Why Apple intentionally sacrificed Maps quality in iOS 6

Every time iOS 6 users change location, they'll be reminded of the inferiority of their new default Maps app compared to Google Maps. Strangely, Apple may be OK with this.

One of the unpleasant surprises of an upgrade to either iOS 6 or the iPhone 5 is the disappearance of Google Maps. Its replacement, Apple Maps, is limited in comparison.

Why would product-driven Apple displace Google’s maps app with an inferior proprietary mapping feature in iOS 6? Apple’s mapping feature is sufficient for a demonstration but is limited in functionality for regular use compared to Google Maps. For instance, Apple Maps have high-resolution images of major cities, lending to great demonstrations such as a Manhattan flyover. It has turn-by-turn directions, though much less accurate than Google maps. And if you are not driving a car, Apple maps can’t help you take public transportation, or find a bicycle or walking route. iOS 6 Maps functionality is closer to a prototype than to Google maps.

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Every time an iOS 6 user changes location, Apple will remind its loyal user of the inadequacy of iOS 6 Maps. This tradeoff between an excellent user experience and proprietary control of location was made because of the value of location data to advertisers. Apple wants to monetize this data for itself rather than give Google the opportunity.

Location data is valuable, especially if the user opts in to being tracked. Apple’s ad network iAd will know if a user passes certain stores, dines at specific restaurants and plays tennis. This type of data helps an advertiser increase the relevancy of the ads it serves, creating more value.

The contextual data helps to profile not only a user’s intermittent behavior but his lifestyle. Based on smartphone location data, users’ time spent at home, at work, commuting, engaged in recreation and relaxing can be understood, and with analytics can result in serving the right ad at the right time.

One only hopes that all this data is protected from misuse.

There is a less functional Google Maps browser app that can be added to the iOS 6 home screen. It’s not as good as the Google Maps app on iOS 5, but it is much better than Apple Maps. It’s been rumored that Google has built a Google Maps app for iOS 6, but at the time of publication it has not been confirmed. Even if they have, Apple’s app store would need to approve it.

If Apple’s App team does not approve Google Maps it will send a message to mobile developers that Apple may withhold approval of third-party apps if Apple considers the app space competitive. If Apple does not let the best app win, they will kill the app store.

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