personal customer service contact.

    If iPhone users get a Google map app, and come to enjoy it, will Apple’s efforts even matter?

    Hi, Stu:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that it has been a stunning turn-around. Of course, knowing Google they are probably modelling the work of their staff and developing software to emulate these efforts. And why not?

    Mark Prioleau (cited in my original blog on this topic) made a comment that Napoleon reputedly said something to this effect – “Don’t interrupt your enemy while they are making a mistake.” If I were Google, I might let that iPhone app bake a while.


  82. GadgetGav

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to comments on your page. As you get linked to from more places, I’m sure that becomes a big task!
    I just read Philip Elmer DeWitt’s article at Fortune which links back to here. He makes the point that all the searches that were done on Google Maps contributed to the data that makes their mapping superior to Apple’s first effort. If this is true, how do you see this affecting Apple’s mapping database in the future. Apple does not have it’s own search product, but it did write the app for the previous versions of iOS even though it was using Google data on the back end. Do you think they had a way to capture those search terms from the old app once they knew they were making their own? Can they even make use of that if they don’t actually process the search? It seems that without us knowing, we’ve been crowd sourcing updates to Google’s mapping data since 2007. Will Apple be able to make similar use of seemingly innocuous searching within their home grown Maps app?

    Hi, GadgetGav:

    Thanks for the comment. I had not seen the DeWitt article, so thanks.

    Your question is interesting but the answer is complex. Yes, Google analytics and data mining of its local search and mapping queries help make its products better while improving the quality of its search. When these data are collected from mobile phones the value of mining the data is enhanced since your GPS trail can be used to determine if you traveled to or near the locations that spawned the search. Google search and maps, in part, are as powerful as they are because Google has more data to mine than anyone else in the industry. Data on where people travel and what they are searching for during this activity can be used for many things, but one of the most obvious is to use these data to strategize on the relative importance of markets, data of importance to users, and areas to maps to be updated defined by various measures that can be derived from these data.

    I do not know if it was possible for Appleto take advantage of the data from their use of Google maps in the previous mapping application on the iPhone. I doubt it was of any use to them, other than to point out what a strategic advantage it could be to own it.

    As implied in your comment, Apple appears to be at a real disadvantage here. Search is ascendant, especially when it is local search since it has a geographic component. Apple appears not to be a meaningful player in today’s search market, but as search continues to migrate to mobile platforms they will have an opportunity to compete with Google in this area. However, unless Apple augments its focus it may be less well positioned for success in search than it is in mapping.



  83. Mark

    I think Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times has an interesting perspective on the user experience:

    “Here at the end of its first week, I consider Maps’ POI problems to be an embarrassment. If the problem persists to Halloween, then I’ll think of Maps as a failure. And if Apple doesn’t turn Maps around and make it into a reliable, trustworthy resource by the end of the year, then I’ll consider it a fatality.”

    Based on this article, it would appear that Apple has an uphill struggle. Even if they purchase another company like TomTom, it won’t be a quick process to integrate.

    Hi, Mark:

    Thanks for the comment and the source, as I had not seen it.

    I think it will take Apple some time to fix their problems, but some of the biggest, for example the imagery problems, can be remedied quite quickly. It will be interesting to see where they focus their attention.


  84. Stef

    Thank you for such an informative post! I myself have played with the new Maps app on my father’s updated iPhone 4S and it was such a “pleasure” (I’m an android user myself and feel little sympathy for Apple’s problems after they’ve been suing everyone and their mother). I’m sure it has been mentioned here before, but as I was reading various articles and parodies on the web, I couldn’t help but wonder, like the rest of us, why Apple would release such an inferior product in the first place. It seems that they’ve created a problem where normally, none would have been. Arrogance is certainly a factor.

    I’m not sure if Apple’s improving its maps would lead to better competition, as they seem to have a habit of taking out the competition in the courtroom, rather than in the market.

    Thanks for letting me post my own, albeit biased, opinion :)

    Hi, Stef:

    I am sure your opinions are no more biased than those of anyone else.

