After months of speculation, Google Maps made its highly-anticipated return to iOS tonight as a free download on the App Store. Google Maps was a native application on iOS devices until Apple released its iOS 6 software update, which uses Apple’s new Maps app instead. The return of Google Maps to iOS is welcomed news for many iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users, as Apple’s new mapping solution has been highly criticized since its release in September.
Update #1 (11:48 PM Eastern): It is common to experience errors when attempting to download a brand new app from the App Store. Please allow time for Google Maps to propagate across Apple’s servers, while considering the high volume of downloads that the app is likely receiving at this time.
Navigate your world with Google Maps, now available for iPhone. Get comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps with built-in Google local search, voice guided turn-by-turn navigation, public transit directions, Street View and more. Use Google Maps to discover great places to eat, drink, shop and play, with ratings and reviews from people you trust. Sign in to save your favorite places and quickly access all your past searches and directions from your computer, right on your phone.
Google Maps has always been available on iOS devices through the mobile Safari browser, but the experience is not the same as a dedicated app. Now, users have the same native Google Maps experience as in iOS 5 and earlier, plus the addition of turn-by-turn navigation as a major new feature. But, while Apple did rush its Maps app to release, the Cupertino-based company does deserve some credit.
Per Google’s official blog:
The app shows more map on screen and turns mobile mapping into one intuitive experience. It’s a sharper looking, vector-based map that loads quickly and provides smooth tilting and rotating of 2D and 3D views. The search box at the top is a good place to start—perhaps by entering the name of a new and interesting restaurant. An expandable info sheet at the bottom shows the address, opening hours, ratings and reviews, images, directions and other information.
The reason why Apple switched away from Google Maps in the first place is because it would not allow the iPhone maker to integrate voice navigation into Google Maps for iOS devices. Google has been investing highly in its turn-by-turn directions for Android smartphones, and wasn’t going to allow Apple to offer that same feature on the iPhone. But interestingly, this new Google Maps app on the App Store features that coveted voice navigation feature.
There is no excuse for the less-than-desirable Apple Maps experience that the app provides at this time, however, so it is great to see Google Maps make it past the App Store approval process. Perhaps Apple’s decision to allow Google Maps on the App Store was made a long time ago, or perhaps it was in response to the negative criticism its own mapping app has received in the past few months. I’m sure the stranded travelers in Australia didn’t help the situation.