In an out-of-character move by Apple (AAPL), the smartphone maker issued a public apology on Friday to customers after weeks of drama over its new Maps app, saying it fell short on its commitment to deliver the best service to customers.

The apology comes after Apple received weeks of criticism for replacing an app that had long been powered by rival Google (GOOG).

Apple ditched Google Maps for a home-grown maps app when it launched iOS 6 on the iPhone 5 earlier this month. The company touted the new features on Apple Maps, including the turn-by-turn navigation with Siri and Flyover maps. After launching to much fanfare, however, the reality for many customers proved disappointing.

The maps app turned out to be untrustworthy, leading to jumbled directions and misnamed towns. For the first time, iPhone satisfaction among users running the latest-generation operating system, iOS 6, fell behind its predecessor, the iOS 5.

“At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a letter to customers. “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment.”

Cook said Apple is “extremely sorry for the frustration” and is working to fix Maps.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps and in just over a week those users have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. Cook said the more customers that use Maps the better it will get.

In the meantime, Cook, who replaced Steve Jobs as CEO last summer, encouraged Apple customers to default on the map apps of some of the company’s biggest rivals, including Google and Nokia maps or MapQuest and Bing.

“Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world,” Cook said. “We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.”

Apple sold more than two million iPhone 5s in the first 24 hours it was on sale; more than doubling the smartphone maker’s previous record with the iPhone 4S.

Earlier this week Apple’s shares slumped when it said just 5 million of the next-generation devices were sold over the weekend, short of Wall Street expectations.

Here's the full text of the letter: 

To our customers,

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 and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

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 by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

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 non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook
Apple’s CEO

Follow Jennifer Booton on Twitter at @Jbooton