iPhone 5 Map Blunder Won't Seriously Hurt Apple: 10 Reasons Why

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple has come under intense criticism in the media and from many iPhone users about its decision to replace Google Maps with its own clearly unready map application in iOS 6. But even this serous gaffe won’t Apple one bit.

Apple has some egg on its face. The iPhone maker essentially built a half-baked Maps application into iOS 6. And while Apple called its app, the “best” mapping program on the market, users and product reviewers quickly found that it was actually riddled with errors and quality problems.

Maps is so bad, in fact, that Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced recently to publicly apologize for it, saying that the application does not live up to the standard Apple has set for itself.

The outcry and subsequent apology are understandable. Maps is a mess. The application has incorrect information showing towns and landmarks in the wrong geographic location. Oddly, Apple didn’t realize that some islands were duplicated. The company’s errors become all the more glaring, thanks to Apple’s decision to nix Google Maps in favor of its own program. The move made Apple look selfish, petty and unwilling to deliver what’s best to consumers.

But despite all of the controversy and the complaints, Apple has nothing to fear. Tim Cook might not be getting the best press right now and Apple’s infallibility as well as its reputation for quality is being questioned, but in the long run it won’t be terribly hurt by the issue.

These are the reasons why.

1. Maps isn’t a must-have application

Although it’s easy to hit Apple hard over Maps, the fact is, the application really doesn’t matter all that much. Maps is a program that people will use only every so often, and it’s not the kind of app that would stop customers from buying the iPhone 5.

2. The App Store as a savior

It’s become clear to customers that even if Maps is a train wreck, they can head over to the App Store and download a host of programs from companies like Yahoo, Microsoft and others. They can also go into Safari and use Google Maps. In other words, fixing Maps doesn’t take that much effort.

3. Google isn’t making it an issue

Google had an opportunity with the Maps kerfuffle to make it a broader problem for Apple. Google could have flaunted its success, gloated a bit about Apple’s troubles and tried to draw a distinction between iOS and Android. But Google hasn’t done so. Until it does, Apple really has nothing to worry about. After all, if the competition isn’t going to do anything to capitalize on Apple’s blunder, what are the chances of customers paying much attention?

4. iPhone 5 demand is high

Nearly all analysts agree that iPhone 5 demand is extremely high around the world. Aside from the poor map application, many analysts gave iPhone 5 and iOS 6 high marks. Even better for Apple, many of those opinions from analysts have come after the Maps issue hit its height. If that doesn’t say Apple will be just fine, what does? The bottom line is that the iPhone 5 is currently slated to sell through more units than any previous Apple handset.

5. It’s limited to a single version of the operating system

Although iOS 6 has been downloaded by tens of millions of people around the globe, history has proven that many folks are slow to update their operating systems. What’s more, those who are afraid of the Maps issue might just choose to stick with iOS 5. Either way, the trouble is limited to a single version of iOS, thus containing the problem and giving Apple time to address it.

6. The Cook apology was smart

Although some wonder why Tim Cook apologized and speculation has surfaced over whether Steve Jobs would have done the same, the move was a smart one. Tim Cook was able to quell unrest, admit his company’s wrongdoing, and in the process, offer up some stats that the media drooled over related to overall iOS usage. The Tim Cook apology made Apple look caring. In a world where the company isn’t always viewed as one that cares, that’s a good thing.

7. It’s a mess, but who will notice?

OK, so there’s no debating that Maps is really a mess. But we should also point out that many of the embarrassing problems, like wrong information, took some real digging. The previously mentioned town that was in the wrong location, for example, was Uckfield in East Sussex. That’s not typically a place people are trying to discover. In the major areas, where the majority of the population will be, Maps does a middling job. But at least it’s not awful. If Apple steadily improves Maps performance, the problem will quickly fade from users memory without doing serious damage to iPhone sales or Apple’s reputation.

8. It’s not a sign of larger issues

Some critics have said that Apple’s Maps issue is a sign of broader troubles at the company. Some have said that Cook seems lost. Others claim that the insidious apps problem will extend to other programs. All of that is overblown. As Apple’s financials show, things are going just fine. And a little gaffe with Maps won’t change that.

9. Siri was worse

Apple’s troubles with Siri could have been far more damaging to the company than Maps. When Siri was first announced last year, it was the centerpiece of Apple’s new operating system. It didn’t take users long to find out it worked terribly. As with Maps, Apple was hit hard by Siri’s troubles. But guess what? Customers kept buying iPhones and iPads, and Apple’s cash coffers continued to grow. If Siri didn’t hurt Apple, Maps certainly won’t.

10. Consumers always forgive Apple

Perhaps all of the previous items lead us to one, simple conclusion: consumers are willing and ready to forgive Apple whenever it does something wrong. With Siri, Apple was forgiven. When the company cut the first iPhone’s prices too soon, early adopters, while displeased, moved on. Apple has a long track record of making mistakes. And each time, it finds understanding customers to help it move past them.

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Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...