Apple chief executive Tim Cook apologized yesterday for the company's error-ridden new mobile mapping service, pledging to improve the application installed on tens of millions of smartphones.

In an unusual mea culpa, he invited frustrated consumers to turn to the competition.

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Cook, in a letter posted online yesterday, said Apple "fell short" of its own expectations. "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 nonstop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard," Cook said.

Apple released an update to its iPhone and iPad operating system last week that replaced Google Maps with Apple's own map application. But users quickly complained that the new software offered fewer details, lacked public-transit directions and misplaced landmarks, among other problems.

People have been flocking to social media to complain and make fun of the app's glitches, which include judging landscape features by their names.

The hulking Madison Square Garden arena in Manhattan, for instance, shows up as green park space because of the word "garden."

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Until the software is improved, Cook recommended that people use competing map applications to get around -- a rare move for the world's most valuable company, which prides itself on producing industry-leading gadgets that easily surpass rivals.