Voice navigation was a deal-breaker in the Apple-Google maps talks

The Verge reported yesterday that Apple could have kept Google Maps until iOS 7 as Google’s contract to keep the maps app on the iPhone had more time remaining. A new report sheds more light on the matter, with sources claiming that talks between the two Silicon Valley technology giants crashed over voice-assisted navigation.

Long story short, Google fought hard to bomb the deal as it wouldn’t hand over the data needed to bring voice-guided navigation to a competing platform. Instead, the search Goliath continued to offer advanced location and navigation features on Android, widening the gap as it differentiated its platform from Apple…

John Paczkowski, reporting for the AllThingsD blog:

Multiple sources familiar with Apple’s thinking say the company felt it had no choice but to replace Google maps with its own because of a disagreement over a key feature: Voice-guided turn-by-turn driving directions.

One source told the publication:

There were a number of issues inflaming negotiations, but voice navigation was the biggest. Ultimately, it was a deal-breaker.

Of course Apple wanted Google to put voice-aided navigation in iOS Maps, clearly because Apple felt disadvantaged over Android in that regard:

Spoken turn-by-turn navigation has been a free service offered through Google’s Android mobile OS for a few years now. But it was never part of the deal that brought Google’s maps to iOS. And Apple very much wanted it to be.

And having chosen Google as its original mapping partner, the iPhone-maker was now in a position where an arch rival was calling the shots on functionality important to the iOS maps feature set.

As for other issues, The Wall Street Journal reported back in June that Google wanted to add features like Latitude in an effort to amass more location data on iOS users.

Apple wouldn’t budge.

Google also wanted more prominent branding in the stock iOS Maps app, which Apple was reluctant to agree to.

Apple instead chose to end the deal and ship the new maps and this was clearly its best option (John Gruber explains why).

And this is from “a person briefed on Apple’s strategy”:

Apple knew it had a lot of catching up to do in maps. But given what’s happened the past few days, I think they felt they were farther along than they actually are.

Apple’s a bit too hasty move is now backfiring and it’s not just bad press.

Cupertino needs additional manpower to work on that inaccurate map data and perfect crowd-sourced data gathering processes.

Plus, it’s gonna take years until Apple Maps become a viable alternative to Google Maps, which have been perfected for more than seven years now. For example, earlier today Google Maps added underwater locations to Street View. The company also announced availability of high-quality street-level imagery in Croatia, my home country.

Apple Maps don’t even have Street View.

On the other hand, Google too is feeling the heat because over a hundred million iOS devices no longer rely a Google Maps backend. That’s nearly a quarter of the more than 425 million iOS devices sold to date.

A geolocation exec quoted in the AllThingsD story summed it up nicely:

A hundred million devices upgraded is a big body drop.

Google on its part is thought to be working on a standalone Google Maps app for the iPhone. Its chairman Eric Schmidt says the ball is now in Apple’s court.

The New York Times claims the app will be released by Christmas because Google wants to do it right and incorporate 3D views from Google Earth, a separate iOS app, so its software would compare favorably against three-dimensional Flyover views in Apple Maps.

Do you perhaps think this whole Apple Maps think is being blow out of proportion?