    Apple would have a hard time taking out the competition in the mapping market based on challenging IP related to maps and GIS, as they were were late to the game and are unlikely to have any patents “early” enough to cause problems for others. However, they have a fine portfolio surrounding mobile, so in this game you never say never.


  85. Shailesh Bhat


    Just wanted to share some thoughts on PoI data. In my experience, business listings (as a class of PoI data) is poor quality when it comes from the mapping provider. Companies like Infogroup or Localeze that are dedicated to this problem have a better data set (there are others too, just using these two as examples) . While crowd sourcing seems appealing, it is actually more complicated to dedupe-merge than a casual user would assume. Look at the relevant Google groups with a search like http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!searchin/business/listings$20merge$20problem and you can see the plethora of instances with problems that Google has in this space.

    So Apple (and anyone interested in maps+listings) needs to treat them as two separate problems and solve them independently.
    My $0.02.

    Hi, Shailesh:

    Thanks for the contribution.

    I agree that this is a separate class of problem, but one that is common to all local search applications. While Google has problems in this area, they have made progress.

    Most mappers seem to find that their main POI provider lacks comprehensive data that provide comprehensive coverage and often license data from more than one company to fill that gap. In turn this can lead to multiple incorrect listings for the same company -as is called out by your referencing to deduping/merge. It is a vexing problem that might benefit from the use of folksonomies. An additional problem here is geocoding and reverse geocoding. When your suppliers have multiple listings for the what you think is the same business, but positioned at different locations, what should be your display strategy? In addition, issues related to addresses and addressing as well as address standardization and hygiene are monster problems. In turn, these issues tie closely to map data and map functionality, which is what makes it difficult to separate POI analysis from the mapping problem.


  86. Gehan Dias

    Great post, thanks Mike. If Apple were to follow you recommendations and build a better mapping/ QA team, build a viable crowd sourcing scheme and buy up existing map data providers, how long do you think it would take for iOS Maps to get to a similar level of quality as Google Maps?

    My guess is that even with all the money in the world, it will still take 2-3 years to get all the data required. And 2-3 years is a very long time in the smartphone game.

    Hi, Gehan:

    Thanks for the comment.

    I suspect you are close to the amount of time that it will take and it is a long time in a technology driven market. There may be an innovation out there that will change the game, but do you bet on that or get to work on enhancing your data. This is quite a good example of paradox management and one that the team at Apple should get use to wrestling with.


  87. Joel M

    It looks it’s time for Apple to buy Rand Mcnally

    Hi, Joel:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Unfortunately, Rand McNally’s days as a map making giant have passed and the company is now, in my opinion, a shell of its former self. It no longer appears to have IP worth acquiring, nor does it have any significant compilation resources, most particularly a large, well-trained and knowledgeable compilation staff. There are much better choices if Apple wants to help themselves by acquiring talent. However, we should remember that the acquisition of large company would take quite a bit of time, and acquiring small companies may not provide the workforce boost that they need. I am sure Apple is assessing its strategy in this respect. I wish them luck in solving this issue, as I want to see more competition in the market for maps and local search.


  88. Doug

    Quick followup to comment #41. No, Apple may not compare its maps with other commercial maps. That would contaminate their data and application with the intellectual property of others who would likely be pleased to impose significant financial penalties. The issue is that of “derived products” and it means that they need to climb out of this hole they have dug all by themselves and be able to prove it. They can refer to TIGER data in the US, and to OSM where it exists, but Google Maps, Microsoft Maps, MapQuest Maps, Rand McNally Maps, National Geographic Maps, Thomas Brothers Street Maps, UK Ordnance Survey Maps, Survey of India Maps, and all the others of the professional, trustworthy calibre are out of reach for Apple’s education and copying. As you know, the rule is “clean room or billions in damages.”

    Hi, Doug:

    Thanks for your comment, you bring up an important point.

    I am not a lawyer and would refer you and others to a lawyer with an IP practice focused on copyright for advice. Also, in the paragraphs that follow I am not suggesting that anyone copy works of any sort, created by any other party, for any reason, at any time, now or in the future.

