Has Google just won the iOS maps war?


While most people consider the return of Google Maps to Apple’s App Store an all-around positive, one observer sees the move as a ‘mixed blessing’ for club Cupertino. Not only is the familiar mapping application once again available, but the Android maker Google may now overshadow Apple’s own efforts to make a difference in the increasingly competitive mobile mapping arena. As we reported yesterday, the new Google Maps for iOS is the top free app for the iPhone.

Indeed, Google admits the iOS app – which adds turn-by-turn directions – is superior to the Android version from a design standpoint. But for Google, returning to iOS means it also reconnects with iPhone users and a wealth of data…

Analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Company told investors, via AppleInsider:

We see the Maps app on the iPhone as a win-win for Google because the company will now be able to generate location-based advertising and other revenues from iPhone users who use the app.

Although the re-entry of Google maps could benefit Apple by enticing some consumers who’ve shied away from the controversial launch of iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, the presence of the Mountain View, California firm may also diminish users’ focus on improving Apple Maps.

“Apple will now receive less feedback on its own Maps app what with iPhone owners flocking to Google Maps”, the analyst notes.


What’s more, Google also released the official Maps SDK for iOS so other programmers could incorporate a Google Maps backend into their iPhone and iPad apps, should they wish to bypass Apple’s own Maps APIs.

Some people go even so far to suggest that the entire Apple Maps brouhaha was part of the grand plan because Tim Cook & Co. in the end got what they wanted.

Here’s what The Loop reader Keith Huss wrote:

The fact that Google is, on one hand, creating great applications for iOS and, on the other, fighting tooth and nail for market share against it makes me wonder if the company is divided into two factions, with a battle raging between them over its future direction. On one side, there’s the group who want to promote Android as a coherent product, and beat Apple into a pulp with it.

On the other side, there’s the “Pragmatists”. These are the ones who realise Google makes its money from advertising, not directly from selling products.

The quality and UI design seen in the Google Maps app is an indication of the search firm taking iOS more seriously than ever before.

For instance, Apple pundit John Gruber writes that the look is very clean: “matte-finished in contrast to Apple’s glossiness; flatter, but not entirely flat”. Clearly Google is allocating some serious resources toward putting its best services onto iOS users’ home screens.

Then there is Nokia.

The Finnish cell phone company introduced its own Here mapping application in November, in hopes of profiting from Apple’s mapping misstep.

However, the arrival of the native Google Maps app doesn’t bode well for Nokia’s Here service, which is largely built on HTML5 web technologies.

Obviously, mapping has become another competitive arena for tech companies. As consumers increasingly rely on their smartphones for more and more vital information, companies able to provide reliable data – such as maps – will gain followers.

For Apple, the renewal of some ties to Google benefits its overall hardware platform while presenting a setback of sorts. Apple Maps was the company’s main attempt to break the stranglehold Google had on the Internet software ecosystem powering a mobile world – and it failed.

Has Google apps become so intertwined with online activity that no mobile company can completely break free?