Not long after Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the iPhone 5, he has already apologized for trouble some customers are experiencing with the phone’s new Maps feature. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

Mapplegate, as it’s been called, has been one of the few (albeit major) hiccups in last week’s blockbuster release of the iPhone 5. In case you’ve missed the complaints, Apple replaced Google Maps in the release of its latest phone, substituting it with its own software instead.

The results have not been pretty. Public transit directions are missing. A Tumblr page has been started to chronicle the errors — from the Helsinki Central Railway Station magically being replaced with a park to the Washington Monument suddenly sitting down near the Potomac River. Reviewers are saying it “may be the most embarrassing, least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed.”

But after first saying customers should basically be patient, Apple has now released a letter from its CEO, Tim Cook, that offers a rare and candid apology for the company’s software. It is not easy for leaders to step forward and so frankly admit their company’s mistake, especially when the problem is happening on such a wildly successful product that is selling millions in spite of it. Who knows how the product’s biggest critics will respond, but at least some are impressed with Cook’s apology. As one Web developer put it: “Wow, I have such new found respect Tim Cook for apologizing for Maps and [suggesting] alternatives. That takes a lot of guts.”

Below, I dissect Cook’s apology:

How do you think Tim Cook and Apple have handled the situation? Leave a comment and share your take.

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