Apple Responds to Criticism Over Maps App

The Wall Street Journal – Apple Inc.’s AAPL -0.48% move to unseat rival Google Inc.’s GOOG +0.08% software from its mobile devices sparked a worldwide consumer backlash, marking a rare strategic blunder by the world’s most valuable company.

Apple is facing vociferous complaints from consumers over the mapping application that it released on Wednesday as part of its latest iOS 6 mobile operating system. Apple’s maps application replaces Google’s maps data that has been part of the iPhone since the device’s 2007 release.

The criticism poured in from worldwide as iPhone and iPad users with Apple’s new maps app found misplaced labels for businesses and landmarks, cities with missing roads and erroneous features like a fractured river in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a search that for certain terms, such as “Haneda Airport,” yielded nothing

On social networks and elsewhere, people quickly formed groups such as “Give me back my Google Maps” to criticize what they perceived as a lack of expected features and inaccurate information in Apple’s new maps app. Some bloggers also circulated images of Apple’s maps compared to Google’s offering, showing incorrect and out-of-date locations.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said the company knows its map service is a major initiative and designed it so that it would get better as more people use it. “We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better,” she said.

The controversy over Apple’s maps is part of a high-stakes battle between the Cupertino, Calif., company and rival Google, who are fighting to take the lead in the fast-growing mobile software and device market. While the two Silicon Valley companies were once chummy, they began encroaching on one another’s turf over time. Google today makes the Android mobile software, which competes with Apple’s iOS mobile operating system.

Maps are a key element of the rivalry between the two companies-and not just because mapping data is widely used by consumers. Mobile ads associated with maps or locations are also a big business. Such mobile ads are estimated to account for about 25% of the roughly $2.5 billion spent on mobile ads in 2012, according to Opus Research, up from 10% in 2010. That is expected to grow as the number of location-aware software apps grows.

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