New iPhone 5 maps failing to find hospitals and ERs

POSTED IN: Mobile/Wireless, Quality and Safety

With the release of its new iOS 6 operating system, the iPhone and the iPad have jettisoned Google Maps in favor of Apple's own new mapping software. That's caused problems for some users seeking directions to hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms.

"Once the best of friends, Google and Apple have become foes, battling in courtrooms and in the consumer marketplace," a recent New York Times article explained. "Last week, the hostilities took a new turn when they spilled right onto smartphone screens."

Apple's decision to no longer use Google technology on its mobile devices (the YouTube app is also gone from the new iPhone 5) and instead use its own homegrown software, developed in part using TomTom GPS navigation data, has not gone as smoothly as hoped.

John Paczkowski, writing on the technology website All Things D, catalogs some of its failings thusly: "It offers no information about public transportation; searches for an in-town destination sometimes return results for an entirely different city; it occasionally mistakes farms for airports; some of its Dali-esque flyover imagery is lousy; and it places gas stations in utterly untenable locations."  

As tech blog Gizmodo puts it: "Apple’s New 3D Maps Are an Apocalyptic Horror Show."

There's a Tumblr that comically chronicles the map app's faulty searches and distorted, dreamlike imaging – but there are more serious concerns. In an emergency situation, when trying to find a hospital or emergency room in an unfamiliar location, the app's inaccuracies could potentially be a matter of life and death.

The website Gottabemobile has posted a video that shows a side-by-side comparison of a search for "emergency room" on a map of San Francisco in iOS 5 (Google Maps) and in iOS 6.

The results aren't encouraging.

"Searching for an emergency room with an iPhone 5 brings up private medical offices, pharmacies and just about anything else medical related that’s not a hospital or emergency room," writes the site's Xavier Lanier. "Need a concierge house doc? Sure, he’s mapped, but General Hospital is missing in action. That pediatrics emergency room? It’s there, but it isn’t marked properly."

Twitter is full of similar stories:

“Yesterday, after updating to iOS 6, the clinic where I had scheduled an X-ray was no longer there.”

"iOS 6 Maps search is borked. Takes me to Kaiser, MO instead of my local clinic. I don't think my HMO has offices there..."

"iOS 6 'hospitals in Cardiff' search shows Royal Cardiff Infirmary, which closed as a hospital in 1999. Seems dangerous."

"In iOS 6 Maps when I search for “hospital” it shows me the veterinary clinics and senior citizens homes, but no real hospital."

"I updated to iOS.6, and discovered I live four blocks from an imaginary hospital!"

"iOS 6 Maps just sent me to a hospital instead of the bar I'm trying to find."

Apple is aware of these complaints and is reportedly working feverishly to correct the mistakes.

"Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get," an Apple official told All Things D. "We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better."

Paczkowski reports that, "The team assigned to the app is under lockdown right now working to fix it."

In the meantime, it may be smart to avoid updating your iOS version unless you have to.

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