Apple's Maps app blunder ranks with 'Antennagate' in missteps, say experts

Has 48 to 72 hours to deal with firestorm of criticism, get Google Maps into the App Store

Apple's stumble with its new mapping app is a debacle right up there with 2010's "Antennagate," analysts said today.

"This ranks with 'Antennagate,'" said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, of the 2010 public relations disaster when iPhone 4 owners reported that signal strength plummeted and calls were interrupted if they touched the newly-redesigned smartphone in certain ways. "Maybe it's even worse, since mapping is such a core feature of the smartphone, something that users use many times on a daily basis."

The term "Antennagate" was coined by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who led a hastily-called press conference in mid-July 2010 to deal with the backlash.

Apple has not gone that route yet, but it should, argued Dany Gaspar, director of digital strategy at Levick, a Washington, D.C. firm that helps companies deal with public relations emergencies.

"They need to regroup and get out a more aggressive statement and more detailed plan on how they will rectify this," said Gaspar. "They haven't provided the user with the necessary next steps that they will take. And this needs to happen now, within the next 48 to 72 hours. A week or two is centuries in social media."

Almost immediately after the launch of iOS 6, users who had updated their existing iPhones started complaining that Apple's new Maps app was substandard. They cited the lack of public transit maps, inaccurate maps, off-kilter points-of-interest, missing streets and addresses, and more.

Even long-time pundits who typically applaud Apple's moves noted the problems.

"The maps experience in iOS 6 is a downgrade," acknowledged John Gruber, who writes the Daring Fireball blog.

"The biggest drawback I found is the new Maps app," said Walt Mossberg, an influential columnist for the Wall Street Journal, in his review of the iPhone 5 on Thursday.

"Even the biggest of Apple's supporters have said that Maps aren't up to par. That says everything," said Moorhead.

Both Moorhead and Gaspar linked the subpar app baked into iOS 6 -- the mobile operating system that powers the iPhone 5, which started selling today -- with the feud between Apple and Google.

Apple has kicked out of iOS 6 both Google Maps and YouTube, another Google property that has been integrated with the iPhone's software since the smartphone's 2007 debut. Most analysts have said the bouncing of Google Maps and YouTube was the strongest signal yet of the companies' ratcheting rivalry.

Apple and Google were once close collaborators. Eric Schmidt, at the time Google's CEO, joined Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs on stage at the iPhone's 2007 introduction, and served on Apple's board until 2009. Now, they are fierce competitors who have faced off in court, including a patent infringement case where Apple won a major verdict over Samsung, the biggest seller of Android-based smartphones.

Users of Apple's new Maps app in iOS6 are encountering inaccurate maps, off-kilter points-of-interest, missing streets and addresses and more. Is the iOS 6 Maps controversy a black eye for Apple?

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