New Maps app is rare Apple flub

Associated Press Modified: September 20, 2012 at 5:15 pm •  Published: September 20, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — With a touch of geek whimsy, Google Maps warns anyone who seeks walking directions to Mordor —the land of evil in "The Lord of the Rings"— to use caution. "One does not simply walk into Mordor," it says. Apple is finding this week that creating an alternative to Google Maps isn't a simple walk, either.

Apple released an update to its iPhone and iPad operating system on Wednesday that replaces Google Maps with Apple's own application. Early upgraders are reporting that the new maps are less detailed, look weird and misplace landmarks. It's shaping up to be a rare setback for Apple.

"It's a complete failure," said Jeffrey Jorgensen. "It's slower, its directions are poorer and its location data doesn't seem to be accurate. All around, it's not quite there yet."

Jorgensen, a user interface designer for a San Francisco-based startup, began using Apple Maps months ago, because Apple made it available early to people in its software development program. He said he finds himself relying on Google Maps running on his wife's Android phone instead.

The most-hyped feature of the new app is a "Flyby" mode that shows three-dimensional renderings of buildings and other features. It presents a convincing depiction of the canyons of Manhattan, but has a hard time rendering bridges and highway overpasses, which tend to look wobbly or partly collapsed.

The Apple app also has a tendency to judge landscape features by their names. For instance, it marks the hulking Madison Square Garden arena in New York as green park space because of the word "Garden" in its name. The TD Garden football stadium in Boston gets the same treatment.

Conversely, Apple Maps marks "Airfield Gardens," a farm and plant nursery in Dublin, Ireland, as an airfield. This prompted the country's Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, to warn pilots on Thursday not to land there.

"Clearly the designation is not only wrong but is dangerously misleading in that it could result in a pilot, unfamiliar with the area, in an emergency situation and without other available information, attempting a landing," he said.

Marcus Thielking, the co-founder of mapping-app developer Skobbler, said the lapses of the Apple app are surprising, particularly since Apple purchases map data from an established provider, Tele Atlas.