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New York (AFP) Sept 28, 2012
Apple apologized Friday for its glitch-ridden maps application in the new operating system used by the iPhone 5 and urged customers to use rival programs while improvements are made.
"At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment," chief executive Tim Cook said in an open letter.
"We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better."
Apple developed its own mapping program included in its new mobile iOS 6 operating system, and in doing so booted off Google Maps, which had been the default program for Apple devices.
But the new Apple program immediately drew scorn for omitting key landmarks and cities, failing to identify correct locations and distorting views from its images.
Cook encouraged customers to use alternatives, including Google, as Apple works out its bugs.
"The more our customers use our Maps, the better it will get, and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you," he said.
"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."
Although the maps application does not generate revenues directly, it often links to searches, and keeps users in the company's "ecosystem," which can be important over the long term.
The apology came as Apple was launching its new iPhone in 22 additional countries, a week after a rollout in nine. The device, which sold more than five million in its launch weekend, is set to be available in 100 countries by year's end.
The new iOS 6 operating system according to Apple, has been downloaded for more than 100 million devices, including previous versions of the iPhone and the iPad tablet,
But the maps glitches have tarnished the reputation of the iconic US firm, and some analysts have suggested the problems could drive customers away from the iPhone.
Google has been silent so far on whether it will produce a new maps app for iOS 6, but the Google Maps program can be accessed through Web browsers on Apple devices.
Forrester Research analyst Kerry Bodine said the foul-up suggests Apple is steering away from the tradition imposed by the late co-founder Steve Jobs of ensuring quality even when it hurts the bottom line.
"Jobs always put the customer experience first," she said.
"If he were alive today, I'm positive he would have made the tough decision to prioritize the user experience over the urgency to include Apple Maps in iOS 6.
"The decision to move forward with a not-ready-for-primetime mapping app has the potential to erode the trust that Jobs built, and the Apple brand right along with it."
Roger Kay, analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, offered a similar view.
"Apple's own maps app, clearly inferior now, will likely improve over time, reducing the current irritant," Kay said. "But this is the first time that I can recall when Apple made a decision to sacrifice user experience for competitive positioning."
Many of the map miscues were highlighted on social media sites, including a Tumblr page titled "Those Amazing iOS 6 Maps."
One user posted an image from the maps program, saying, "The Helsinki Central Railway Station has magically turned into a park."
Another posting said, "Apparently Belgrade, Serbia has no rivers."
Apple shares fell 2.09 percent to close at $667.10, after topping $700 last week.
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