    GadgetGAV suggested comparing Apple’s data to a known good map of the same area. In my opinion GadgetGav did not suggest “taking” the data or using a representation of the data in your own product, but comparing it. If a company inspected a competitor’s map and then used exactly the same representation based only on the work observed, we might be able to establish a claim of copying. In some countries that would be enough to establish a prosecutable case of copyright infringement. However, that may not be enough to establish that claim in the United States.

    The Feist decision by the US Supreme Court muddied the water in respect to compilation of factual material (of which street maps are an example). The decision did suggest that the bar for copyright was low and noted that copyright protection for factual material was based on SCA – the selection, coordination and arrangement of data. When you are creating a street map that is designed to show the street with the geometry that defines it, at the location in which it exists, by the name with which it is identified on a street sign, it may be difficult to establish protection for this potentially factual data by copyright, although the design of the map is easily protected. Many companies prefer to let their user license restrict the potential derivative uses of the map database or the map images, rather than rely only on copyright protection.

    Finally, it has been common practice in the mapping industry to compare compare multiple sources in an effort to asses difference in coverage between companies. In general, company A might view 7 to 10 maps of an area to determine if their product is competitive in coverage and scope. To my knowledge these types of comparison do not involve taking data from the other representations, but are used for assessing and comparing strengths and weaknesses between their products and others.

    When I was Chief Cartographer at Rand McNally, I visit companies around the world who were interested in being acquired. I can assure you that most of them had a complete collection our our maps that they used for purposes of reference. While we might have sued them, it was our belief that copying our map data would not provide a sustainable competitive advantage in the map marketplace. The only real advantages you have as a supplier of map data is achieved when 1) that your data are more up-to-date than those who copy you and 2) that you have better, faster distribution of that data to your customers. Funding the updating of your maps on a systematic basis is what separates the players from the pretenders in the world of mapping.

    I have been at this all day, so this response may not have been written as well as it deserves. When dealing with IP concerns, I advise speaking to lawyer versed in the topic. Whatever you do, do not rely on what I have written here, as it is opinion based on my personal experience and it should not be construed as legal advice.


  89. Agent T

    Last thought that just occurred to me. While I am moaning over the loss of public transit mapping, I haven’t made the most important point about bad mapping, and that is bad maps can lead to bad outcomes. Here are a couple of samples:

    Border skirmishes started over mapping issues…

    People get lost and die over mapping issues…

    There is a duty of care, I think, to not putting out a dodgy map product. Apple has misunderstood the map as just a phone app with the primary consideration being corporate profit, rather than a critical information source that must be done well or bad real world shizzle can happen.

    Hi, Agent T:

    Good stuff. Thanks for contributing.


  90. The Other Steve

    “Given the rage being shown by IOS 6 users”

    You mean by the need of tech reporters to come up with stories.
    Apple’s map data has been flawless for me, I use it multiple times every day for a living.
    I’m not saying there are not any mistakes, but I can’t find any. Neither can any of my friends
    This is not the “failed system” that is being claimed.

    BTW – I’m tired of reading about the same Ireland Airport example over and over. Can’t you come up with another example? Did Apple make it THAT hard for you?

    400 years in the headline kind of says it all about the reporter’s credibility.

    Hi, The Other Steve:

    Thanks for your comment. I am glad that you, too, enjoyed the article. ;-).

    As to the rage shown by Apple Map’s users, are we using the same Internet? I searched for articles on Apple Maps errors and got 156 million links.

    For an example of a hilarious blunder that is not the airport to which you object, try this article.

    Look, it’s late. I am grumpy and never have had much patience with fanboys of any application. All mapping applications have some level of flaws in their data. Apple’s is more flawed than most because it was their first attempt and because they made mistakes in methodology. If you think Apple Maps provide an excellent example of mapping quality – well, I’m happy for you. Satisfaction with a mapping application is an experience to be savored.

    I think you missed the point. As noted in my blog, I had previously written a blog in June indicating why Apple would have a difficult time creating a quality mapping application in the time available to them. In the current article I did not focus on the specific examples of Apple’s mapping errors, as this was an old story to me. In addition, it was my opinion that this aspect of the problem was receiving more than adequate attention. What I did write about was why the limitations had occurred and what Apple could do to fix them. I presented an argument based on the established literature of spatial data quality that I felt might be interesting to readers who wanted a better understanding of the salient issues. It may be that the audience that I was aiming for does not include you. My apologies.

