- Tech & Gadgets
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Published 13 December 2012 15:23, Updated 18 December 2012 17:55
Japan’s Mt Fuji as shown in the StreetView mode of the returning Google Maps application for Apple’s iPhone
Three months after Apple kicked it off the iPhone, the world’s most popular mapping software is back on the top-selling smartphone.
A new version of Google Maps is now available for free from the Apple iTunes store. Apple’s approval of the app will end months of frustration for iPhone users who have been forced to use the bug-filled first version of Apple’s own Maps app.
iPhones came pre-loaded with app versions of Google Maps and YouTube that were co-developed by Apple and Google from 2007 until a few months ago. The partnership came to an abrupt end in September, when Apple removed the Google apps from its operating system and added its own Maps app with the release of the iPhone 5.
An outcry over inaccuracies and poor visuals in Apple’s maps led CEO Tim Cook to apologise to customers and the company fired the maps supervisor, Richard Williamson, at the end of November. In an unusual move, Cook directed customers to a number of rival products including Bing, MapQuest or Waze as apps, or Google or Nokia via the browser.
Google Maps product manager Nobu Makida told BRW Google had developed a new iPhone app that offered most of the features as the version for Android smart phones. “We thought this was a really good chance for us to build from the ground up and we worked really hard to make this app,” Mr Makida said. “Our goal is to build the same experience regardless of device or OS or platform.
“This really integrates everything from a map experience and a local search experience into one app with fast and easy access.”
The new app has new features such as voice-guided directions, integration with Google Earth and so-called vector-based graphics that provide a faster, smoother visual experience and the ability to rotate the map or tilt the screen to see 3D buildings. The app also has local search capability to let users find and read reviews for businesses such as restaurants, as well as public transport directions for 500 cities worldwide, including Sydney.
Reports have suggested that Apple wanted Google to add similar features to the original Google Maps app but baulked at Google’s request to add advertising and collect the location data of iPhone users. Makida would not comment on the business relationship between Apple and Google but said the app was built according to normal developer guidelines and there were no special conditions.
After its apps were removed from the iPhone default line-up, Google quickly released a YouTube app that soon became the most popular free app in the iTunes store, but until now it was unclear whether it would do the same for mapping. Google’s public statement that its “goal was to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it” was vague about whether that meant developing its own app, negotiating a continuing partnership with Apple, or the fact that iPhone users could access Google Maps via a browser.
Apple must approve apps submitted to the iTunes store but would have found it difficult to justify a rejection, given the problems with its own app and the fact there are several third parties with mapping apps on the iPhone platform. In 2009 Apple rejected the Google Voice app for iPhone but this triggered a probe by the US Federal Communications Commission and it was approved a year later.
Makida said there were no special requirements to get approval for the new Google Maps app because Google just went through the normal process for an app developer. “There was nothing special we had to do because this was a standard iOS development,” he said.
The Apple Maps app has been widely panned for inaccurate information and poor graphics that make it look like buildings are melting. Earlier this week the Victorian Police issued a warning that it could be “’potentially life threatening” for motorists to rely on Apple’s Maps app after responding to a distress call for someone who became stranded in the Murray-Sunset National Park after following directions to the town of Mildura. The park is 70 kilometres away from the town, has no water supply and temperatures can reach 46 Celcius.
The absence of Google Maps and well-publicised problems with Apple Maps has helped rivals. Usage for Australian-owned Whereis has doubled since September, though senior product manager Alison Caruk claimed this was because of adding celebrity voice directions to the app.
Google Maps has returned to the iPhone three months after Apple booted it off in an operating system upgrade, BRW can exclusively reveal.
The new Google Maps app is now available for free download from the Apple iTunes store, ending months of frustration for iPhone users forced into using the buggy first version of Apple’s own Maps app.
The new app comes with a load of fancy new features such as integration with Google Earth and Google Places, voice-guided directions, and the ability to rotate the map or tilt the screen to see 3D buildings.
From 2007 until a few months ago, iPhones came preloaded with app version of Google Maps and YouTube that were co-developed by Apple and Google. That partnership came to an abrupt end with the release of the iPhone 5 in early September. Owners of older iPhones who upgraded to the new iOS6 operating system also found that they no longer had access to the Google apps.
Google quickly released a YouTube app that soon became the most popular free app in the iTunes store, but until now it was unclear whether it would do the same for maps. The company’s public statements that its “goal was to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system” were vague about whether that meant developing its own app, negotiating a continuing partnership with Apple, or the fact that iPhone users could access Google Maps via a browser.
Apple has to approve apps for the iTunes store and the developer guidelines give it the right to reject apps that are confusingly similar to an existing Apple product. However, when Apple rejected the Google Voice app in 2009, it prompted an investigation by the US Federal Communications Commission and the app was eventually approved.
Apple might also be keen to avoid bad publicity around the mapping issue given that its own Maps app has been widely panned for inaccurate information and poor graphics that made it look like buildings were melting.
Apple CEO Tim Cook apologised for the poor quality of his company’s Maps app in a letter to customers in late September. He acknowledged that the company “fell short” on its commitment to the customer experience and, in an unusual move, directed customers to a number of rival products.
The maps debacle has caused a number of senior departures at Apple, including maps supervisor Richard Williamson and mobile-software chief Scott Forstall.
Earlier this week the Victorian Police issued a warning that it could be “’potentially life threatening” for motorists to rely on Apple’s Maps app after responding to distress calls for people who became stranded in the Murray-Sunset National Park after following directions to the town of Mildura. The park is 70km away from the town, has no water supply and temperatures can reach 46 Celcius.