Local Search in the iOS 6 Maps App is Broken

I sat down to play with the Golden Master release of iOS 6 tonight so I could familiarize myself with the software before our customers download it next week. While the majority of my interactions have been perfectly good, there is one terrible experience that I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure out.

With Apple looking to control more and more of its software, they replaced Google Maps with custom-built mapping software in iOS 6. Initially, I thought that would be great — better functionality, turn-by-turn directions, a prettier interface. I didn’t consider the consequences that come without Google’s data and backend for local businesses.

Search 101

As I used the new Maps app, everything seemed great until I typed in a search term. Keeping in mind that Google is no longer involved in the Maps search functionality, here’s how you can search:

  • Business Name
  • Address
  • Yelp Category

That’s it. Nothing else returns any relevant results. This is incredibly different from using Google Maps; it’s a tremendous step backwards and something that cripples iOS for Apple’s customers.

Previously, you could type the word “burrito” into the search bar and any local burrito business would show up on the map. RMMR is a Denver company; we have hundreds of restaurants that serve burritos. With iOS 6, that term shows you just a couple places. That’s it.

I went on to search “iPhone Repair” and “iPad Repair” since that’s obviously relevant to our business. The results broke my heart. All of the work I’ve put into our local recognition is completely gone because I focused so keenly on Google Places. By limiting search to Yelp businesses, there were only two places returned for “iPhone Repair.” They illegally use the trademarked term “iPhone” in the name of their company on their Yelp record. One of the companies used a false name just so they had iPhone in the title.

So, I need to create a false Yelp business and hope that Apple legal doesn’t come after me just to show up in Maps? Wow.

What about searching with “iPad Repair” in the box? No results. No, seriously. Not a single thing. Maps didn’t know what to do with it because it’s not an address, business name or Yelp category. My brain hurts just trying to grasp the stupidity.

The Case for Yelp Categories

The use of Yelp categories as search terms became apparent to me when I was trying to figure out how to find RMMR on the Maps app. I had our company listed under “Web Design” on Yelp (we do that occasionally) so I used that as the search term. Immediately, it found RMMR. Perfect, we’ll get inquiries about web development but nothing for iPhone and iPad repair. That’s definitely not ideal. By using some of the stock Yelp categories (you cannot add a custom category), I was able to find a lot of local businesses… but I had to use the exact wording of the Yelp category to find a Yelp listing in the Maps app.

I have an owner verified listing but our business address is months out of date. I can see all of the relevant data that happens with my listing each day, but I cannot edit my address because it’s “locked.” I’ve done some research — this is supposedly a bug within their system — and you’re supposed to contact the support team. For three months, I’ve been trying to get someone to change it but the most recent message that I received was along these lines: “The team at Yelp has reviewed this record recently. No more changes are required.”

Not only is Yelp the only source for local search in iOS 6, but they’re telling me that the RMMR address is correct when it most certainly is not. Even if I could get RMMR to show up with the proper search terms, the address would be incorrect. The expletives are leaving my mouth but are not making their way to the computer for the sake of the children. Changing an address on Google Places is infuriating; changing an address on Yelp is impossible.

Does Siri Know Everything?

What happens when you use Siri for your search instead of the Maps app? I guess it gets a little better. “iPhone Repair” and “iPad Repair” redirect you to Apple Store records… but it includes other retail listings that share the name Apple. LOL WUT IDK, my BFF… Jill? The “burrito” search term finds many local burrito shops and specifically references reviews that mention “burritos.” Interesting.

If the Maps app database indexed reviews like Siri, small businesses like us wouldn’t be in as much trouble.

Big Brother Apple

Apple’s incessant need for control has put SMBs under extreme pressure to figure out new ways to optimize their local search results. They’re also forcing us to use Yelp. All SMBs should be on Yelp. Some people use it religiously… we’ve just never been that fond of the service, filtering policies, lack of communication and constant nagging for competitor advertising. Yelp and Apple must love this relationship.

Most of our customers search for iPhone Repair in the Maps app on their iPhone. Right now, that returns nothing relevant. Because Apple filters the search results, we could see an extremely unfair advantage set through search term redirects. Like Siri, Apple could easily redirect any iPhone, iPad or Mac search term to only show Apple Stores. How great would that be? Er, great for Apple… terrible for the small guys like us.

I initially thought that this strategy could make its way into other industries. After searching for “Coffee,” that doesn’t seem plausible. Starbucks and Apple are extremely close, but searching for “Coffee” didn’t result in a single (not even one) Starbucks showing up in the Maps app. I did a little detective work and found that Starbucks lists “Coffee & Tea” as its Yelp category. So, I searched that in the Maps app — still nothing. Searching for “Starbucks” obviously returns a thousand results. Now I’m really confused. Sometimes search works, sometimes it doesn’t?

We Don’t Have a Choice

I can only hope that Apple realizes the error of its ways and improves the local search capabilities of the Maps app. They dropped Google; it will never return. However, they have an extremely long way to go if they ever want to compete with Google in local search. Yelp isn’t the best, nor is it the only way to do local search. Currently, it’s our only option. So optimize your listings, folks. This isn’t going to be pretty for a while.

A Google-developed Maps app for iOS cannot come soon enough.

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  • Chuck

    Can’t use Google Maps via Safari?

