Google Maps iPhone-w600

Any iPhone users out there? You might find this interesting. Google has recently announced the launch of its official Google Maps application for iOS. This comes after Apple opted to ditch Google Maps in favor of its own Maps application when it released iOS 6 along with the iPhone 5. This also comes after three months of ridicule, finding of alternatives, fired executives and managers, and lost travelers in Australia (just this week!).

Reworked app. Google says they have reworked the iOS from ground up, and is not simply an HTML5 wrapper, like some of the previous Google apps on the iOS platform (like the old Gmail). As such, expect Maps to be faster, smoother, and more functional than before. While iOS users found the mobile web version of Google Maps to be a temporary replacement before, the new native app should be miles ahead in terms of performance. Case in point: it uses vector graphics, which should both increase speed and reduce data usage compared with raster images.

Revamped interface. The interface has been drastically revamped, and is now more minimalistic than ever. Users are greeted with a search box at the top. Additional features can be accessed by pulling out a tab from the bottom right or swiping left with two fingers. The new app features turn-by-turn navigation, transit assistance, as well as traffic conditions in supported regions.

API access for developers. Apart from the app itself, Google is offering developers access to the Maps app through two sets of APIs, which will enable developers to access Google Maps from within their own apps instead of the stock iOS 6 map application. As such, we can expect Google’s own iOS apps to use Google Maps in the future. Users who don’t have Google Maps installed will be brought to the App Store when the API call is accessed from within a third-party app.

Design plus data. As The Verge‘s Dieter Bohn puts it, design and data ultimately set Google Maps as the clear winner over Apple’s own mapping iteration. “Google has taken everything it has learned about app design and performance in the past year and baked it into Maps.” This applies to both iOS and Android.

No iPad app for now. Sadly for iPad users, you folks will have to wait a bit longer, as this release is exclusively for iPhone and iPod Touch 4th gen users for now (requires iOS 5.1 and up). It seems Google has made good on its promise to have Maps available before the year ends. Now it’s a question of whether Apple will be able to bake in their improvements to Apple Maps to compete with Google’s own offering.

Now what’s interesting here is that mapping will no longer be a differentiator for Android manufacturers. The previous lack of a Google Maps app would be a deal breaker for users choosing between the iPhone 5 and an Android smartphone. But now, both Android and iPhone users can now enjoy the same benefit from Google’s in-house map offering.

Have you checked out Google Maps for iOS 6 lately?

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise platforms, and is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team that offers digital content and marketing services.