Business travellers who rely heavily on the Maps app of their iPhone or iPad will find Apple's new iOS 6 Maps is more like a dead end.
Our hands-on testing indicates the new Maps app is inaccurate and inconsistent for search, location information and public transport -- and falls short even for absolute mapping basics like city centres and famous landmark hotels.
Here are some specific instances where iOS 6 Maps takes a wrong turn, and will make many travellers think twice before upgrading to iOS 6 or the iPhone 5.
Searching -- even at the level of major cities -- is broken
Searching for London brings you to the one in Canada, but only sometimes.
One of those apocryphal travel anecdotes is being booked on flights to Melbourne, Florida in the USA, or London, Ontario in Canada rather than the must more significant cities and airports with the same name.
iOS 6 Maps does that too if you want London -- but intermittently, based on our trials. You'll need to type "London, UK" if you want the British city to come up every time.
Things get even worse once you start searching more specifically.
Location and search databases don't link up
One of the biggest problems with iOS 6 Maps is that the location data it uses (from Yelp, TomTom and others) is significantly less comprehensive than Google's. And even so, there are problems linking it up with search.
For example, I'm currently in Tokyo and couldn't get iOS 6 Maps to find the Park Hyatt (you know, the world-famous hotel from the movie Lost in Translation), even though it is specifically listed as a major hotel landmark on iOS 6 Maps, purple hotel symbol and everything:
The location database has the address and all the hotel's details -- even a satellite view and the phone number, which in Japan can be used to locate a building -- but the search function can't find it.
You can't find Tokyo Station -- one of the world's largest railway stations -- either.
Nor "Paddington Station" in London, where the Heathrow Express goes -- you're taken to Paddington Street, which is quite a distance away.
Airport locations are inaccurate, making navigation difficult
Still on the airport side of things, location pins are smack-dab in the middle of the airport. Which would be fine, except that passengers have to use terminals, which tend to be on the outside of the airport.
Melbourne is a prime example. Currently, Melbourne Airport has two location pins, with the default one off to the west of the airport terminal, so driving directions don't work.
Internationally, Frankfurt has the same problem:
Sydney Airport too sees issues. Only the domestic airport has a location in iOS 6, and if you search for "Sydney International Airport" Maps will direct you to the domestic side. "Sydney International Terminal" gets no results either.
We also noted that entering a three-letter airport code to find your way to that airport no longer works in a consistent, reliable manner.
Beware when searching for Bangkok Airport in particular: iOS 6 Maps brings you to the old Don Mueang airport rather than the new one at Suvarnabhumi -- which is pretty inexcusable since they've had different three-letter codes for the past six years.
International maps are particularly bad, even in major cities
We know that many Australian Business Traveller readers rely on iPhone and iPad maps to navigate around overseas cities, even if their work phones are BlackBerry or Android devices.
Bad news here too.
London's Apple Maps centre pin (once you've found London: it's still not in Canada) is bizarrely to the west of Victoria Station. London has an official centre for mapping purposes: it's Trafalgar Square, a half-hour walk away.
Similarly, New York's "centre" pin is on East Houston St at 2nd Avenue in the East Village. No idea why.
Hong Kong's isn't even on Hong Kong Island -- it's in the wilderness of Kowloon's Kam Shan Country Park, despite the fact that there is an all-caps HONG KONG marker on Hong Kong Island.
In Beijing, there are no Chinese characters on streets, which makes navigation difficult.
Google Maps also translates Chinese words like "dajie" to "avenue", which is awkward if you're trying to point to something on a map. Some of the pinyin transliterations into Roman characters are also incorrect.
(Getting Chinese characters is an all-or-nothing game: your device's Settings can turn English off or on, but there's no useful hybrid version like there used to be.)
The actual mapping is equally unhelpful in the Chinese capital: no subway lines (unlike Google Maps) and no prioritisation of major routes like the Second Ring Road or Chang'an Jie.
In economic powerhouse Chongqing -- one of the world's largest megacities -- the default centre pin is away from even the location where Apple Maps itself says the centre is.
If you're familiar with Chongqing, something will look wrong there: the entire Yangtze River, which runs in an enormous loop through the city's hills and is a key way to get your bearings, is missing from the maps.
And in Tokyo, while Google Maps displays key train routes and helpfully distinguishes private subway stations from JR line stations, iOS 6 Maps doesn't.
Public transport stations are missing, unranked and incomprehensible
If you're trying to get around using iOS 6 Maps, good luck to you. Station display is unusably inconsistent.
Take London. Not only are the mainline long-distance rail stations displayed in the same style as the Underground (Tube) stations, the stations randomly appear and disappear when you move the maps from side to side.
It's the same even in New York, and even worse when you zoom in and back out again.
Here, we've zoomed in and out on the financial district of Lower Manhattan. Starting level of zoom:
Zoom in, more stations appear.
Zoom out again: it's a different set of stations, in the original area, at the original level of zoom.
In many large cities, the multiple exits from sprawling underground train and subway stations need to be marked for a map to be useful. iOS 6 Maps fails here too, everywhere we looked.
BUT -- Maps is great if you're looking for an Apple Store!
The only way that iOS 6 Maps is an improvement is if you're looking for an Apple Store.
These are more prominently displayed than just about anything else in the cities where they appear.
So what are your options?
All up, Apple Maps for iOS 6 a significant step backwards for business travellers.
If being able to navigate is important to you in the near term, we'd recommend that you consider not upgrading to iOS 6 for now, despite the tempting business travel innovations in the new OS. (Consider keeping your iPhone 3GS/4/4S around too, even if you upgrade to an iPhone 5.)
We're comparing the various mapping options available to iOS 6 users to get around the problem until Apple fixes the many problems with Maps, and will bring that to you once we've picked some decent workarounds.
One quick fix is to add Google Maps onto your iDevice as a 'web app' – just follow our step-by-step guide.
If you have a favourite app, or a top hack for using Google Maps via Safari, drop us a comment below and we'll look into it.
For the very latest business travel news, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.