The problem with Apple Maps is not Apple Maps. The problem is how much worse the web-app version of Google Maps is than the old native app and what this means for mobile innovation.
Just look at the quality of the Google Maps web app vs. the old native iOS app. The HTML5 app is orders of magnitude worse. I assume the constraints that limit functionality and force Google to deliver such a poor user experience are entirely wrapped up in HTML5 vs native and illustrate the uneven playing field Apple has created. Google knew this was coming and they have unlimited resources. I have heard the conspiracy theory that Google is crippling the UX on purpose to motivate the switch to Android – I don’t buy it. Instead, I think we should blame the shortcomings of the Google Maps app on what is possible with a webapp/HTML5 experience.
I hate the new Apple Maps product as much as anyone else. I tried to use it to avoid traffic yesterday between Boston and NYC and not only did the app #fail to accurately report traffic, but the extra hour in the car, sitting bumper to bumper, included a hungry and tired 18 month old. After yesterday, and a few other experiences that mirror the complaints about Apple Maps that I have seen around the web, I am frustrated and wish I had my old Google Maps app back.
I can’t have it and this is an annoying result of a business decision that Apple made. However, my real worry is for the state of HTML5/web-apps vs. native apps and what it means for innovation. If the native experience continues to be so much better than webapps and iOS continues to dominate, entrepreneurs will have to submit to the Apple approval process to push a feature rich product out. Put another way, the mobile web is in trouble unless Android wins.
Imagine if the first version of the web had an approval process to put up a page?