Google has released a downloadable app that makes its maps available to users of Apple’s new iOS software – and has included turn-by-turn navigation and “vector” maps which don’t need constant data downloads, just as the iPhone maker had previously wanted.
The move comes two and a half months after Apple banished Google from providing the core maps experience on the iPhone and iPad because of a dispute over advertising, revenue shares and the provision of those navigation and vector functions. But that move led to humiliation for Apple, which included its own Maps system with the iOS 6 software that is used on the iPhone 5 and which has been downloaded by more than 200 million people since September.
The maps have come in for widespread criticism because they mislabelled locations, left off some public transport information and in some cases could even put people in life-threatening situations. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, was forced into a humiliating public apology, including recommending that dissatisfied users try rival products from Microsoft or Nokia.
The Google maps app will not be the default one for mapping on the iPhone; Apple’s own will still be the default, providing location data from any other app, and there is no mechanism to let people use Google’s instead.
But the Google Maps app includes elements that Apple’s own lacks, including embedded public transport directions. Crucially, Google has also provided an API – essentially software “hooks” for developers – that will mean that if it is installed, third-party apps can use Google’s Maps rather than Apple’s to deal with mapping.
Apple’s own Maps introduced turn-by-turn navigation for walking and driving and uses “vector” maps, which compress data stored in a file so that they will provide mapping even without a data connection.
Those were precisely the features that Apple had wanted from Google – but the two disagreed over the provision of the features, which had been included on Google’s Android mobile operating software since the end of 2010.
Google wanted to be able to include adverts on the maps as a source of revenue; that would mean getting data about the location of the phone, among other information. Apple resisted that. The drawn-out dispute between the companies eventually saw Apple decide to build its own Maps content and make that the default on the iPhone and iPad. The new Google Maps app is so far only available for the iPhone; although it will work on the iPad there is not yet a specific version for Apple’s tablet.[/vc_column_text]