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New Google Maps App Lights a Beacon in iOS Darkness

By Peter Suciu MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Dec 13, 2012 11:42 AM PT

iPhone users can once again find their way in the world as Google Maps was approved by Apple on Thursday and will be listed in the iTunes App Store. This comes three months after the iPhone maker removed Google Maps as a built-in feature of iOS and replaced it with what polite people called a substandard mapping solution.

New Google Maps App Lights a Beacon in iOS Darkness

Users far and wide had been asking for the return of Google Maps, Google said in a blog post, and the early opinion seems to be that this new app version improves considerably upon its built-in predecessor. The new app reportedly shows more map on the screen, loads more quickly, and provides better rotating of both 2D and 3D views.

The new Google Maps app includes functions such as voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation, a feature previously missing. In addition, it offers live traffic conditions, public transportation information, street view, and business photos. All this may underscore for iPhone users how much they've been missing.

"Above all else, Google Maps' return to iOS is a victory for users," said Josh Crandall, principal analyst at Netpop Research.

Google Victory

From all appearances, the return of Google Maps signifies a Google victory -- at least in this round. Has it also shown a crack in the iPhone's strong foundation with users?

"Unfortunately for Apple, they shattered their place in many people's eyes by prioritizing corporate priorities over the needs of the user," Crandall told MacNewsWorld.

"By launching Apple Maps, a platform that isn't as reliable, easy-to-use, and comprehensive as Google Maps, Apple revealed a poorly executed attempt to leverage its operating system and hardware at the expense -- and personal safety -- of their users," he maintained.

However, whether this can be considered a victory in the larger mobile phone war that continues between Apple and Google is unsettled -- small victories tend to remain small.

There's "no clear cut winner yet," said Chris Silva, industry analyst at the Altimeter Group. "This move by Google shows a focus on them developing the best possible tools for all ecosystems, be it Android or iOS. This is a natural next step in the evolution of Google products on iOS following the refresh of Gmail and YouTube apps most recently."

Battle Maps

The fact that Google's technology has been widely sought after -- even by Apple's hardcore users -- suggests that despite the battle lines, there could be accommodation as well. Even if there isn't, this suggests that Apple users will want more than just what Apple may provide.

"The new Google map app will be eagerly gobbled up by so many Apple iPhone customers," said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan. "Apple was hurt by this map fiasco. This is so unlike Apple, but this will not be the end. Apple is not the same Apple we always knew."

Google continues to innovate, while Apple may be relying too much on relying on past innovations, he suggested.

"The new Google map app is better than previous versions," said Kagan. "Remember, this problem is far larger than just the maps. It's about Apple and profitability moving forward. They are staking the future on the cloud as they compete with Google."

Mapping the Way

Of course, maps are still a very big deal for many people -- especially as mobile smartphones are relied upon as a way for people to get from point A to point B.

The new app is "very streamlined, highlighting Google's strengths putting core assets like traffic and transit directions at the forefront," noted Silva. "They're also tying the usage of the app to a Google account, allowing them to capitalize on the information users are putting into searches and location information."

The importance of this as a fumble for Apple and a score for Google is one that can't be easily dismissed.

"When a company is in control of how its users navigate their world, it has a responsibility to look out for them and not exploit that special relationship to compete against a corporate rival for the company's gain," stressed Crandall. "Not only did Google win the maps battle, but Apple brand equity is suffering from deep self-inflicted wound."

If this means that Apple's dominant streak is over, perhaps it's another sign of the apocalypse.

"If the world ends, the Mayans were right," said Kagan. "If not, at least we have Google maps to find our way home."

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