Is Apple’s Map App a Loser?

The mobile maps battle between Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has reached customers with Wednesday’s iOS 6 software update and the availability of the iPhone 5 starting Friday. Along with the operating system upgrade as well as on its new phone, Apple has introduced its own homemade mapping software, getting rid of Google Maps as a standalone app for iOS devices. While Google had provided maps software and data to Apple since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, the growing rivalry between the two companies in the smartphone arena has led to the scaling back of some of their closest and oldest ties.

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Apple is branding the map features as a key software change in the iPhone 5, but first reports from technology reviewers and users have been largely cool. The biggest flaw that has been pointed out in the technology, which Apple built using data provided by TomTom and OpenStreetMap, is that it doesn’t provide directions for public transportation and has often confusing navigation. Critics are worried that it links the user to third-party transit apps for public transport options and while the 3-D Flyover option is available starting from the new iPad and the iPhone 4S, it still lacks Google’s ground-level photographic street views.

All Things D’s Walt Mossberg called the new maps app the “biggest drawback” of the iPhone 5, while CNET’s Jason Parker said users were likely to miss Google Maps. “Not only are Google Maps no longer integrated, but also you’re further walled into Apple’s ecosystem,” Parker wrote. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber was not ambivalent in his criticism, calling the new app “a downgrade.”

Of course, the update carries additions iPhone and iPad users had needed for a while. That includes audio-based turn-by-turn navigation, which Google never allowed Apple to incorporate in the iOS version of Google Maps. And while some have complained that the Apple data does not include as many landmarks as Google, the close integration of Yelp (NYSE:YELP) reviews has received praise.

Google has also a announced its update to Google Maps for Android and is adding features such as the ability to synchronize across devices and personalize searches on maps.

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