The critics agree: the iPhone 5 is lighter, faster and prettier than ever before and hands-down one of the best smartphones you can buy today. Unfortunately, critics also agree that Apple's new Maps app -- which replaced the Google Maps app found in previous version of the iOS operating system -- is a big step down in terms of quality and all-around functionality, despite the newfound addition of turn-by-turn navigation.
How bad is Apple's Maps app? Should you avoid upgrading your older iPhone to iOS 6 because of it? Should you even -- gasp -- avoid getting an iPhone 5? Let's find out.
Bad images, bad directions
Most of the complaints about the Apple Maps app are summed up in an amusing -- and eye-opening -- gallery on CNET, which highlights some of the most egregious Maps errors found thus far. Three dimensional images distort the Hoover Dam into a ski-slope of death. Highways are incorrectly shown as being located in the ocean. The Statue of Liberty is missing. Side-by side comparisons of the same location in Google Maps and Apple Maps show just how much detail is missing from the new Maps app. A second gallery shows a side-by-side comparison of Google Maps vs. Apple Maps.
Rampant navigation errors are more troublesome. CNET's gallery includes a few -- misnamed venues and directions to the wrong places -- but firsthand accounts spell out the trouble more clearly.
"A search performed just a few days ago for a restaurant I was standing no more than 100 feet away from yielded a result in Kansas," Zach Epstein wrote on FoxNews.com. "I was in New Jersey at the time." He ran into repeated issues with faulty address locations and incorrect business listings.
The New York Times' David Pogue was sent to "a random suburban cul-de-sac" while driving to a speaking engagement. (He ended up being late.)
After finding Maps located Walt Disney Family Museum seven miles away from its actual location and running into navigation issues with the locator icon, Mashable's Chris Taylor said that "Maps takes all the trust Apple has built up among its users over the years -- trust that its products just work -- and squanders nearly all of it in one go."
Missing transit functionality
City-goers and frequent travelers should also note that Apple Maps lacks the transit functionality baked into Google Maps. Google Maps' robust transit function gets you where you need to be using a mixture of both walking and public transportation directions, complete with pickup times for connecting buses, subways or trains.
Apple Maps doesn't include the detailed traffic data provided by Google Maps; instead, it puts a few red dots on the streets with the heaviest traffic. Mashable notes that Apple Maps one-ups Google Maps by including information about accidents and roadwork, but Taylor says "that information is useless without a more granular display of what these events are doing to traffic."
Is Apple Maps so bad that you should avoid iOS 6?
If you never use the Maps feature, you have nothing to worry about; go ahead and upgrade your older iPhone to iOS 6.
IPhone 5 owners have no choice in the matter. Apple's latest and greatest comes with iOS 6 preinstalled. Hey, at least you still have the web-based version of Google Maps to fall back on for critical (but navigation-free) directions.
If you have an iPhone 4S or older and rely heavily on the built-in Google Maps application, however, you're going to have to think long and hard before upgrading to iOS 6 and Apple Maps. Likewise, if you're a heavy Maps user, you might want to hold off on buying an iPhone 5.
My suggestion? Wait a few months if you're on the fence. Experts say the changes in iOS 6 are mostly small, incremental improvements, while Apple Maps is an unreliable replacement for Google Maps. Facetime over cellular is cool, but it loses its luster if you're calling your pals to pick you up after Apple Maps sent you to the wrong place.
The New York Times reports that Google is working hard to develop a Google Maps app for Apple's App Store, and Apple will no doubt be making its own improvements in the same time frame. With any luck, #ios6pocalypse should cool down by Christmas. (In a rare move, TechCrunch reports that Apple has apologized for the condition of the Maps app.)