The Good & Bad Scenarios About Why Google Hasn’t “Done Anything Yet” About Google Maps For iOS

Today, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said his company hasn’t done anything yet to bring Google Maps to iOS as a standalone app. That seems to contradict Google’s statement last week about wanting this to happen, as well as the company’s central mission. But negotiations and contract issues yet to be revealed might be a “good” reason for the delay. The bad reason would be if Google’s doing this to promote Android. Let’s look at them both.

How We Got Here

Last week, Google Maps disappeared from being the brains inside the Maps application on the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 6, which ships on the iPhone 5 and which many other iPhone and iPad versions are being upgraded to.

This was fallout from the much cited thermonuclear war that Steve Jobs spoke about wanting to wage against Android as as “stolen product.” That war meant Apple pulling away from Google as a mapping partner. Instead, Apple shifted to having its Maps app be powered by its own data and that from partners like Yelp and TomTom, among others.

Soon after iOS 6 appeared, it became clear that the new Maps had accuracy and detail issues, something Apple itself pledged to fix, along with asking patience from its customers

The Expected Google Maps App

Good times for Google, then! It highlighted how Google had a superior mapping product and suggested that if a Google Maps app came to iOS, it would shoot to the top of the charts just as Google’s YouTube app did, when that was released ahead of YouTube being evicted from the iOS video app.

But unlike YouTube, no Google Maps app turned up. When we asked Google about it last week, a statement finally came:

We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world. Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system.

The statement is pretty clear. Google was committed to bringing its maps everywhere, which would include the iPhone and iOS devices.

But since there was no Google Maps app released, something was an issue. Was it perhaps that Apple was finding a reason to block an app, maybe considering it to replicate native iOS features?

If so, Google wasn’t saying. It wasn’t saying anything about the “why” at all.

“We Haven’t Done Anything Yet”

That changed today. As we covered earlier, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was quoted on bringing a Google Maps app to iOS by Bloomberg as saying:

 We haven’t done anything yet with Google Maps.

And by Reuters as saying:

We have not done anything yet.

Nothing? Google’s done nothing? Despite knowing this change was coming for months, Google hasn’t created a Google Maps app to make up for Google being dropped out of the native Maps application in iOS in the same way it made a YouTube app to cover being dropped from the native Video application?

Time to parse what “haven’t done anything” may mean.

It could mean that Google hasn’t done any work on a Google Maps app at all, which is hard to believe.

It could be that Google has made an app and submitted it to Apple, where it’s yet to be approved. That’s more believable, but personally, I don’t think that’s the case.

The Bloomberg report says Schmidt declined to say if an app had been submitted:

“We haven’t done anything yet with Google Maps,” Schmidt told reporters in Tokyo today. Apple would “have to approve it. It’s their choice,” Schmidt said, declining to say if the Mountain View, California-based company submitted an application to Apple for sale through its App Store.

Reuters gives the impression that his “have not done anything” comment was about not having submitted an app:

Schmidt said Google and Apple were in constant communication “at all kinds of levels.” But he said any decision on whether Google Maps would be accepted as an application in the Apple App Store would have to be made by Apple.

“We have not done anything yet,” he said.

I think that Reuters has it right, that Google does have a Google Maps app that could work but hasn’t submitting that app for consideration until it can negotiate more with Apple over terms. That would be what I’d call a “good” reason for the delay, and I’ll come back to it. But let me first cover the “bad” reason for doing nothing.

Bad: To Promote Android

Possibly, Google is holding back on a Google Maps app as a way to promote Apple’s mobile platform as weaker than Android.

The lack of a Google Maps app helps highlights how Apple has made a business decision to go with maps that can be sub-par, in some cases. That might cause some Apple customers to think twice about Apple in the future. For another, Google’s move could be designed to help push people to consider Android over the iPhone.

In short, Google might be holding back for competitive reasons. If so, that’s a bad reason. Google has a broader commitment than pushing Android:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

That’s the company’s long-standing mission statement. When it launched Google Maps, that was part of the mission, that some information needed to be organized on maps. Playing games by favoring its own platform over others wouldn’t be true to that mission or in the interest of Google’s users, who aren’t all Android users nor want to be.

Good: To Negotiate Openness

It this turns to be a competitive play by Google, I’ll be incredibly disappointed in the company. Personally, I’m hoping the delay is over what I’d consider to be the only “good” reason, to negotiate more openness within iOS.

Want to share a picture you’ve taken on the iPhone? Apple provides native support of this for Twitter and Facebook. It doesn’t for Google+, which seems to be an Apple decision.

Want to use Google Voice? You can do it but not using an app that ties in deeply into the iPhone, so that placing calls is more awkward than with using Google Voice in Android. This also seems to be an Apple decision.

Google might be trying to get these types of restrictions lifted and prevent similar ones if it brings its own Google Maps app to iOS. It might even be trying to find a way for people to decide they want to use Google Maps data within the native Maps app, if they want.

Sound crazy? You can pick your search provider within Safari, a choice of Google, Yahoo or Bing for US users. Why can’t you pick your mapping provider within Maps, Apple, Google or even Nokia?

Choice is good for users, and it also can even be good for Apple. After all, when it’s not trying to create the core data, it can more easily escape blame for when things go wrong, as with last year’s abortion search issue with Siri.

Ideally, Google would just make clear what’s going on. But that’s where contract issues come into play. Google may still be under contract with Apple to provide mapping services; certainly it’s still providing them for iOS 5 users. That contract may prevent what the company can say about the current situation with Google Maps.

