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To: Tim Cook
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As a longtime Apple user, I'd like to say a heartfelt thanks for the apology Friday. Your company's quest for tech excellence is so intensely scrutinized, it can be hard to publicly admit when a product falls far short of expectations.
So it's really good to know you heard and accept the complaints, and that Apple is committed to making Maps as functional as it is beautiful. I for one cannot wait. But there remains the need for a proper stopgap solution.
Remember what solved the (relatively minor) "Antennagate" problem? It wasn't just the CEO getting up on stage and apologizing. It was the fact that Apple proceeded to offer free bumper cases. The company looked proactive and generous, and the bumper did the trick. What you need now is the equivalent of the bumper.
You suggested in your letter a number of mapping app alternatives, such as turning maps.google.com into an "app" for your home screen (a method we tried and found wanting here). We all know they constitute an inferior experience.
There's one far better alternative you didn't mention. It's one you already have in your back pocket (figuratively) and that the majority of iPhone and iPad owners still have in their back pockets (literally).
It's the old Maps app, the one Apple built based on Google data in 2007 and that shipped in every OS until iOS 6.
Please, Tim, direct your iOS team to release it as a free standalone item in the App store, for iOS 6 only, with all due speed. I'll gladly accept it not being the default mapping app. Let us use it side by side with Maps, and use it as our benchmark for how much Maps is improving.
If there's any reason you can't do this, it hasn't been clearly explained. Google's chairman has said, and Apple has never denied, that you still have a whole year left on your license to use Google Maps data on the phone. That's why it hasn't suddenly vanished for everyone using iOS 5. We still have the right to use it.
The standalone iOS 6 app would only work for the next year, then. That's okay by us. We know that by this time next year, one of two things will have happened: Maps will have improved exponentially and Google will have come out with an iOS 6 Maps app of their own making. Preferably both.
Is there a problem detaching the Google Maps code from the system preferences, so that iOS 6 knows this isn't the default map the way it was in iOS 5? I very much doubt that obstacle could detain the programming might of Apple for more than a few days.
Sure, it would be ideal to have the option to switch between default mapping apps. But that's a bigger fix, a system-level fix, and it would delay the re-release of something for which there is an urgent need.
For your users' sake, please do not delay. A good chunk of them are afraid of upgrading to iOS 6 specifically because of the Maps issue; this would remove that objection at a stroke.
Meanwhile, many of the upgraded, our confidence in our phones' navigation skills shaken, are starting to steal longing glances at our Android-toting friends' maps app. Unthinkable, just a few weeks ago, but true.
Re-releasing Google Maps would effectively restore the status quo ante, allowing us to take a chance on Maps -- because we know there's a fallback for when its information ain't great.
And there's something else. In this ongoing and suddenly more heated rivalry with Google, Apple would suddenly look like the bigger company. You'll be the ones who filled the gap, even at the risk of ceding ground to a competitor, because you care about your users. It would be widely regarded as a heroic and selfless act, the kind of PR you can't buy.
Google will come along with iOS 6 Maps sooner or later, albeit months down the line, and right now you're running the risk of it being a huge deal: Google saves the day! Reliable mapping returns to the iPhone!
But if you re-release the old app, Google's version, however good it is, will seem like more of an upgrade than the second coming.
Some on your team might tell you this is a step backwards. Don't listen to them. It's the right thing to do for users. Apple Maps will still be there, will still be the default, will have more time to improve. And in a deft bit of jiu-jitsu, Google will look like a slowpoke.
Seeking Direction in San Francisco
This story originally published on Mashable here.