Apple's iPhone 5 Maps app criticisms continue -- but users don't mind too much

Apple [AAPL] iOS 6 Maps app may be this season’s biggest iPhone 5 criticism as competitors jump around to point out its shortcomings, but iPhone users aren’t particularly alarmed -- they’re a little bothered, but the change hasn’t reduced product satisfaction ratings too much.


Just a little disappointed

That’s one way of looking at the news inside the latest user satisfaction results from research firm, On Device, which reveals that users are ever so slightly less satisfied with iOS 6 than they found them to be when using iOS 5.

The company polled c.16,000 iPhone owners in the US and determined a satisfaction rating of 7.65 for iOS 6, a slight dip from the 7.75 it saw when assessing satisfaction with iOS 5. For reference, iOS 4 scored a 6.93-point rating, TechCrunch reports.

While this isn’t a huge dip in user satisfaction, it’s noteworthy because it’s a dip -- in most cases the survey firm sees increased device satisfaction as new operating systems are released, which makes the dip a little significant.

The decline is likely to reflect consumer disappointment with Apple’s Maps app, but the impact, at least on US users, seems pretty small when seen in context. 

The dip may also end up becoming little more than a blip, as Apple is scrambling to make its mapping service more effective, recruiting staff and applying user-submitted changes to its server-based service. (And Apple also created a special version of Maps for China).

Talking the talk

Competitors are seizing upon the ‘Map-gate’ affair as a chink in Apple’s smartphone armor, but they may be better put improving their own offerings: the iPhone is far and away the consumer’s favorite device.

This does nothing to stop Google executive chairman, former Apple board member, Eric Schmidt, from criticizing the decision, telling Reuters: "We think it would have been better if they had kept ours. But what do I know? What were we going to do, force them not to change their mind? It's their call."

Schmidt also noted that Google hasn’t yet submitted a self-made Google Maps app to the App Store, with the New York Times adding that the company hopes to have it developed by the end of the year. 

Apple’s decision to replace Google Maps on iOS was no surprise to any company watcher, but seemed a little surprising to Schmidt’s firm. 

The Verge reports that Apple had another year to run on its Google Maps contract before it dumped the firm. Google hadn’t expected this which is why it doesn’t have a Maps app of its own to counter with, apparently.

Google’s contract with Apple to keep the maps app on the iPhone had more time remaining, and Google did not know that Apple had changed its mind until Apple said publicly in June that it would replace the app with its new maps app, according to two people briefed on the decision,” claims The New York Times.

The Verge also reveals that the search giant wanted more prominent Google branding on iOS Maps -- something which was never going to happen given the combative relationship between the firms. 

Is Apple at risk?

Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, doesn’t see the problems as too severe, but has had some problems himself: “I tried to navigate somewhere, and I couldn’t get to where I wanted to by voice... I don’t know yet about Maps -- I’m a little worried about the navigation, but I’ve still got it covered with a bunch of other navigation apps.”

There’s numerous alternative navigation and maps options available to users, and it’s also possible to use Google Maps in Safari. If you really miss them on your device -- and the evidence so far suggests most users aren’t truly bothered -- then there’s a series of simple steps to bring them back right here.

Apple’s aware of the criticisms its Maps app is breeding. In a statement provided to All Things D today, an Apple representative said: "We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get.”

That’s fine, but that slight decline in user satisfaction levels for iOS 6 could soon become a flood: the pressure is certainly on Apple to improve its mapping services swiftly, or risk damaging its special relationship with iPhone users.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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