We've covered the worrying state of Apple Maps before, but I can't remember the last time I got so many emails about one issue. There has been a deluge of correspondence flood my inbox in the last 24 hours, and it's all over one problem: turn-by-turn navigation in iOS 6. Australia isn't getting it. Update: Apple's Scott Forstall explains why.
If you wander over to Apple's website, they've done something pretty nifty by breaking down, country-by-country, who will get access to the various iOS 6 features.
24 features are listed on the page, and in rather a nice touch, Australia gets access to 19 of them. Some of those features are Twitter and Facebook integration and some improvements to Siri that the US have had for months now. The glaring omission though, is turn-by-turn navigation.
There are a total of 56 other countries getting turn-by-turn navigation support before Australia. That's right. 56.
Here they are:
Namibia? Latvia? Albania?! Most of these countries aren't even launch markets (which Australia is), so why are they getting turn-by-turn before us? Seriously, what is so hard with enabling this feature in Australia?
I can only assume, looking at that list, that it's a problem with the sheer scope and size of Australia. There's a lot of it to map, and turn-by-turn isn't an easy thing to do. That theory loses a bit of water when you see that Russia is on there, but I digress.
We were happy when Australia became an Apple launch market, but this glaring feature omission represents a piece in a troubling puzzle. Is Apple releasing a product to Australia just because they know we'll buy it no matter what? I shudder to think that this conversation ever took place:
'Give it to the Australians?' 'Naaaah, not just yet.' 'But they're a launch market?' 'Yeah but they'll buy it whether it has turn-by-turn or not, besides, how can you use turn by turn navigation when you ride a wombat to work?!'
Android users know how annoying it is to have a mapping product with no turn-by-turn navigation. Sure, it's enabled now, but it took Google months to release turn-by-turn to Australians following the release of the product in other markets.
Maps are clearly a tougher product that we give it credit for. It's got to be accurate 100 per cent of the time or you don't just annoy someone, you risk endangering them. If Apple is working on turn-by-turn for Australia to make it safer, then fine, but at least tell us. Apple hasn't yet returned our calls on this to give us a reason for it.
Update #1: A Whirlpool Forum user tried the old trick of emailing Scott Forstall, Apple's head of iOS, to ask where the hell the turn-by-turn mapping is. Here's the post by user, roundaboutmusic:
Re: Turn by turn. I figured I'd email Scott Forstall to ask:
Just saw that turn by turn maps won't be available in Australia (but will be in New Zealand?).
Just wondering if this is something that will be switched on for us Aussies in the near future?
I was pleasantly surprised when he got back to me. His reply:
Australia is definitely important to us. We first need to make sure our data is exceptional and qualified before turning on turn-by-turn.
Here's the email:
Thanks to Rupert for this.
Update #2: What exactly did Forstall mean when he talked about data? Reddit user and former Sensis map builder, Happy-Time Harry, explains the problem:
As far as I know (as a former map building employee of Sensis) the only companies doing turn by turn data collection in Australia are Sensis and Navteq, of which Sensis has quite a few years head start and a much more detailed set of metadata for the road network. Sensis has about 10 GPS and image collection vehicles that are driven a few million kms every year, from which they build the road maps with metadata that are used in most Australian GPS devices including Garmin, TomTom, Navman etc. Google also have a deal with Sensis and use sensis data in the Australian google maps. I assume Apple just hasn't got around to doing a deal with Sensis or Navteq yet because its a) a massive amount of data given the size of Australia, and b) a small market, so something they'll get around to eventually.
We'll update you if we hear more about it before next Friday, but don't be surprised if you tear the packaging off the iPhone 5 to find that it won't tell you where to go.