Consumers dismiss Apple Maps uproar; plan to buy iPhone 5 in record numbers

ChangeWave poll points to continued strong sales, says Maps and Lightning issues barely 'bumps in the road'

The brouhaha over Apple replacing Google Maps in iOS 6 with its own mapping and navigation technology has not changed customers' minds about the iPhone 5, according to a ChangeWave Research survey.

ChangeWave, which polled more than 4200 consumers in the U.S. and Canada, reported last week that only 10 per cent of those with an iOS 6-powered iPhone said they had experienced a problem with Apple Maps, with the largest chunk of those - 6 per cent - acknowledging the issue was "not much of a problem."

Nine out of 10 said they had not experienced any problem.

And while others -- analysts and public relations specialists -- had ranked the Apple Maps issue as a PR mess equal to or even greater than the one in 2010 over "Antennagate," consumers did not.

Two years ago, when ChangeWave polled on Antennagate -- the name Apple's former CEO Steve Jobs gave the uproar when iPhone 4 owners reported that signal strength plummeted and calls were interrupted if they touched the newly-redesigned smartphone in certain ways -- 35% of those surveyed then said the antenna issue was a problem.

In a research note, Paul Carton, director of research at ChangeWave, called the Maps snags "of marginal concern" to iPhone 5 and iOS 6 users.

ChangeWave's data backed that up: When consumers who said they were unlikely to buy an iPhone 5 were asked to provide a reason, none cited the Maps issue.

The other at-launch change that rattled users was Apple's switch to the smaller "Lightning" charging and data port on the iPhone 5, which upset customers who would need to buy adapters to connect their new smartphones to older docking and sound systems.

Many more consumers reported having problems with that move than Apple Maps: Of those who said they were likely to buy an iPhone 5, 68% said the Lightning port was a problem, with a whopping 31% asserting it was "somewhat of a problem," another 31% saying it was "not much of a problem," and 6% calling it a "very big problem."

Only 26% said it was "no problem at all."

Even so, Carton said the two issues "hardly rank as bumps in the road."

Overall, consumers were more likely to purchase the iPhone 5, said Carton, than last year's iPhone 4S at the same time in its release trajectory.

Almost one in five polled -- 19% -- said they were "very likely" to buy an iPhone 5 for themselves or for another person in the next 90 days, while 13% said they were "somewhat likely" to do so, for a combined plan-to-purchase of 32%.

That was significantly higher than the 21.5% who answered the same way in 2011 when asked about the iPhone 4S. The "very likely" difference was even greater: 19% for the iPhone 5 compared to 10% for the iPhone 4S, or nearly double.

The iPhone 5 continues to be in short supply, with shipping delays in the U.S. still at the three-to-four-week range, according to Apple's e-store. That range hasn't budged since shortly after Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21.

While some contend that the problem is greater-than-expected demand and others argue that Apple's production has not kept pace, the iPhone 5's current shipping delay is at least double that of the iPhone 4S at the same point in its timeline.

About three weeks after the iPhone 4S's debut, Apple was telling customers at its online store that orders would ship in one to two weeks.

Survey shows consumers are much less concerned about Apple Maps kerfuffle than 2010's 'Antennagate.' (Image: ChangeWave Research.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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