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Apple chief executive Tim Cook issued a public apology this morning for the company’s buggy maps application in iOS 6.

Cook admitted that Apple “fell short” on providing the best possible experience with its Maps application. He wasn’t afraid to suggest alternatives for customers to use while Apple gets its act together. Cook pointed to Bing, Mapquest, and Waze’s iOS apps, as well as Google and Nokia’s web apps. Ironically, by recommending Bing, he was in agreement with Microsoft.

Update: Apple is now featuring third-party map applications in the App Store. It’s a surprisingly pro-consumer move from Apple (though the company will still be getting its normal 30 percent cut from any sales).

Cook reiterated Apple’s iOS 6 stats, saying that 100 million people have upgraded to the new OS and are now using Apple’s new Maps application. He also noted that users have searched for more than 500 million locations.

Controversy over Apple’s Maps application began when iOS 6 was released a few weeks ago. Apple had been touting its app’s turn-by-turn directions and 3D building views, but once customers got their hands on iOS 6, it quickly became apparent that the new maps app had a number of issues. The app often sent people to wrong addresses, and the highly-touted 3D view had plenty of hilariously bad errors (for example, the Statue of Liberty doesn’t exist in the app). Map experts pointed out that Apple likely underestimated just how difficult mapping would be, and said that the app’s problems could last for some time.

The original Map application that shipped with the first iPhone used Google Maps data. Now, iOS 6 users are waiting for Google to release their own Google Maps application, which is expected before the end of the year.

As annoying as Apple’s Maps application is, we still think the iPhone 5 is the best new smartphone on the market.

Check out Cook’s full letter below.

To our customers,

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 last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO

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