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How is Apple Maps any different from the Android G1?

Posted: , posted by Michael H.

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How is Apple Maps any different from the Android G1?
Have you ever noticed that Google always gets the benefit of the doubt simply for trying something new, but if Apple tries something new, and doesn't come out with a perfect first attempt, it is deemed an utter failure? We've covered this phenomenon a little bit here and there, but we've never really focused on it completely, and we'd like to give that a shot right now (and as always, bring some perspective to the woefully myopic fanboys in our readership). 

As we all know by now, Apple decided to get rid of Google Maps and create its own Maps app for iOS. We have also seen that the iOS Maps app has been... disappointing, to be extremely kind about it. We have tried a number of times to impress upon our readership that this is the first iteration of an app that will be around for years and years to come, and that the first generation of a product as big as mapping the entire world is bound to have problems. It's not like Google Maps was borne into this world as complete as it is today, that took 7 years of hard work. And, Apple wasn't trying to recreate Google Maps on the first try, it was more likely just trying to build something that was "good enough" for users, and depending on where you live, it missed that mark with iOS Maps.

Apple's problem with superlatives

Of course, Apple doesn't get that sort of benefit of the doubt. It's understandable, because Apple has always been a company that not only held back software until it was more matured, but Apple tends to use only superlatives when introducing new products. And, Apple haters can't seem to grasp that what is essentially nothing more than a marketing tool (the superlative) is not necessarily the benchmark for judging a product.

How is Apple Maps any different from the Android G1?
Apple seems to be the only company where the marketing language becomes the standard by which the product is judged. This is especially ridiculous because Apple's marketing lexicon hasn't changed in years, everything is still "magical", "amazing", "fantastic", "really great", or "the best" year after year after year. It has gotten to the point where a reasonable audience shouldn't actually get any useful meaning from the words used at an Apple announcement. If you describe a product the same way you've described every product for the past 10 years, how do the words even really mean anything anymore? Still, people find a way to get so angry about it that they have to fill up our comment threads with their bile.

What's interesting is that, if you notice, Apple uses all of its superlatives in the announcement for a product, but when it comes to the actual advertising for the product, the phrasing always changes to "the best iPhone yet", or "the most magical iPad yet". Everything becomes compared only to Apple devices, not to anything else, because there are those silly things like the "Code of Advertising", which states that superlatives can only be based on objective data, like sales figures. So, the superlatives are couched in context in Apple ads, but are free to describe anything during a product announcement. 

But maybe Apple is finally learning that it will have to rein in the superlatives given the fiasco that has surrounded iOS Maps. For some silly reason, the company thought it was a good idea to claim that its Maps were the "most beautiful and powerful maps ever", which is obviously not the case. Apple has since changed that language, but only time will tell how it describes its next product. 

Apple Maps is no different than Android 1.5

Still, there is no such thing as perspective when it comes to a fanboy, especially one that is so dead set on hating Apple. And, that brings us back to our original question: why does Google always get credit for trying something new? We know that Google has been far more well known for the "try and fail" approach to product development, as well as its liberal use of the Beta tag. Google has released plenty of products that have been killed off, or stayed in beta for as long as 5 years (Gmail). Google has released plenty of products that started out just as rocky as Apple Maps, but became successful (you know, like Android.) 

How is Apple Maps any different from the Android G1?
Apple Maps may be a bad product now, and it may not have lived up to the flowery language that Apple used to launch it, but aside from the big announcement, how is it any different from Android 1.5? Remember, when the G1 was launched, it's marketing labeled it as "The most exciting phone in the history of phones." That's some pretty superlative language right there. And, you know what? The G1 didn't quite live up to the hype. It was an okay phone for its time, but it had very few apps, it was laggy, and it generally just lacked polish.

Times have changed though. Android has grown and evolved, while iOS has made more moderate changes, and Android has become the dominant platform, if not the best mobile platform around. Of course, if you ask any Apple fanboy, they will likely still pull adjectives that described Android 1.5 as a way to put down the platform, calling it "laggy" or "prone to crash", even though those adjectives don't apply anymore, and some studies have shown that Android is actually less prone to crashes than Apple. The same is happening right now with Apple Maps. It launched as a disappointment, and a mess of an app, so as far as anti-Apple fanboys are concerned, that's how it will always be.

If you try to apply the same logic people use when looking at Apple Maps, you could claim Google didn't really have any compelling reason to create Android. There were plenty of smartphone platforms, and Google could have just as easily made apps for each of those. Google Maps and YouTube were already baked in to iOS anyway. Of course, that logic fails when you consider the business side of the equation, just like it fails when talking about Apple Maps. Apple could have just kept Google Maps, despite the fact that it would never have turn-by-turn navigation or vector maps, just like Google could have stuck with making apps for other platforms rather than build Android. But, that's not how business works. 

In the world of business (which has far less to do with us users as you'd like to think), companies make decisions based on long timelines. Over time, Google could get a lot more data and revenue if it could control the entire platform, so it created Android. Similarly, Apple will ultimately get a lot more data and the potential for more revenue with its own maps app, so it got rid of Google Maps.

Conclusion

Sure, Apple Maps is not a great product right now. Its data set is woefully small, its satellite imagery is patchwork, and its navigation can have problems. The thing is, Apple isn't giving up on this. The product will continue to be improved, and it will continue to be a central part of all iOS products from here on out. Just take a look at a G1 running Android 1.5 compared to a Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.1, and think about how that change happened over the course of just 4 years. Now, try to imagine what Apple Maps will look like 4 years from now.

It still may not have caught up with Google Maps, but it will certainly have progressed to the point where iOS users are no longer running to the iTunes App Store to download an alternative maps app. That's how Apple is looking at this, and that's how Google is looking at it as it decides how to react and what to do next. Knee-jerk reactions do nothing but put people in the mindset to not accept any new information on a subject. But, on a long enough timeline, everything changes, especially in the world of tech. If you're planning to make up your mind about a product and never revisit that judgement, the world is most surely going to pass you by.

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