Have you just lost 400 million customers?

Posted on: October 14th, 2012 by Luke Faragher
Apple Maps - 300px

You might think that the title of this post is a bit drastic, but that pretty much what has happened if your business relied heavily upon location-based search in this country.

With the release of Apples 6th iteration of their mobile operating system (IOS6) last month came the move to Apples own in-house mapping and location systems. Prior to this, in fact since the launch of the original iPhone on the June 29, 2007, Apple had been using Googles mapping application and data. This mapping and location-based search was developed over nearly a decade of crowd sourced data and by all accounts was one of the key features that made the iPhone the monumental success that it is today.
As of late however, Apple and Google have not been seeing eye to eye on a number of things which has put a great strain on their relationship. Most notably for the purposes of this article has been Googles reluctance to furnish Apples maps application with turn by turn navigation and voice activated guidance. This turn by turn navigation has been a prominent feature that within Googles OS for some time now and as Apple considers it to be an area that Googles OS is ahead, Apple clearly found it necessary create their own in-house service even though there was still over a year remaining in their contract.

Although there are some incredibly positive improvements seen in IOS6 maps over Googles service (as shown below) the general consensus is that the application is fatally flawed by the lack of data and the poor accuracy of the limited data set that is on offer. It seems that most IOS users really were taking for granted the intricacy of Googles service, something that they have only realised now that it has been taken away from them. With Apple opting to use Yelp for their listings, we have seen businesses literally drop of the face of the earth as far as local search is concerned, as businesses scramble to add their business to a directory that no one had really bothered to do before. If you are not listed on yelp you might just well be missing out on Apples 400 Million strong user base (more details about how you can add your business on yelp at the bottom of this post and we will write another post dedicated to this over the coming days).

The Positives of Apples Maps in IOS6

Iphones Showing Apples Maps - Location Based Search
Vector Based Maps – Unlike Googles maps application, the all new IOS6 application uses Vector Based tiles which can be quickly scaled and zoomed without re-loading new picture tiles. Although this is more demanding on the devices CPU and GPU, it uses much less data and it feels much more fluid than Googles service.

Turn by Turn Navigation – Seeing as this was one of the main reasons Apple ditched Googles service we were hoping that this would be worth some of the sacrifices. After using the navigation a couple of times instead of a dedicated TOM-TOM (which the service is based on) we can say that in London the service is very good, however we are not convinced after hearing some reports on the inaccuracy of some locations that we can entirely trust it. Look out for cars driving the wrong way down one way streets and into rivers soon.

Traffic Updates – Another feature that was missing from Apples mapping system was the addition of regular traffic updates and maps in IOS6 includes a very similar service that can be found across Google devices.

Voice Activated Search and Siri – Apple seems to have supercharged Siri quietly in IOS6 which seems to be on the whole more accurate and responsive (perhaps its just getting used to our voices) and now integrates it directly into its maps and search. Asking Siri to “take me home” opens the maps app and proceeds to guide you turn by turn to your home even when in the locked screen, something that perhaps apple should think a little more carefully about. Do we really need someone that has gotten hold of your phone to be able to ask it when you live and be guided right to your front door? Equally interesting is asking Siri where you can get a coffee and having it rank them by Yelp rating.

3D Flyover – One of the most popularised features of Apples new mapping service is the much-anticipated 3D Flyover. This technology allows users to soar like an eagle over the top of a ‘select’ number of cities around the world and explore buildings in interactive 3D. Although we feel that this is fairly interesting it is also obviously novel and we really struggle to see the benefit considering the resources that have been ploughed into it.

The Negatives of Apples Maps in IOS6

Local Search – As we previously mentioned if you aren’t listed on Yelp your more than likely to be missed off Apples search, but that’s not all. If you are lucky enough to have been included (mostly restaurants, bars and pubs) you might want to check where you have been put. There are a number of places of interest that are completely wrong. In our area in London Bridge we can spot 8 vastly inaccurate listings and a great deal that just isn’t included at all. The move to Yelp although bringing some interesting features like reservations and recommendations, simply does not hold anything close to Googles mapping data, but perhaps will do in the near future.
Apple Maps Inaccuracies - Stadium

Flyover Errors – You have to give it to them, apart from being slightly trivial the technology behind this service is literally astounding. There is however bound to be some teething issues with a service like this and a great number of complaints have been seen with distorted looking maps. Our thoughts is, who cares? Who is actually using this service for anything more than just showing off?

Lack of transport information – If you use Googles maps for directions in between two points and select ‘by foot’ you will be given a whole host of options relating to public transport, bus timings, tube times, etc. This is missing from Apples service and for many will be extremely inconvenient to have to switch through multiple apps to find directions that used to work so seamlessly.
Please work on bringing this back Apple!

So what is Apple doing about this back-lash

Following the large scale backlash of their launch of Maps Apple have issued a letter of apology to their customers (found by clicking here). A first for Apple and an action that certainly would not have been seen under Steve Jobs Management of the Company. Tim Cook has issued a written apology for the shortcoming of Apples maps application and has urged customers to use alternate mapping services until Apple sorts out theirs. A somewhat bizarre strategy for a company famed for being so sure of its products. The second and more important action that has been taken is that every member of Apples retail staff have been drafted in to help improve the accuracy of maps. Every store across the globe will be responsible for dedicating 40 hours a week to improving Apples services based on their local knowledge of the area. Hopefully with this we will see Apples Maps become the great service it should be and it lives up to its potential.

What can you do about being found in Local Search on IOS6

We have helped a number of our clients add their profiles to Yelp and it is a fairly easy process to get a basic listing. All you need to do is go to http://www.yelp.co.uk and sign up. The service will prompt you through the registration process to add all the information necessary to create your listing. As previously mentioned we will be writing another article over the coming week to detail how to add to your profile and get the most out of the service. After using the service, we can also point out that adding your listing has great potential at the moment, as many of your competitors might not be listed, providing you with access to a whole new pool of customers. Yelps rating system and reservation systems also allow businesses to gather momentum from their existing clients, whilst managing bookings without a complex in-house system. Although we feel that this service has a great deal of potential many users are frustrated by having to maintain yet another profile. As we manage multiple profiles across numerous platforms for our clients, we have become experts at creating and maintaining these profiles and getting the most out of them for our local search clients.

If you would like any more information about how to add your business to Yelp or how to get the most out of it, please leave a comment below or get in touch with us via our contact page.

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