Google Maps Is Back On The iPhone: Native iOS App Released

Google has released its long-awaited map app for the iPhone. And it delivers all the expected features: voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation, traffic, public transit, Street View and so on.

It’s better than Google Maps for Android because it has been built or rebuilt “from the ground up” and didn’t grow by accretion. The bottom line: it delivers. Yet it’s also not 100 percent satisfying (at least in my initial test). I’m not sure what I was expecting.

It’s not integrated with Siri. You can’t say “I need directions to San Francisco” and be taken to Google Maps, as you once could. Instead you’ll go to Apple Maps. You can however use Siri to launch Google Maps (“Open Google Maps”) and then conduct your local search or directions lookup.

It’s also not integrated with Google’s iOS search app or Google search results on the mobile web. When you click a map image in either case you’re taken to the mobile-browser version of Google Maps.

Here are some quick screenshots from the new app I took this evening:

Google has also released an SDK for developers so that they can once again use Google’s Maps and data on the iPhone instead of Apple Maps.

While Google Maps and navigation were never perfect (despite the gauzy, romantic reflections of some tech bloggers), the new app will give many people a kind of renewed confidence they were lacking with Apple’s mapping product. (The pressure is now truly on Apple to “uplevel” its maps.)

Comparing Apple Maps and Google Maps side by side I have to say I prefer the Apple Maps UI. It’s more polished and aesthetically refined. Most people probably won’t care about that. They just want to get from A to B with confidence.

Tonight’s release is available in roughly 40 countries and 29 languages. It’s a big, global launch and should see massive downloads from iPhone owners all over the world. There’s currently no iPad version though the new Google Maps app will obviously also work on the iPad.

Postscript: Here’s the thing most people aren’t talking about or don’t realize: if Apple hadn’t done what it did and removed Google from the iPhone’s maps app we wouldn’t be talking about this much improved Google Maps experience for iOS.

The old “Google Maps” on the iPhone was a very weak version of its Android cousin. Google either wasn’t improving the app or Apple wasn’t allowing Google to do what it wanted. However if it wasn’t for Apple extricating Google from default mapping status Google wouldn’t have developed this impressive new app.

Accordingly, in retrospect, this drama was all necessary to get to where we are today — a place where iPhone users have much more choice and higher quality map experiences than they did a year ago.

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

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Flemming Kaasgaard

    For my part I must admit to be very excited that Google Maps is back. Not because Apple Maps i filled with flaws, I haven’t found any problems with the addresses I’ve used.
    However, Google have a much more extensive database of information, at least in Denmark, so when I want to go somewhere, and know the name of the place but not the address, Google serves me much better than Apple does.

  • AlexS123

    to be honest the app is better than apple map but worse than the previous google map – mainly because it’s slow.

  • Matthew Majorenos

    Is it already available in the Philippines? I can’t find Google maps in my apps store

  • http://twitter.com/gsterling Greg Sterling

    Yes, Google’s data are considerably better than Apple’s especially outside the US

  • Pierre Gardin

    “Google either wasn’t improving the app or Apple wasn’t allowing Google to do what it wanted.”

    Source for the fact the app was not developed by Apple?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-N-Fran-Farrell/100002337622505 Jack N Fran Farrell

    Siri was as half-baked as as Apple-maps. When Apple let’s Google voice search and Google Now integrate in iPhone it will be a cold day in hell.

  • http://twitter.com/gsterling Greg Sterling

    Not sure precisely what you’re saying/asking . ..

  • http://www.tylerherrick.com Tyler Herrick

    Apple was the one who designed the old “Maps” app which utilized Google services.

  • Pierre Gardin

    You say (rather, imply) Google designed the old Maps app, without citing any source. I, like Tyler Herrick, always heard Apple designed it.

    For instance, the Youtube app was Apple-designed: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2007/06/20YouTube-Live-on-Apple-TV-Today-Coming-to-iPhone-on-June-29.html

    According to the language in the PR (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2007/01/09Apple-Reinvents-the-Phone-with-iPhone.html) and the design changes from the web-based and Android-based Google Maps apps (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-nFXBmBrUw), I think Apple designed the first Maps app.

  • natfinn

    I played with Google Maps app on my iPhone 4 tonight on the way to the FGCU/FIU game. The OldOld Man & I went down streets that were acronyms in Ft. Myers, FL and GM said, “Turn left on ‘fug-coo’ (FGCU – acronym for Florida Gulf Coast University). GM also doesn’t know that “Alico” is “ah-LEE-co” instead of “alex-co” – which means a “pronunciation” section will need to be added to Google Maps suggestions. It also would shout out upcoming turns while we were in the previous intersection which had my 87-year old grandfather about slam on the breaks. That was a bit scary.

    But Google Maps did a couple things tonight that were impressive

    1) It’s the first time I saw Google Maps reroute on the fly with directional navigation and the audio turn-by-turn kept up.
    2) The voice gave estimations that were more conversational & easier to hear. Instead of “turn right in 1.6 miles,” it said, “the turn is up ahead in a mile and a half.”0
    3) We changed directions again to stop at a Wendys for Frostees. I closed the phone to enjoy the dessert then pulled it back out to do a couple (Google Chrome) searches to see that Michael Jordan was practicing with the Bobcats, again. As we got back on the road I heard the directions tell me the turn was coming up. The App was STILL running!

    Honestly, I couldn’t be any happier with this installment of Google Maps. Google Plus- like user interface, integration with Google account to save and build up directions and addresses with ease, Google Earth integration…Apple is going to quickly find out that they put a brilliant piece into Google’s social offering by forcing Mountain View to make what is now not only the unchallenged leader in mobile mapping, but perhaps the best app on the market. Apple literally f-ed themselves and f-ed Facebook today.

    Google now has the mobile pieces in place, fumbling into a social leader. I hope they can put it all together flawlessly in 2013.

    Revolutions are half improvise and half compromise. Google has Apple to thank for the latter. Steve Jobs would be firing people left and right if he saw this happening.

  • http://www.searchresultsmedia.com/ Search Results Media

    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing. Ya you are right it is actually much better than Google Maps for Android. I have personally used both, but i find it much better on my iphone.

  • mark roberts

    Yes I love google maps app and search app but I need them to work together without Siri. Google voice recognition is 100% better than Siri.

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