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Apple maps have been a disaster. Apparently there have been incidents in Australia of people ending up in the middle of nowhere because of them. It would be funny if it weren't so potentially dangerous.

Not Apple's fault. The official mapmaker in Australia mis-identified the region. Everybody's maps were wrong at some point.

Apple Maps not fully at fault over Australian Mildura confusion
Australian government's official gazeteer includes area called 'Mildura Rural City' at location previously shown on iPhones

Google just released their Maps for iPhone...I love that response from them.

The reason they did it is because by kicking them out Apple cut off about half of Google's "mobile search" market, which is enabled by the "map" function. And the reason Apple cut it off is because Google refused to update the iOS version of it, leaving Apple users with a 5 year old App that didn't even include turn-by-turn directions, while Google's own Android version did. Apple had no real choice; they were paying to license an inferior version of the mapping function while Google gave the better functionality - often provided by the data iPhone users were sending back - to Apple's competitors, i.e. Android, which is, of course, OWNED by Google. This is the most cynical "Don't Be Evil" hypocrisy yet.

(And Apple couldn't have started "maps" when they launched the iPhone, 1) it wasn't clear how integral it would be to the experience and 2) they had other things on their plate - like, um, launching the iPhone.)

Not to get too far down the rabbit hole, but Apple had less than 6 months remaining on the original "mapping" contract with Google, so they either had to replace the app - or renew - and Google refused to provide increased functionality. Unsurprisingly, when Apple finally cut them off, Google managed to get an app out the door in record time - because it was in Google's best interest.

I don't know what Apple was thinking. Before they dropped their old mapping system they were fine. Now it's a huge mess.

No, it wasn't "fine." It was a degraded experience. And no, it's not a "huge mess." It's not as good as it should be, obviously, which is why the guy in charge of it was fired. But given a few months of data and corrections, the mapping will be fine - with some embarrassments along the way, as has happened.

And it's not the "maps" app that has the problem it's the data behind the maps app. You can test the "app" until the cows come home; what you can't test is all the world data, at least not without a million testers running around.

Tom Tom, Garmin, and Google all had this problem, but they went through it years ago, when expectations were less and users were fewer and there wasn't a world-wide corporate power play going on between titans.

Probably not quite yet. You have to have a cell signal for most to work (because they are AGPS). You don't need that with Garmin, et al. Though it likely is just a matter of time.

Also not true. Apple has had "true" GPS built in since the 3G. It also has A-GPS (A for "Assisted"), which means it can also use the cellular system to provide faster response. (You often have to wait several minutes for a Garmin or Tom Tom to "find" the satellites. With the A-GPS it happens in seconds, so long as there is cell service available. If not, the iPhone relies on "true" GPS, which is slower, often MUCH slower. And, for the record, the iPhone also uses the Russian GLONASS system in addition to the original American satellites. Accuracy should be to about 10 yards.

What it doesn't have is WASS, which is a system (dedicated chip) which compensates for atmospheric distortion and brings accuracy to about 1 yard. High end dedicated devices have it, smartphones typically do not.
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