iPhone users really are switching to Bing maps, and they like it

The new Maps app in iOS 6 has turned off legions of loyal iPhone users and forced them to find suitable alternatives, most notably Microsoft's Bing app for iOS.

With the release of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6, it’s become clear that Apple is more dedicated than ever to maintaining the tightest possible control of every aspect of its ecosystem, as is evidenced by the custom A6 SoC in the handset and a number of changes ushered in with iOS 6, including Apple’s new Maps app (among many other things).

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If you need proof that Apple’s Maps app is an unmitigated disaster—at least for now, we’re sure Apple is working feverishly to improve and update it—look no further than Apple CEO Tim Cook’s public apology letter. When the CEO of Apple suggests users try an alternative to one of Apple’s own products and apologized for one of their own, you know there’s a huge problem. This quote in particular from Tim Cook’s letter is what I’m referring to:

"While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app."

While Mr. Cook offers up a number of alternatives, it’s the Bing recommendation that’s most interesting, for a couple of reasons.

In the decade and a half or so that I’ve been immersed in the industry, I’ve built a number of relationships with contacts at a myriad of tech companies, from small Taiwanese OEMs, all the way up to Apple and Microsoft. And with the proliferation of social media, I’ve solidified many of those relationships and chat with folks regularly about a plethora of topics. Watching conversations unfold in the wake of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6’s release was most interesting.

A couple of days before Cook released his apology, a few high-profile industry veterans (who unfortunately wish to remain nameless) started recommending the Bing app for iOS, due to its excellent built-in mapping tools. I watched as dozens of people connected to these veterans took their recommendations to heart, tried the Bing app, and then started raving about it themselves. Since then, about a half dozen other highly influential people in my contacts list, including a well-known industry analyst, a head of a huge angel investment firm, and a VP of marketing at a prolific HCI company, among others, have all begun recommending Bing maps, and the resulting feedback from their followers and friends has been overwhelmingly positive.

Now, I know it’s a huge stretch to think that the recommendation of a few folks on a social media site could lead to significant gains for Microsoft, Bing, and by extension perhaps Windows Phone, but the possibility does exist. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Microsoft at the moment and we’re only a few weeks out from one of the biggest marketing blitzes the tech industry has ever seen. That blitz is coming at a time when many Apple fans are feeling a bit disappointed and Apple’s own CEO is apologizing to customers for the company’s failure. With the right messaging, recommendations from influential figures in the tech sector, and a growing group of consumers that may be open to trying something new, Microsoft may be able to finally convince some users to switch camps.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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