Postscript: The Verge is now out with a story saying that Apple decided to ship Maps without using Google mapping data despite still having time on its contract with Google to receive that data.

That’s not really surprising. Google executive chairman said last May (see here and here, as we reported) said that deals for search and maps with Apple had been renewed. Typically these deals are done over a multiyear period. So yes, there’s almost certainly time left on that contract for Google to be providing Apple with mapping services.

That existing contract between Apple and Google could, as I described above, have terms that are preventing Google from saying much about the status of a Google Maps app as well as potentially preventing it from even submitting a Google Maps app for iOS.

But according to The Verge, its sources say it that Google has been scrambling since June to develop an app for iOS and that it’s not complete nor ready to ship for several months.

Related Stories

Related Topics: Apple: Maps | Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Mike Dobbs

    Nice read…Apple will never let the GPS functionality of their phones work with Google Maps, which is a huge downside for Apple device users – plus Google to submit a “half-baked” version of Google Maps into iTunes kinda sucks. Why submit an app into an iOS platform that won’t even allow it to work at its full capacity? Sounds like a rational reason to stay true to their mission statement if certain limitations hinder the experience of organizing and displaying the worlds info?

  • Adriel

    Their mobile web version meets the “available on any device” part. They would have ad to develop a new iOS version because the prior version was done by Apple. The only reason they should be in any kind of rush would be to cut off the user generated fixes and content that Apple’s maps so desperately need.

  • David Powell

    Disagree that promoting android is bad for google

  • Ray Cromwell

    It seems to me you left off an option that The Verge put forward: Apple had over a year left before the contract was Google was up, caught Google by surprise and gave them no lead time to have an iOS GMaps ready in time for the iPhone 5 launch.

    Speculation: If this is the case, then it’s really an ethically Bad move for Apple. It would mean they arranged things so as to avoid Google having a competitive iOS GMaps experience ready on launch, by keeping their time tables or intentions secret. So it’s the flip side of your Bad Android theory.

  • Tamir Strauss

    Let me get this straight – you are suggesting that it is completely fine for Apple to make a “business decision” which compromises the user experience of its products, yet it would be “bad” if Google made a business decision to provide one of its core products a competitive advantage against Apple? All that because of Google’s mission statement?

    Apple consistently make business decisions that impact their products’ user experience in order to undermine their competitors, despite the fact that the company has become famous for providing the best experiences for its users, and you do not seem to have an issue with that. Yes, you suggest Google should try to strong arm Apple to become more open, but you do not offer criticism for Apple’s policies on par with your potential disappointment in Google should their drive to compete prove real.

    I fail to understand the obvious disparity and bias of most online publications when it comes to Apple. It is becoming very old now.

  • ESPInfo

    Google has everything to gain by leaving Maps out of the iOS store.

    1) People may consider their Android-based phones going forward.
    2) People will look upon Apple poorly since they made the decision to get rid of Google Maps.

    What exactly does Google have to gain? Not money. Not brand name – everyone already knows that Google Maps is superior.

    Maybe Apple should pay Google to bring their app to their marketplace. “We’re sorry Google. We had no idea how hard maps are to create for the entire world. Please forgive us. Here is a bunch of money.” Haha.

  • Ivan Petrov

    Apple or Android phone? The mobile OS war has long been a two-player contest, with Apple iOS and Google Android , but I think IPHONE THE BEST

  • jnffarrell1

    As I see it the deal breaker came when Apple requested a Change Order putting turn by turn navigation into Apple’s outdated but virtually free Google Map. Google said OK but we want our logo on it since from day one we put the smarts in smart phone and you give us no credit. Apple balked because the don’t believe IT’S the WWW STUPID.

  • Vaneeesa Blaylock

    Many of today’s tech giants were started by university drop outs with utopian and/or vaguely socialist leanings. In every case those days are long gone. These are the richest companies on the face of the earth today.

    Unlike our cell carriers who send us huge bills for crappy service, Google gives us amazing products almost always for no charge. So we have a tendency to love Google. And we should, to some degree, love the ingenuity of all these companies. But there’s no altruism here, it’s big stakes business. Even the much touted Google China pullout was, from my perspective, a business decision wrapped in a human rights flag.

    As for Apple, now that they’ve essentially succeeded in single-corproration-edly killing Flash, and let’s be clear, though great, HTML5 is NOT a Flash replacement, now they set their sights on killing Google Maps.

    Together Apple and Adobe changed the world. Remember Boris Yeltsin holed up in a hotel and using Pagemaker and an Apple Laserwriter running Warnock & Geschke’s Postcript language to write his daily newsletters as he presided over what might retroactively be called The Soviet Spring?

    Together Apple and Google changed the world. Now, having survived a quarter-century on the brink of extinction, Apple, in the world’s greatest Cinderella story, is the number one market cap corporation in the world. Like a victorious but aging king, or perhaps like an aging queen in the mirror, Apple seems intent on destroying everyone else in the field, no matter how much it harms their customers.

    The Walt Disney Company has given the world a draconian IP regime that guarantees that no one will ever again be able to build a career the way Walt Disney himself once did. And similarly Apple is determined to exploit it hegemony in the mobile market to scorch the earth for all competitors, no matter how many users get incinerated along the way.

    Google is far from “good” and as users our only hope is to try to maintain an uneasy balance of terror between these self-interested giants, still, given Apple’s power and aggressiveness, I, for myself, am convinced that the best medium term hope for some degree of user freedom is to support Android devices.

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