Apple's Lost

A new iPhone! A new best phone ever! More revolutionary features! Right? If you are one of the 2 million who ordered a new iPhone 5 within the first 24 hours of its announcement, you hope so. By preordering a phone you haven't tried, you're depending on the company's past history of delivering superb design. Unfortunately, Apple's (NAS: AAPL) fallen far from its tree of quality, and the new iPhone represents Apple's coming of age into just another big tech company.

How can I say the newest iPhone isn't the greatest? One word: maps. Apple, in a bid to break free from Google's (NAS: GOOG) dominance, and further own all aspects of its software experience, chose to ditch Google Maps for its own solution, which features data from TomTom. The maps, unfortunately, pale in comparison to Google's. For example, the BBC reports "some towns appear to be missing...others are in the wrong location...satellite images of various locations, particularly in Scotland, are obscured by cloud...another screenshot showed a furniture museum that was apparently located in a river." Additionally, Apple has done away with public transit directions, and now points users to third-party applications.

But they're just maps, right? An iPhone has so much more than maps!

How important maps are in a smartphone
Well, according to Nielsen, Google Maps is the third most popular application used on iPhones, behind Facebook (NAS: FB) and iTunes. On Research In Motion's (NAS: RIMM) Blackberry devices, Google Maps is the second most popular. On Android devices, it's themost popular. And across all smartphones, Google Maps comes in at number two, behind Facebook again.

Maps are very important. And Apple traded the best map solution for its own less-than-stellar application. With does this say about the future of Apple?

Past mistakes versus now
This isn't Apple's first error with its iPhones. Back when Steve Jobs was at the helm, the company shipped the iPhone 4 with antenna issues, for which it then offered free bumper cases to help correct the issue. This lapse in quality control is much different than the current issue, however. The antenna issue was hardware based, and Jobs cited that less than 1% of all iPhone 4 owners complained to the company. It's very possible that in testing, such an issue never came up, and the flaw only appeared after the phone was mass-produced.

The maps issue, however, affects 100% of new iPhones, along with all older iPhones that will be upgraded to the new iOS 6 software. Additionally, the maps software could obviously be tested before shipping, and isn't an error that only crops up when several million phones are produced. Apple's bar for quality in design and user experience has been lowered; it's now equal to most other phone manufacturers.

The beginning of a new Apple
It's impossible to say whether Steve Jobs would have approved the new map application. It's also impossible to say whether Jobs' attention to detail is what Apple requires in today's market. The conclusion that can be drawn, however, is that Apple is turning the corner to operate in favor of securing its market hold instead of delivering the best user experience.

Now, other phone software, like Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) Windows Phone, has a viable chance to break into a market when previous iPhone owners look for superior mapping. And Android phones, which come closely tied with Google Maps already, will start to look very tempting for the ease of their mapping experience, even if other aspects of the phones aren't as slick as an iPhone. Customers will begin to compare phones again, instead of defaulting to an iPhone, and if other phone makers can execute, there's a big opportunity to disrupt iPhone's market.

Taking a bite out of Apple
The iPhone is only one part of Apple's revenue stream, and it could capitalize on any number of other products to keep its bull run going. For a more in-depth look at Apple's opportunities and threats, along with three reasons to buy and sell, grab your copy of our new premium report. If you are more interested in betting against Apple, take a look at our premium report on Microsoft, which covers key developments you must watch in the future.

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Fool contributorDan Newmanhopes he can find his way home with his iPhone. He does not hold shares of any of the above companies. Follow him@TMFHelloNewman.

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