When Apple announced, in June, that it was introducing its own maps and ousting Google from its default position on the iPhone, that was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to Mountain View. Apple subsequently introduced an elegant-looking but flawed mapping app as part of iOS 6.
While Apple and its mapping mistakes have helped to open up the market somewhat, and brought new attention to third party mapping apps such as Waze, Scout and others, they have also created an opening for Google to fully monetize local search on the iPhone in ways that were not equally possible before.
As soon as iOS 6 maps were announced, the drama and speculation began: would Google release a native iOS mapping app? Would it have turn-by-turn navigation? We predicted yes and yes. The drama has now shifted from whether to when and will Apple permit it?
Apparently submission of the new Google Maps app for Apple approval has happened or is about to happen — and it will include turn-by-turn navigation. The Wall Street Journal reported this afternoon that “outsiders” are now testing a Google Maps app for iOS:
Google has distributed a test version of its new mapping app that will work on Apple’s iPhones to some individuals outside the company, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Google has been putting the finishing touches on the app before submitting it for approval to the Apple iTunes store, this person said, though it’s unclear exactly when that will happen.
In the WSJ article Apple says that it doesn’t comment on apps that haven’t yet been submitted. If submission hasn’t already happened it must be very close.
For numerous reasons it’s likely that Apple will allow the new Google Maps app. And there’s every reason to expect that it will get tons of usage. Google will then be free to show the same kinds of ads on Google Maps for iOS that it shows on Android maps — unlike when it was the default mapping app on the iPhone.
Often when something appears to be a setback in the near term it turns out to be a good thing in the end. In this case, a native Google Maps app for iOS will turn out to be a good thing for everybody: iPhone users (and by extension Apple), Google and mapping competition in general.