Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maps App Loses Its Way, Thanks to Apple-Google Clash

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maps App Loses Its Way, Thanks to Apple-Google Clash

Article excerpt

The latest casualty of Apple Inc.'s war with Google Inc. in the mobile-phone market is one of the most widely used features of the iPhone: maps.

Apple, which is touting the map features as a key software change in the iPhone 5 that goes on sale today, built its navigation application amid a growing battle with Google, which had provided its Google Maps program since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Apple built the replacement app because it wanted to scale back its relationship with Google, not because of any product flaws, said two people familiar with Apple's development of the mapping features.

The company's rivalry with Google was born after the owner of the world's largest Internet search engine developed the Android mobile operating system, which runs devices from manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. that compete with Apple's iPhone. Android is now the world's most popular smartphone software.

As the competition escalated, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt exited Apple's board in 2009. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple also traded patent-infringement lawsuits with several smartphone manufacturers who use Android, including Samsung.

The new iPhone 5 mapping software was criticized by technology gadget reviewers, who said it doesn't provide directions for public transportation and sometimes gets confused.

"Apple believes that they can deliver a better experience for customers than Google," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research. "But in the short term, Google has a better mapping application, and iPhone customers will suffer."

The fallout from the feud extends beyond mapping. Customers also won't find Google's YouTube application preinstalled on the iPhone for the first time since 2007. Google's e-mail and document software also haven't worked as well for iPhone customers as on Android phones, Ms. Rotman Epps said. iPhone users can still download a YouTube app from the App Store.

From a business perspective, Apple's decision on mapping is important because its software ecosystem for providing music, apps and other services to customers helps to differentiate its products, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

"It doesn't make sense for Apple to outsource a key part of their entire ecosystem to Google," Mr. Gartenberg said.

The reviews for the iPhone 5 were mostly positive, especially for its faster data speeds and lightweight body design. Walt Mossberg, the technology critic for the Wall Street Journal, called it the best smartphone on the market, while singling out the maps as a shortcoming.

"The biggest drawback I found is the new Maps app," wrote Mr. Mossberg. Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky also criticized the mapping features.

Not all reviewers were disappointed by the new mapping software. Ed Baig of USA Today didn't note any flaws with the feature, and Macworld called it "stunning. …

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