New iPhone 5 maps failing healthcare seekers
Not all business decisions turn out as well as it seems they might.
It seemed to make sense for Apple to part ways with embedded technology from Google, an erstwhile ally who's now a chief competitor in the smartphone market. So, with the release of its new iOS 6 operating system, the iPhone and the iPad have jettisoned Google Maps in favor of Apple's own, self-developed mapping software. (The YouTube app is also gone from the new iPhone 5.)
As you've probably heard, the experiment has not gone very well. The homegrown software, developed in part using TomTom GPS navigation data, is riddled with errors and shortcomings.
It got so bad that Apple CEO Tim Cook felt compelled to offer a letter expressing abject regret: "We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers, and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better."
John Paczkowski, writing on the technology website All Things D, cataloged some of its failings thusly: "It offers no information about public transportation; searches for an in-town destination sometimes return results for an entirely different city; it occasionally mistakes farms for airports; some of its Dali-esque flyover imagery is lousy; and it places gas stations in utterly untenable locations."
As tech blog Gizmodo put it: "Apple's New 3D Maps Are an Apocalyptic Horror Show."
Many observers have had a laugh with the phones' failings, such as the cheeky Tumblr (theamazingios6maps.tumblr.com) that catalogs and pokes fun at some of the more egregious errors.
But Apple's new maps have also had some potentially serious consequences. For one, they've caused problems for some users seeking directions to hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms.
In an emergency situation, when trying to find a hospital or emergency room in an unfamiliar location, the app's inaccuracies could potentially be a matter of life and death.
The website Gottabemobile posted a video that shows a side-by-side comparison of a search for "emergency room" on a map of San Francisco in iOS 5 (Google Maps) and in iOS 6.
The results weren't encouraging.
"Searching for an emergency room with an iPhone 5 brings up private medical offices, pharmacies and just about anything else medical related that's not a hospital or emergency room," wrote the site's manager Xavier Lanier. "Need a concierge house doc? Sure, he's mapped, but General Hospital is missing in action. That pediatrics emergency room? It's there, but it isn't marked properly."
Twitter was full of similar stories:
• "Yesterday, after updating to iOS 6, the clinic where I had scheduled an X-ray was no longer there."
• "iOS 6 Maps search is borked. Takes me to Kaiser, MO instead of my local clinic. I don't think my HMO has offices there..."
• "iOS 6 'hospitals in Cardiff' search shows Royal Cardiff Infirmary, which closed as a hospital in 1999. Seems dangerous."
• "In iOS 6 Maps when I search for 'hospital,' it shows me the veterinary clinics and senior citizens homes, but no real hospital."
• "I updated to iOS.6 and discovered I live four blocks from an imaginary hospital!"
• "iOS 6 Maps just sent me to a hospital instead of the bar I'm trying to find."
Apple was soon well aware of these complaints and is reportedly working feverishly to correct the mistakes. "Maps is a cloud-based solution, and the more people use it, the better it will get," an Apple official told All Things D in September. "We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better."