Q: I upgraded my iPhone 4S to iOS 6 and heard about all the problems with the new Maps app that Apple switched to; is there a way to get Google Maps back on my phone or something else that’s more reliable? — Samuel
A: It should be pretty obvious to even a casual observer that Apple and Google don’t like each other.
What started out as an amiable relationship during the first iPhone launch has turned into a multi-billion dollar patent war over dominance in the mobile device industry.
When Google decided to create its own smartphone operating system (Android), it suddenly became a competitor to its partner and Apple was none too happy.
The culmination of this relationship gone bad is evident in the most recent update to Apple’s mobile operating system (iOS 6) as both Google Maps and the native YouTube app disappeared.
Apple no longer wants to include anything from its competitor and is going after Google’s dominance in mobile mapping by replacing it with their own mapping system (there’s substantial advertising revenue at stake).
Apple took one step forward by finally including turn-by-turn directions and many steps backwards in the actual core mapping data.
The complaints range from massive mistakes in location (cities and stores located in oceans and rivers) to huge chunks of data and images that are really old or missing altogether. Apple’s position on their new Maps app is that “it’s a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get.” They are counting on crowdsourcing to fix all that is wrong or missing (more on that later).
Those of us that used Google Maps on our phones in the early days remember being sent to the wrong end of an unfamiliar city because the map data was inaccurate; Apple is now throwing us back to those days with their work-in-progress mapping system.
Google has an approved replacement app for YouTube, which is actually much better than the old built-in app, but to date, there is currently no option to install a Google Maps app from the App Store (there are rumors that Google will be submitting an app for approval at some point).
You can, however, still use Google Maps via a web browser by going to http://maps.Google.com.
The first time you load the page, it should ask for permission to use your current location, which is necessary if you want to use the Web version of Google Maps. If you turned off the location services for Safari or an alternative browser, you will need to go into Settings/Privacy/Location Services and turn it back on.
To make it easier to access in the future, once the page loads, tap the share icon (the rectangle with the arrow pointing to the right) and click on “Add to Home Screen” to add the site as an icon on the phone.
We also like Microsoft’s Bing search app that includes their mapping service; it’s very similar to the old Google Maps app and includes mass transit directions if you need them.
Apple is hoping that the millions of users who have their new mapping system on their phones will help them improve the quality of the information by tapping on the “Report a Problem” button that exists in the details of any location pin when they find something wrong (crowdsourcing).
I think if they had been more up-front about the need for help in getting their mapping data cleaned up, they would have had a more sympathetic audience. The problem with the existing situation is that you can’t really trust the directions or locations of unfamiliar destinations until you get there.
I’d highly recommend confirming location information with Google or Bing before relying on Apple’s turn-by-turn directions on any long trips in unfamiliar territory until they get their act together.