iPhone 5 Map Flap Doesn't Stop Consumers

Potential buyers considering Apple's iPhone 5 don't see the Maps app as a showstopper problem, new research says.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

October 12, 2012

3 Min Read


Apple iPhone 5 Teardown: Visual Tour

Apple iPhone 5 Teardown: Visual Tour (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

The shortcomings of Apple's iOS 6 Maps app, acknowledged by CEO Tim Cook, appear to matter very little to potential iPhone 5 buyers.

Apple decided to create a new Maps app that doesn't rely on Google's data, a move that media accounts have characterized as a disaster. Yet, a survey released on Friday by ChangeWave Research suggests that the issue is relatively minor as far as consumers are concerned.

Paul Carton, ChangeWave's VP of Research, said in a statement that neither the media coverage of problems with iOS 6 Maps nor reports about potential incompatibility issues arising from the iPhone 5's new Lightning connector have had an impact on the number of people lining up to buy the iPhone 5. The survey results, he said, "show both issues hardly rank as bumps in the road."

[ This isn't the first time Apple said it was sorry. Read Apple's Top 20 Public Apologies. ]

Last month, ChangeWave surveyed 4,270 consumers, mostly in North America, about Apple Maps and about Windows Phone 8. Among several questions, the firm asked respondents how likely they are to buy the iPhone 5 in the future for themselves or for someone else and whether they had experienced a problem with Apple Maps.

The results, according to ChangeWave, "show an unprecedented degree of consumer interest" in Apple's iPhone 5, with almost a third of respondents (32%) indicating that they're either very or somewhat likely to purchase one in the future.

Asked about issues with Apple Maps, 90% of respondents who had used iOS 6 reported no problems, 6% said the Maps app was somewhat of a problem, and 3% said the software presented a very big problem. However, the heavily North American survey may not register discontent in other countries where the gaps in Apple's map data, due to lack of foreign partners, are likely to be largest.

When ChangeWave asked respondents who said they were unlikely to buy the iPhone 5 to explain their disinterest, the reason most often cited was "no need--current cell phone sufficient." Zero percent cited Apple Maps or the Lightning connector as a rationale for not wanting an iPhone 5.

The firm's findings echo a survey it conducted two years ago about the impact of antenna problems that affected the iPhone 4. That survey found respondents agreeing with assertions by Steve Jobs, Apple CEO at the time, that the iPhone 4's antenna problems had been exaggerated.

Discontent with Maps isn't likely to have as much impact on iPhone 5 sales as the availability of iPhone alternatives. Almost one in ten respondents (9%) said they are either very likely (2%) or somewhat likely (7%) to buy a Windows Phone. From this, Carlton concludes Windows Phone 8 will have "a substantial impact on the smartphone industry."

Apple reported that sales of the iPhone 5 topped five million in the first three days of availability last month. Investors, however, appear to be unimpressed: Apple's stock has declined from over $700 per share at the time of the iPhone 5's launch to about $630 per share.

Apple has to improve Maps, but it should worry more about competition and delivering devices so compelling that existing iPhone customers see a reason to upgrade.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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