ReadWriteWeb steered me towards this article on Ogle Earth, “Beware: Chinese iPhone 4 comes with a crippled Maps app”. Apparently Apple’s latest version of the iPhone uses China’s censored dataset for location information. Problems arise in two areas, political and practical.
In the political realm, disputed borders are shown to confirm to official Chinese claims. The article notes how previous versions of the iPhone would display areas like the region of Arunachal Pradesh (claimed by both India and China, administered by India) as Chinese lands using normal Internet-access within China but as internationally disputed when using VPN technology.
A commenter notes the crippled Maps dataset results in challenges when traveling abroad, with local streets in Toronto only listed in Chinese. That’s going to make it challenging to get directions for international travelers — though maybe not as much of an issue for Chinese consumers not really looking to travel.
While some might use this as an example of the detraction of closed operating systems like iOS, I must admit that I’m not really all that impressed by the “open-source” fanboys of Android. There seem to be an increasing number of reports that once the carriers get a hold of the operating system, they cripple it and add carrier-specific bloatware that can be challenging, if not impossible, to remove. That’s not exactly any better then Apple’s curated experience.