iOS 6: A Two Map App System, Same as it Ever Was

It's been interesting watching the Google vs. Apple Maps in iOS 6 débâcle unfold. Apple is a very calculating company that rarely makes any rash moves without fully thinking them through first, which makes this all the more curious.

What's interesting here is something I haven't seen noted before: With iOS 6 Apple simply took away one app and gave us a different one. Everyone's complaining that Google Maps is gone and we've lost functionality, specifically built-in, on-street, public transportation guidance. That's true. But with iOS 5 and earlier everyone complained that we had on-street (Google) Maps and no built-in, turn-by-turn directions while driving. That's also true.

Previously we had the built-in (Google) Maps app that worked very well for on-foot (or on public-transport) directions. It was awesome, in fact, and any time I was in a (semi-)unfamiliar city I came to rely on it to help me find when the next bus was coming or how to get from point A to B on foot.

However, as soon as I got in a car I had to use a third-party app like NAVIGON (or others) to give me turn-by-turn directions. I'd worked this all out and It Was Good™. I had two apps and I knew how to use them. One was from Apple in that it was built-in to my phone, the other I purchased from a third-party.

With iOS 6 Apple has simply swapped one app for another. They took away our on-foot/public transport app and gave us a turn-by-turn app. So now when I'm in that same semi-unfamiliar city I'll use Apple's app when I'm in the car and NAVIGON (now complete with "Urban Guidance," a term I just love) to help me navigate the city's bus system. Hopefully Urban Guidance works as well as the previous, built-in (Google) Maps app did, especially in light of this morning's news that Google won't be providing an iOS Maps app anytime soon (if ever).

As I said, though, this result cannot be a surprise to Apple. They clearly knew what they were doing with this. And clearly there are third-party data sources for public transportation guidance, which they easily could have tapped and used (and still could). It will be interesting to see where this goes and what Apple's vision on this is.

One theory is that they felt they desperately needed to punch the "we have built-in turn-by-turn guidance" ticket. That's something they've been lacking in all the iOS vs. Android comparisons.

The other theory is that they decided their deal with Google was coming to an end and it was time to do things the Apple way, and we'll see them use this as a foundation for the future, continuing to do what they do: iterate and iterate until they get it perfect.

Based on their history, my money's on the latter. But time will tell us all, won't it?