Today saw the launch of the Apple iPhone 5, the first device to feature Apple's new mapping application pre-installed. However, iOS 6 was released for other Apple devices a few days earlier, and when installed, replaced Google Maps with Apple's new mapping application.
iOS 6 maps brings new features to the iPhone, including turn-by-turn navigation. While there have been many positive experience reported on iOS 6 Maps, there have also been a significant volume of criticism in the press and on social media sites of missing towns, poorly rendered imaging, inaccurate routing and out of date information. A blog has even been set up where users can take a screen shot of such issues - The Amazing iOS 6 Maps (The Apple iOS 6 Maps are Amazing. Not.)
SA research has found that maps and navigation are one of the most used features by smartphone users. 66% of iPhone users in the US and Western Europe report using maps on their phone on a weekly basis. Users also place a high value on a map/navigation application compared to other apps.
So what are the alternatives? There are many map and navigation applications available to download to the iPhone, although not the one they are familiar with - Google Maps - which they can now only access via the iPhone's web browser. However, the well-known and well-trusted navigation apps generally come with a hefty price tag.
Switching to another platform is also an option. Nokia has invested heavily in mapping, and both Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive on the Lumia series of devices provide an excellent experience, including indoor maps. Android also provides a viable alternative through embedded Google Maps which supports the turn-by-turn navigation and street view functions that iPhone users are familiar with.
However, our recent research into consumer attachment to the mobile platform of their choice suggests that dissatisfaction with specific features - even those as important and valued as mapping - is unlikely by itself to drive more than a few iOS devotees to switch to a new platform due to their concerns about losing access to apps and content associated with their current device and the requirement to learn a new, unfamiliar UI.
In the short-term the implementation of turn-by-turn navigation is being overshadowed by mapping glitches and backlash regarding features that are no longer supported. In the long run, Apple will address these issues and the current outcry will be largely forgotten. What the company will gain is control over its own map app, which will allow it to provide deeper location integration and more compelling location services.
- Paul Brown