iPhone 5 Problems: Patent Wars, Not iOS Maps, is Apple Biggest Problem

The release of the iPhone 5 is such a huge story because of its popularity as a mobile device (Apple reports that initial sales of the iPhone topped 5 million; additional figures will be included in the company’s financial results announcement at the end of October) but also because Apple is one of the major players in the development of new and cutting-edge technology.

Since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple has been the standard bearer for mobile devices. While other companies are finding their niche in the mobile market, Apple devices are still the technology by which all other mobile technology is judged. When Apple releases a new product, especially a new iPhone, techies and non-techies alike take notice.

This isn’t to say, however, that Apple doesn’t have some stiff competition from other market leaders like Google and Amazon. There is intense rivalry between the tech giants. 

A large majority of the patent wars being fought nationally and internationally are between major mobile technology producers. At issue is the state-of-the-art technology and design of smart phone and tablet devices. This fierce competition has spilled over into the actual products marketed to end-users as of late.

Apple released the iPhone 5 on September 21, and while it is probably the most anticipated smart phone to hit the consumer market, the phone is not flawless. Consumers and reviewers were quick to notice that the iPhone 5, and indeed every Apple device operating iOS 6 or above, do not have any Google-produced software pre-loaded. This means that Maps and YouTube, while still available via the app store, are not featured as built-in software on the phone itself.

The device instead comes preloaded with Apple Maps instead of Google’s mapping application. Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt was quoted saying that they have not developed Google applications for the iPhone and don’t intend to anytime soon.

The reason boils down to the simple fact that Apple and Google are locked in a fierce battle for supremacy of the mobile market. Apple’s decision to not include Google in the iPhone 5 development process, and Google’s subsequent decision to avoid designing mapping applications for the phone, is a power play on the part of both companies trying to expand their market share in an increasingly competitive market. 

While this may be a normal response by one company to competition from another, the implications of the decision will be far reaching. Apple Maps can’t hold a candle to Google Maps, simply because Apple doesn’t have the type of location data and scouting tools that Google uses to power its applications. 

This has caused so much controversy among iPhone users that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a statement of apology on October 1st: “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, we fell short. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”

He then went on to suggest alternate mapping applications users should try, including Bing and MapQuest. Eric Schmidt’s response? “In my opinion, it would have been better to retain our maps.”

There are rumors swirling that Google is developing new applications for iOS 6 (compatible with the iPhone 5) that will be released in the next several months.  This will not, however, be the end of this rivalry between the tech giants.  

This piece originally appeared on Plum Voice.