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Apple's failure to get the location of its own flagship Sydney store right in its new iOS6 Maps application caps off a comedy of maps errors that has taken the shine off the iPhone 5's debut.
The iOS update, released to owners of previous Apple devices this week and preloaded on to the iPhone 5, removes Google Maps and replaces it with Apple's offering, which has been widely panned as half-baked.
Luna Park face melts on Apple Maps
Apple's Maps app is riddled with mistakes including dodgy misrepresentations of well known landmarks, as Deputy Technology Editor Ben Grubb demonstrates.PT1M25S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-26bek 620 349 September 21, 2012
Roads, businesses and even entire towns like Goulburn, Kiama, Cairns and Lithgow are in the wrong place and/or have virtually no detail filled out. Dozens of readers told Fairfax of skewed directions provided by the app, including dangerous advice to drive off overpasses and on to busy highways, or through pedestrian-only malls
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is missing its key support columns and looks like it's covered in cobwebs, the Anzac Bridge is non-existent save for its shadow, the face at Luna Park is melting off, boats have sunk at Circular Quay and the Opera House looks more like a crude Second Life rendering than real life.
The 3D models of buildings and satellite shots lack detail. There is no street view, limited traffic information and the most basic public transport information (no timetables).
Apple's flagship Sydney store is on the wrong side of the street on their Maps app.
The local search is significantly more limited than Google's offering and turn-by-turn navigation won't be switched on for Australia until next month.
Readers have inundated Fairfax with examples of errors. A bakery in Morwell, Victoria, is listed as being in Kiama, New South Wales - just one of a plethora of business mix-ups. Entire towns are out of place and the detail on the maps gets more sparse as you move away from big city centres.
Apple can also throw users to any country in the world. A search for the Victorian town of Ararat sends users straight to the town of Ararat in Armenia without first asking if the user — which the maps knows is located in Australia — would rather the Victorian town of Ararat.
Staff at Sydney's Apple store held a meeting before they opened their doors to sell the iPhone 5 this morning. Photo: Reuters
Globally, on Apple Maps an entire city is in the ocean, a farm has been labelled as an airport, highways end in the middle of nowhere and a hospital now covers the entire centre of British town Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace.
"It's a complete failure," said Jeffrey Jorgensen, a San Francisco-based user-interface designer who began using Apple Maps months ago after gaining early access. "It's slower, its directions are poorer and its location data doesn't seem to be accurate. All around, it's not quite there yet."
People queue to buy Apple's new iPhone 5 from their flagship store in Sydney. Photo: AFP
Apple told Fairfax that its Maps app was "a major initiative and we are just getting started with it". The company said it was working with developers to integrate some of the transit apps from the App Store into iOS Maps.
"We are continuously improving it and as Maps is a cloud-based solution the more people that use it the better it will get," Apple said.
Several readers have reported they were given blatantly wrong directions by the app. There are errors with the location of the various terminals at both Sydney and Melbourne airports, complicating driving directions.
The best of the worst in Apple Maps
Steep drop after the Anzac Bridge in Sydney.
A Sydney-based reader said: "It wouldn't recognise that I could turn right onto the M4. It showed that I had to continue straight a few hundred metres, do a U-turn, then come back to the M4 to turn left onto it. Major intersection. Ridiculous!"
"[In Melbourne] it's fastest to get to Docklands from the SE suburbs via Toorak Road. Yes, faster than the M1," puzzled Twitter user @JohnBristowe wrote.
A Victorian reader who lives in Oak Grove, Brighton, said when searching for streets in Brighton, Apple Maps took him to the US.
Another reader wrote in to say a road off Samsonvale Road in Joyner, Queensland, goes straight out into the middle of Lake Samsonvale.
"Washaway Beach is shown at 55 Parriwi Road Mosman. It's actually near Grotto Point Manly," wrote another reader.
Apple's map data for Australia appears to be quite old, one reader said. "It shows the Melbourne train station Lyndhurst which closed 31 years ago! It also shows General Motors station but that closed more recently," Twitter user @toholio wrote.
Geoff Bullock from West Pennant Hills in NSW wrote in to remark on the poor level of detail around the suburbs. "The previous Google maps were markedly better ... an amateur effort Apple, you'll have to really dig yourself out of this one," he said.
Several readers have told Fairfax the new app ignores toll roads — instead suggesting routes that take up to three times as long. One reader in Victoria asked Apple maps for directions from his house in Wantirna to Frankston and was given only two options — using Springvale Road or Stud Road. The map ignored the fastest route along the Eastlink freeway, he said, as if this was not even an option.
iPhone owner Matt Hui said the new map did not include any of Melbourne's toll roads as possible routes.
"This is especially disastrous if you want to get directions to Melbourne Airport from the east or the south east, both of which rely on toll roads for a quick and direct route to [and from] the airport. Using my house as a starting point, Maps currently sends me on a route that covers an extra 15km, turning what should be a 45km journey into a 60km journey in order to avoid tolls," he said.
A Brisbane-based reader wrote: "Apparently you can now drive through Reddacliff Place in Brisbane CBD. Not sure if you're supposed to go through the underground busway or just dodge pedestrians in the plaza outside Treasury Casino. It does make journeys routes much shorter though!"
Outside Brisbane the issues get worse. "Look at any provincial Queensland town - when zoomed out they are miles from the true location (major highway intersections) e.g. Rockhampton, Toowoomba," a reader said.
A user from Woodend, Victoria, said Apple Maps had informed them a "new" restaurant had been built at the end of their street overnight.
Another Victorian reader wrote to warn not to trust the app if you're heading into the snow this season: "Mansfield seems to [have] moved about half way around Lake Eildon."
The change in mapping apps appears to have been made for political reasons rather than any benefit to users, as Apple is keen to reduce its reliance on Google, Apple's biggest competitor in smartphones.
The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg called Apple Maps the "biggest drawback" of iPhone 5, and most tech reviewers had the same opinion.
Google rubbed salt in Apple's wounds today by announcing that an update to Google Maps for Android would add new features such as the ability to synchronise across devices (such as your PC and phone).
The Guardian reported that Google was preparing a standalone Maps app for iOS6 but Google won't comment on when it might be available.
"We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world," a Google spokesman said. "Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system."
In the meantime, iPhone and iPad owners can access maps.google.com.au through their browser.
- with Lucy Battersby, wires