    Next, if you really think Apple Maps is good stuff, read through the comments that other users have made in this blog. I think you might find that there are a number of opinions contrary to yours.

    If you have better advice for Apple than mine, perhaps you should write a blog and offer that to the public.

    Finally, I kinda liked the title – it certainly attracted attention – even though most people did not take it literally.


  91. Millan

    One thing that has been constantly referred to in both your post as well as the comments is crowd sourcing. With Google, they had crowd sourced data coming in from practically every mobile operating system as well as their website maps site and whatever other applications that they had. Even conservatively estimating that this would have been well over 500 million to up to a billion devices providing them data for the last 5 years.

    Apple on the other hand will only have crowd sourced data from devices running IOS6, and then only by those who run Apple Maps. Even a “starry” estimate would place the number of devices at 50 million, but probably a more practical number will only be in the low tens of millions.

    There is also the issue that many users would probably forgo Apple Maps for Google Maps thinking that the data will improve over time, and thus inadvertently exasperate the lack of crowd sourcing data.

    Given these low numbers, how practical can the crowd sourcing efforts for Apple be for so many locations worldwide?

    Hi, Milan:

    Thanks for you comment.

    I agree that Apple will be limited by their user population and may not reach the totals accumulated by Google. How much is enough will become an interesting question.

    However, there are two types of crowd-sourcing here. Passive crowd-sourcing uses the GPS device as a probe and tracks the path, and the speed of movement of the device. Overlaying these paths can provide a geometrically accurate map of street across an area. It can also be used to model traffic flows and infer possible maneuvers and other information from the pattern of movement. Active crowd-sourcing (think OSM or Google Maps) provides users an ability to use local knowledge to add data to that already compiled by a company. Google has put active crowd-sourcing to especially good use. What Apple may pull out of its hat in terms of active crowd-sourcing could be a surprise.

    Don’t forget that Apple started tracking its user’s GPS traces well before IOS6. They have quite a tidy number of traces that can be mined to provide significant information. While they are clearly at a disadvantage, they have not yet played a card to indicate their strategic direction on this issue. We will have to wait to see what transpires.


  92. GoneNomad

    re: “People get lost and die over mapping issues…”

    People can die due to nav system issues besides mapping too. A half-baked user interface and/or poorly expressed directions (even if the underlying routing is correct) is often more of a distraction than an assist. Nav systems that distract more than they aid may not be the biggest culprit in the growing trend of unsafe distracted driving, but they are no small part either.

    Almost every system and app I’ve tested has been far from optimal; a few get some things right, but most are far off the mark in most areas. This includes the vaunted google nav app (even with map tile caching), which I’ve tested repeatedly and consistently found to fail most of my simple make-or-break tests. So if Apple’s new mapping/nav app is significantly worse than google’s combo, I expect the pain felt by Apple fanatics/loyalists will manifest as more of an gathering storm than a drop in the bucket. Given Apple’s historical method of addressing issues like this (more hype and stonewalling), I doubt they will find relief any time soon.

    This is why so many mainstream “non-techie” people are quite content to print off a page or two from maps.google.com. when they need directions or a map to go somewhere. The bottom line is that it’s easier that way. As for the “extra features” they forgo with this method, the fact is that most of those features are better ways of doing things that don’t need to be done, and “non-techie” people innately realize this.

    Hi GoneNomad:

    One more time. This seems to be a duplicate. I commented on the later version.

    Thanks for your multiple comments.


  93. Vahagn

    lool, I liked the comment about airport ))

    Hi, Vahagn:

    I laughed and laughed when I originally found the comment.



  94. Gone Nomad

    re: “People get lost and die over mapping issues…”

    People can die due to nav system issues besides mapping. A half-baked user interface and/or poorly expressed directions (even if the underlying routing is correct) is often more distraction than assistance. Nav systems that distract more than they aid may not be the biggest culprit in the growing trend of unsafe distracted driving, but they are no small part either.