  • Jason Carr

    I understand the benefits of Apple products, but this is the sort of blind, foolish arrogance that Apple demonstrates on a regular basis; they would far rather monopolize every piece of technology in your life than provide you with the best product. When it comes between allowing Google to have a successful, superior product on the platform and killing it off for their own sub-par product, they will choose the latter every single time.

    Android just got that much more valuable, folks.

    • Seth Geib

      I think people are forgetting that you can still go to the google maps website to acquire addresses using their search methods and then open those addresses in maps for turn by turn.

      Not the most efficient means of finding something, but at least you still have a choice.

      • Mark Evans

        Hmm. Not sure the idea is clear here: complaints lead to changes. Apologies don’t. Apple Maps sucks, and a speedy fix is, based on prior experience, laughably unlikely. Further, since Apple Maps is deeply integrated, it’s exacerbates the problem. A Safari-based solution is a terrible substitute; even a separate app is bad, simply because Apple does not let you override integrated apps easily, if at all.

        People, don’t be Apple fanbois and apologists. Take the company to task for bad behavior. Do not let them have a pass simply because your religious views include accepting anything Apple does as A-OK. If another company did this, your retribution would be swift and loud! ;-]

        Apple constantly gets away with crappy policies and offerings — at least aspects of those offerings — because so many people are sheep when it comes to thinking critically when it comes to Apple.

        As an Apple shareholder, I love it. As an Apple user (multiple Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, AppleTV), I can’t stand it. Thank the gods for jailbreaking to make the devices more usable. And don’t pathetically default to “love it or leave it” — it’s “make them do better”!

      • Korenwolf

        While that’s something geeks would think of doing it isn’t something that Joe Sixpack and the general userbase will go for. The average user is just going to hit the map app simply because it’s simpler and quicker.

  • Seth Geib

    Excellent article. Good to see someone giving an honest review of how the updates in iOS 6 will affect businesses. I’ve been using it as well for the past couple days and have been very pleased with the experience, but it is things like this that the media is going to tend to focus on, instead of the positives.

    As usual I am sure that Apple will hear the complaints and set in motion plans to rectify them, I just wonder how long it will take.

  • Sutjahjo Ngaserin

    Apple is cutting off its nose to spite its face!

  • Kevin

    I think apple is just mad at Google for what android is doing in the market. Apple wants to reduce it’s reliance on google and Samsung because they are very mad and feel iPhone, iPad, and iPod sales would be even higher if not for android and copycat handsets.

  • Gestault

    Its nothing but Apple Greed and its what is going to kill them. Good applications and products are built upon good partnerships.

  • The Queen

    You might be interested to know that you have been linked to from the BBC website (if you didn’t already realise) – great link for your SEO!

    See the lower end of this article – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19659736

    • http://fixdenver.com Josh

      Just found out, thanks for the info!

  • GSH

    Yes you can load Google Maps via Safari, but how many clueless users will know to do this and just click the Maps app since this is what has been included on the phone.

  • Tim Linford

    I really can’t believe what apple have done here! Surely it’s an error?

  • sranha

    try maps.nokia.com – html5 app :)

  • Geo

    I’m stunned as to how bad Apple Maps is. It’s staggering that they thought replacing Google maps with this was a good idea.

    It’s such a backwards step and it’s hard to imagine it happening when Steve Jobs was alive.

    It is absolutely awful. I had to use google maps every day and it was invaluable. I even used street view a lot to scope out where i was going. Now I’m left trying to navigate using a sub par maps application with lots of incorrect information on it (Scotland).

    This is a joke. An absolute joke. The sickening thing is that Apple won’t do anything about it.

  • Marcus

    For us in Sweden (and most places outside US, I guess), the main problem is the quality of the maps. Satellite maps have the same quality as Google Maps had six years ago, some black & white and major areas covered with clouds. Really. 2012.

    This might be a deal breaker for many customers, especially since Nokia have high quality maps for Europe in their phones.

  • Anthony C.

    My business is not showing up in a local search in Apple Maps. My competitors are and after calling Apple and emailing Yelp! (one pointed their finger at the other), my business still does not display during a local search however I am the second result in Yelp! in a category.

    Anyone else able to solve this issue?

    • http://fixdenver.com Josh

      Hi, Anthony.

      I really don’t think there’s any relation between the Yelp rank and the maps records. As far as I’ve seen, the site rank doesn’t match any of the searches I’ve tried. We’re really hoping that with all of the coverage, Apple will shed some light on the process. So far, it’s been abismal.

  • Jamie

    After antennagate it won’t be long before you will need to stand on your head, point the phone in a certain direction, don’t hold it weird and you may get a decent satellite picture that’s less than a couple of years old.

    I might as well look at my local satellite map with one eye shut the other squinting with 3D glasses on to improve on the crap quality of their mapping app.

    Apple, sorry you screwed up again. You should have held fire for a year and release something decent!

  • sam

    Apple truly has what in geopolitical talk is called hegemonic aspirations, since the 1st time I had encounter with apple product (itunes on mororola razr) have tried my best to stay away, sure Iphone ipod are easy to use good tools but these are tech tools and people using them definitely want to play around , a simple thing like dragging n dropping mp3 files in my music player is not allowed – why may i ask? when any 2 bit 512 mb made in PRC mp3 player has that, sure I have an Ipod touch (a gift) but use my droid phone for music – its about time people showed the “digital” signature to apple

    Vive la libre