iOS maps vs. Antennagate

Different year, similar controversy?

In many ways these two fiasco's are the same. Apple bring out a flawed product, everyone faints in shock. Smelling salts all round.

But of course in the end Antennagate wasn't a big issue. The iPhone 4 still sold like hotcakes, and two years on I think people barely remember it. Curious whether this will be the same.

Similarities

  • The geekerati jump up and down about it and beat their chests (probably more outside the US where we bear the brunt of the crappy map data).
  • Amusing Tumblrs pop up (there was also a really hilarious blog of antennagate photos which I can't find - does anyone have the link?).
  • It feels like an issue Apple were aware of (or should have been aware of) before launch, and you would expect they shouldn't have let out, given their fanatical attention to detail. *
  • It won't affect near-term iPhone sales. Lets face it, especially given we've been waiting two years for a hardware refresh, fiscal Q4 units are going to go like hotcakes.

Differences

  • More people are affected. As Steve Jobs so cutely explained in his Antennagate mea culpa, only 0.55% of people ended up complaining. It didn't affect their day-to-day as much (it only because there was a workaround - Hold Different). In contrast its much harder to workaround the Maps issue (a webapp isn't the same experience, nor are non-Google third party map apps).
  • Crappy iOS maps feels more intentional; as I've pointed out capricious. Antennagate felt more like they were so obsessed by design they took their eye off the ball. I think this does damage goes deeper than Antennagate. How deep may be impacted by how soon Google gets its alternative Maps app out (i.e. how long people need to struggle with the v0.5 Apple Maps).
  • Users have to suffer a real downgrade in their experience. OK if you had an iPhone 3G across the iOS4 update you may disagree with it. But I think iPhone 4S users (who are presumably on 18-24 month contracts and thus unlikely to be upgrading) are going to notice the difference.

Consequences?

  • Bull case scenario: Apple get the data cleaned up in the next three months. In the meantime they roll out a smart damage limitation exercise ("Maps isn't an Apple problem... It's an industry problem etc). No one outside the US cares about it anyway, give or take subway timetables. By the time we get to the new year everybody's forgotten about this.
  • Bear case scenario: Apple's implicit pact with customers ("we buy into your walled garden because we trust you will always act in our best interests") is damaged. The credibility of iOS as the world's best ecosystem is damaged and people start to realise Google actually has some pretty cool web services. iPhone 5 still sells buckets, but when the iPhone 6 comes round Apple has lost a little bit of that mystique. In the meantime the Galaxy S V Charge MAXXX sells gangbusters.
  • Reality: As always, probably somewhere in between.

* A note. I don't think the maps problems are just "oh they need more time to crowdsource the data it was always going to happen". A lot of the missing roads in Europe ARE ones which are contained in the TomTom data-set (remember Tele Atlas started out as a European map company - they have always had best-in-class maps for this side of the pond. Ironically their US maps have always been weaker as they were acquired with GDT back in '03).