    Almost every system and app I’ve tested has been far from optimal; a few get some things right, but most are far off the mark in other areas. This includes the vaunted google nav app (even with map tile caching), which I’ve tested repeatedly, and consistently found to fail most of my simple make-or-break tests. So if Apple’s new mapping/nav app is significantly worse than google’s combo, I expect the pain felt by Apple fanatics/loyalists will manifest as more of an gathering storm than a drop in the bucket. Given Apple’s historical method of addressing issues like this (more hype and stonewalling), I doubt they will find relief any time soon.

    This is why so many mainstream “non-techie” people are quite content to print off a page or two from maps.google.com. when they need a map or directions to go somewhere. This is a simple, robust process where the real-world landmarks & signs fill in the gaps left by not having “turn-by-turn directions” and the bottom line is that this is easier. As for the “extra features” they forgo with this method, the fact is that most of those features are better ways of doing things that didn’t need to be done, and “non-techie” people innately realize this.

    Hi, GoneNomad (again).

    My apologies, as I found your comment and host of others that I must have missed.

    I liked many of your observations, but disagree with the one on “non-techies”. I have a background in mapping and the topic I pursued for my PhD dissertation was related to eye-movement and map reading. The next stage of my career focused on the processing of visible information. A great percentage of the people who try to use maps for navigation cannot do so, as the map, as a form of representation, confuses them. We are bipedal and spend most of our lives looking outward and upward. The bird’s-eye view of the map forces you to look down and inward, something that is difficult for many people and the process also seems to thwart spatial thinking for many.

    Most users prefer turn-by-turn directions being read to them than attempting to figure out how to navigate a map of an area with which they have little familiarity. Or – at least that is what my years of research taught me. Your experience may be different.


  95. mike

    You clearly know a lot about mapping. I’m convinced.

    You seem to think you know a lot about how Apple’s hubris and incompetence lead to woeful iOS 6 maps. I am not convinced.

    First, because iOS6 maps are, for me so far, as good or better than Google maps. Streetview is a huge asset for Google Maps, but I don’t really use it on my phone. And I have always used a third party app for public transportation. (I’m in Paris btw.)

    Second, because why should I believe Apple doesn’t care or didn’t know? Maybe — as you clearly point out — doing maps is really really hard, even more so when you are shipping in 160+ countries and are trying to replace in place a very good solution. Isn’t that a fine explanation? Ascribing any shortcomings in Apple maps to “Steve is gone” and “Apple is arrogant” seems at best speculation and at worst linkbait.

    Most articles about Bing lagging Google lay the blame at the lack of Bing traffic, or the late start. And web search has an incredibly tight feedback loop because users CLICK on the results. Why the narrative that Apple doesn’t know or care?

    If there is a special challenge for Apple it is that there is not good feedback loop for poor mapping, other than perhaps bloggers. An easy way to thumbs down a mapping result could help Apple quickly resolve problems.

    In fact, if the real key in the battle for map quality isn’t an appreciation for, say Thematic Accuracy, but user traffic and feedback, Apple might have one of the best assets. They have a large, engaged audience and well-controlled ecosystem which could give them better map feedback, sooner.

    Hi, Mike:

    You raise a number of interesting points. Thanks for contributing them.

    I do not agree with you that there is not an appreciation for Thematic Accuracy since it underlays the functions that you tout might be advantages for Apple.


  96. Magnus

    First: Great article. The best about the iOS mapping issue by far! Second: The blog I’ve read where the autor takes time to answer to most of the comments, impressive!

    Hi, Magnus:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I learn a lot from the comments, so it is fun to do.


  97. Ricardo Silva

    “On the other end Nokia is a troubled company which is heavily divesting in Navteq.”

    I think you’re not being very attentive.

    Regarding NavTeq, Nokia has closed deals with Ford, Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo.
    Ont he software side, they developed Nokia Drive, Nokia Transit, Nokia Trasnport and Nokia city Lens.

    How’s that “divesting”?

    Hi, Ricardo:

    In my haste to respond to each comment, apparently I have spawned several typos. My intent was to write that Nokia is interested in divesting NAVTEQ.

