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Apple just won a billion-dollar lawsuit against its biggest competitor, Samsung. The iPhone 5 is selling well, despite overzealous analyst expectations. The company could, at some point in the not-too-distant future, be the world's first to be valued at one trillion dollars.

It can be easy to forget that Apple isn't perfect, but the high-flying company seems to be trying its best to remind us in the wake of its Maps fiasco.

With backlash against the company's less-than-satisfactory mapping app reaching a fever pitch, Apple CEO Tim Cook last week sought to reassure frustrated users. "Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard," he wrote in a letter addressed to customers.

But it's clear that he doesn't have an immediate solution for the mess his company is in. "While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app," he advised.

That's a stunning recommendation given that Apple had previously referred to its Maps app as the "most powerful" on the market.

Putting users second?

In retrospect, it's clear that Apple's decision to drop Google Maps was a bad one. But why did Apple ditch Google?

According to Daring Fireball's Jon Gruber it was all an issue of timing:

But if the old agreement between Apple and Google expired in the first half of 2013 (which, again, my own sources familiar with the matter agree to be the case), that means the deal was set to expire halfway through the expected year-long life cycle for iOS 6. If Apple had stuck with Google Maps for another year they would have been forced to renegotiate with Google in a situation where both sides at the table would know that Apple either (a) had to agree to whatever terms Google demanded to extend the deal; or (b) would be forced to swap the mapping back-end of iOS 6 midway through its development cycle.1 However tumultuous a change this has been in iOS 6.0, it would have proven more tumultuous and controversial if Apple had been forced by failed contract negotiations to squeeze it into a 6.1 or 6.2 update come May. And, that would have forced Apple to devote significant engineering resources for an iOS 6 update that could otherwise have been applied to iOS 7. Big changes come in the major release; bug fixes, security updates, and minor improvements come in post-major-release .x updates.

Assuming that Gruber's information is accurate -- which isn't too far-fetched considering he's considered by many to be an unofficial mouthpiece for Apple -- it would appear that Apple decided to jeopardize user experience and customer satisfaction because it didn't want to make it look like it extended a deal with Google in a situation in which Google had the upper hand or, in the absence of a deal, make a change in a non-major-release of iOS.

On one hand, it's not difficult to see why Apple would prefer to avoid negotiating with Google from a position of weakness, but let's be honest: Apple is sitting on an unfathomable amount of cash. It could have decided to do right by iOS users without Peter Oppenheimer, the company's CFO, losing any sleep.

But it didn't, and while this shouldn't be taken as evidence that Apple has jumped the shark, it does highlight the risks Apple faces given its envious position.

Trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose

A big contributor to Apple's strength is the inherent trust consumers have placed in it. When Apple promises a great new product, consumers believe it will, and they prove it by ordering new Apple products by the millions upon release. In short, expectations are Apple's best friend.

When the company fails to deliver, however, and that failure is apparent to just about everybody, Apple doesn't just look bad. It looks like it might be slipping. That is a dangerous perception that the company must defeat, lest consumers start to question whether the Apple capable of delivering magical experiences has been replaced by an Apple more focused on continuing to deliver magical financial results.

Patricio Robles

Published 1 October, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2380 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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David Quaid

The big problem is that this is mroe about ego more than about trust. Not everybody trusts that Apple was right to start a war with Google, or that Samsung had infringed their round corner patents or that removing YouTube and Google Maps were the right thing to do!

almost 4 years ago

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mjaniec

Seems Apple may need to do much more than repair faulty Maps: http://bit.ly/iphone5problems

almost 4 years ago

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jbelkin

maybe you should stop using racial epithets to describe ideas - perhaps you think we're all uneducated and need 18th century racial epithets before we understand? - what's next? Chinese fire drill? jap slap? Indian giver? Going Dutch? You really need to expand your vocabulary to get your point across.

almost 4 years ago

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Grammar Police

Racial epithet? Expand *your* vocabulary. Oh, the irony.

almost 4 years ago

David Mulhall-Brown

David Mulhall-Brown, Chief Operations Officer at VexPop

Forget the maps "fiasco" itself and look at the bigger picture - that's what's really worrying. The last time SJ left the company, they almost self-destructed. I'm afraid that this is just the first mis-step in that direction again.

almost 4 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

jbelkin,

The definition of the word "chink" is "a narrow opening or crack." The phrase "chink in the armor" is a common idiom that refers to vulnerability. It is not and has never been a racial slur. Per Dictionary.com, "This term relies on chink in the sense of 'a crack or gap,' a meaning dating from about 1400 and used figuratively since the mid-1600s," so your claim that this idiom is an "18th century racial epithet" is simply misinformed.

The fact that you have chosen to suggest that a post using a common idiom used to refer to a vulnerability is racial in nature -- a suggestion that is completely ridiculous in the context of the post's subject matter -- speaks more about your understanding of vocabulary and train of thought than anything else.

almost 4 years ago

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Dare I comment??

I will try... Apple probably ought not to have released the maps so fast and they do have flaws in the 5's build etc but its nothing new.
Does everyone remember the cracking iPod nano screens? The antennae troubles on the 4 and the iMac cracking cases?

I love my Samsung and won't go back to the iPhone however I think there has been too much focus on their faults recently since the first patent war between the two big brands. The better you make something, the more the small problems will seem bigger and more important!

almost 4 years ago

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