Apple (AAPL) has endured a week-plus of heavy -- and rare -- criticism for the lousiness of the Maps program on its new iPhone 5, and now CEO Tim Cook is pleading for forgiveness.
Cook said in a statement that Apple had let its customers down by putting out a subpar product. "We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and are doing everything we can to make Maps better," the statement read.
Apple's iPhone 5 went on sale Sept. 21, and complaints about the shortcomings of the Maps program started early and came often. In short, phone buyers felt Apple Maps wasn't even approaching the standard set by Google Maps, much less surpassing it, prompting a frantic search for a replacement. (Fortunately for the truly desperate, Google (GOOG) Maps continues to be accessible via the Web.)
Biggest Launch Under Cook
For Cook, the apology comes only days after one of the biggest Apple product launches he's overseen since the death of company co-founder Steve Jobs last October.
"[W]e strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment," Cook said in his letter.
And for those who badly miss what they used to have, even Cook suggested heading for another option for the time being. "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 web sites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app," he wrote.
Worth pointing out also is the fact that, despite the hand-wringing, Maps hasn't exactly been ignored by owners of the new phone. "In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations," Cook indicated. "The more our customers use our Maps, the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you."
Now, if you're tempted to think nothing like this could have ever happened under Jobs, just go back a few years. Though Jobs had a reputation for being exact, Apple products under him weren't without problems and he did have to address a few issues, even if he did so reluctantly. In 2007, a price cut on the first iPhone enraged buyers who paid the higher price, and three years later, he had to make it up to users unhappy with the iPhone 4 antenna.
Even so, Jeff Macke suggests what Jobs wouldn't have done is push out something that he truly felt wasn't up to Apple user expectations, especially when a solid alternative existed.
"Apple didn't need to use its own Maps app," he wrote on Breakout. "The company had a relationship with Google that would have allowed it to use that company's map service at least until the iPhone6 was released. Presumably, Apple would have used the time to make its own maps program less humiliatingly awful."