    I have never known signing a customer to preclude an acquisition. Nor does products, since you can always negotiate a license to use these at a favorable rate for the period of time which you are willing to pay that rate. The last thing Nokia would want to do is to further devalue NAVTEQ and stop deal making since they paid over $8 billion for the company.

    I can assure you that I have been very attentive. Let’s just say that I believe Nokia has not been a good owner of NAVTEQ. One thing I have learned about acquisitions is that everyone says it’s not a possibility until they announce that the deal is done. I am reasonably certain that my position is correct.

    Thanks for your comment.


  98. Kai


    I had to smile when you mentioned Bain as something Apple would explore, as replacing Google Maps shows that Apple definitely does not lack in the courage department. ( Consultants are typically hired to provide political cover for unpopular decisions).

    I wonder whether you already had a chance to play with Apple maps, as they have used the app to allow for crowd sourcing, with an easily found way to report problems. It seems that they are quite aware that their POI and satellite data needs a lot of improvement.

    Hi, Kai:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I have not played with Apple Maps but have seen the “report a problem” interface.

    The “report an error” interface can be useful if properly deployed to attract users through the use of responsive feedback loops and error progress reports. I addressed this issue in respect to another comment. Apple needs to add something that operates like Google Maps or OSM where people can contribute more data about more subject on which they have local knowledge. The piecemeal approach of report an error, is valuable but not as valuable a more wide-open system.


  99. Barry C


    I have found Street View to be very useful. Do you think it would be wise for Apple to implement their own Street View team to cover the globe like Google? Does this capture mechanism contribute significantly to the accuracy of their maps (ie. roads in rural areas)? Do you think that current users will miss this feature so much after Apple improves the new maps app?


    Hi Barry:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think Apple needs something similar to Street View as it is a valuable surrogate for actual feet on the street in terms of its potential compilation of map information. Image processing the pixels in a street view scene is invaluable to Google’s mapping efforts. It may be that this is what they will try to do with panoramas, but I do not think this will provide the value equivalent to that of Street View.

    I think uses will miss Street View. However, I recommend Apple pursue a substitute that will help them with map compilation and data update issues.


  100. Kevin H

    Hi, an interesting read, and gives some answers as to why the question of failing maps exists in IOS 6.

    I am in Norway, and can say that the mapping experience for IOS 6 while not as informative in all information is a greta improvement over Google Maps.

    The use of maps for me is by way of being able to get from A – B in a car, and the turn by turn is a great improvement as it actually exists. the 2nd use for me is seeing a location of a business, which requires a search, this was through Google previously, wether in there maps app or on the web which took you to the maps app. However, the 2nd is still something that is easily done by opening the browser window, not rocket science i know, but the complaints and so-called journalistic reviews that are main stream seem to imply that IOS users are incompetent and are not capable of this.

    I would also add, i can see the reasoning behind the choice of developing there own map system, why would you line the pockets of a competitor that has no respect for you as a business to further lose money by paying license fees. With so much more usage on mobile phones now than in the past, and with apple having 65% of usage, and every business concerned by the ad money from mobile usage, it comes as a surprise that google would even consider losing the iPhone as a viable income for themselves. Licensing is clearly an issue for these 2 companies now, but with such huge money at risk for Google, and Apple having a war chest so huge, it won’t be long before Apple will have a viable alternative.

    What’s next, Apple search engine…? 😉

    Hi, Kevin:

    Thanks for your comment.

    It is good to hear that Apple Maps seems to have gotten in right in Norway. I hope other users soon discover that same satisfying experience.

    Yes, there are many good reasons for Apple to want to own its mapping system and it will be interesting to see if Apple eventually want to own the base data rather than to license it. I do expect to see an Apple search engine, but time will tell.


  101. David s.

    I am a fan of android and Google but was an early iPhone user.I lived my iPhone but needed more. While I respect the genius in Apple marketing,I hope for more openness in Apple phones, allowing consumers to have a proxy t that works well.
    Here is a funny clip on the latest mapping g folly.

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the contribution. This clip has been used for many other purpose, but this is more amusing than most. I wonder who published.


  102. William

    The last thoughts in the blog post was for its user to: “keep a sense of humor about these problems”.

