Apple has issued a humiliating and humbling apology to customers after being widely derided for the accuracy of its new maps service.

Chief executive Tim Cook went so far as to recommend that frustrated customers use rival products such as Google Maps to ensure they find what they are looking for.

The maps service was unveiled with the launch earlier this month of Apple's iPhone 5 and its latest operating system, IOS 6, but was immediately castigated by users for glaring errors and limited applications.

Among the mistakes was the inclusion of Aldwych Tube station in London which closed almost 20 years ago, listing Woolworths and other defunct businesses, and identifying a city farm as an airfield. In his apology, Mr Cook said: "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.

"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."

Mistakes by Microsoft cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in 2004. Among the errors was the creation of a world map in which the disputed Jammu-Kashmir region was not in India, leading to the Windows 95 operating system being banned in the country.