    If this was Microsoft or Google who came up with this catastrophe, everyone would be jeering, mocking and dismissing them for this glaring error in a feature that is so important and part of mobile devices nowadays.

    But no, it’s Apple, and we are to be forgiving and take it light-heartedly.

    I wish people were balanced in their reactions and in this case, it really is a HUGE knock against Apple for not getting this right with their touted iPhone 5 and iOS 6. This is tragic. Sure they can come back and produce something good, but Google and Microsoft already have, and Apple needs to be knocked pretty bad for this in the media and blogosphere and not be spared until the fix it.

    Hi William:

    I do not know if you have read the rest of the blogs found here, but I criticize everyone who provides mapping services that are not as good as they should be in providing accurate maps to users. However, even though I have beat up Google, NAVTEQ, TomTom/Tele Atlas, Microsoft (Bing), Garmin and just about everybody else, I always try to approach it with humor. None of these companies are inherently bad and attempting to mislead us, they are most often just plain inept. One way to help them improve is if we point out the problems and I use this blog for that specific purpose.

    I am sorry that my blog did not resonate with you, but thank you for your comment.


  103. Nolte

    Wow! A letter of interest to Apple about a job title that doesn’t exist AND a slam on Mitt Romney in the same article! Amazing!

    Hi Nolte:

    It’s my opinion that writing a blog publicizing the problems that Apple is having with Apple Maps would be the wrong strategy for seeking employment or a consulting opportunity. A private call would be much more effective.

    However, I did not intend to slam Mitt Romney and do not remember referring to him in the article. Can you provide more detail?

    Thanks for you comments – it’s morning here and they woke me up.


  104. marco maas

    Who can I call for a consultancy opportunity. I worked 17 years in the digital mapping industry and know a few companies who really can help in sizing the issues..

    Hi, Carlo:

    If I knew, I would tell you.

    It sounds as if you have had an interesting career. I wonder if our paths have ever crossed.


  105. Kevin H

    Just as an aside to the comments so far, how many remember the blunders that Google maps made…? And i am not talking about the huge amount over the years, but more recently…???

    Like when Google caused Nicaragua to invade Costa Rica over a Flag that was raised by Costa Rica on it’s own soil. That was 2010 and took the intervention of the UN to calm things down…!


    Or when Google lost Sunrise in Florida for the 3rd time… Also in 2010.


    So don;t think Google Maps are perfect, it just seems that everyone hates Apple for the wrong reasons, hate the App and the fact that they got it wrong in how they presented the package, and yes i do agree it should of been put in as a BETA. But i don;t think Google should be in the iPhone anymore, there is just something about them and there data collecting, there inserting ads into everything and pushing stuff down my throat that sickens me. And Apple will end up that way i’m sure, but at the moment, they are the better of 2 evils on the whole… 😉

    Hi Kevin:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think we all should realize that no one in the world of map making is ever going to create an error free map with meaningful coverage and content.

    However, some errors are more egregious than others and Google has made its share of major gaffes. I think that Google’s problem are related to how it tags source information as authoritative when establishing its ranking for which source is the preferred one is a specific location. The fact that they often get it wrong, then get it corrected and then revert to the original error suggests a flawed process in which selection decisions are chosen by a poorly engineered algorithm.

    Perhaps Apple will learn from Google’s mistakes and be able to correct the problems in Apple maps at a quicker pace than I expect.


  106. Nomad

    This passage:
    “Apple failed to hurdle the bar that was in front of them… Of course, hubris is a powerful emotion… Apple’s maps are incomplete, illogical, positionally erroneous, out of date, and suffer from thematic inaccuracies.” Is so very true (especially the part about hubris). I came to the same conclusions myself, though I’m sure this blog’s author said it more eloquently than I would have.

    BTW, is there any reason my post late last night (or early this morning) never appeared? Was the post after the moderator’s bedtime or did I forget to say the “magic word”? 😉

    Hi, Nomad:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I did not delete anything from you on purpose, so I will go back and look and rescue it if I did so. I will admit to working late and sleeping late. Today, however, I had an out of the office appointment and could not get back to the comment queue to approve them. My apologies.