Can Google Map a Path Back to iOS?
Sep 27, 2012 7:00 AM PT
Google is reported to be working on a standalone map app for iOS, about three months after Apple replaced the original Google map app in iOS with its own product, for iOS 6.
The news comes as Apple is plagued by almost daily reports of problems with its own mapping app.
Whether Apple will approve a standalone Google Maps app for inclusion in its iTunes App Store remains to be seen.
"It would be worth it because [Google] were in beta [with its iOS 6 map app] and they don't want to lose all the iOS users in terms of understanding what they're doing and how they're doing it," Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at Lopez Research, told MacNewsWorld.
The speculation about Google's plans was sparked by comments company executive chairman Eric Schmidt reportedly made at a promotional event for the Nexus 7 tablet in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Schmidt said it might have been better if Apple had kept Google's map app, but the decision was Apple's to make. Both companies are in constant communication at all kinds of levels, but any decision as to whether a Google Maps app will be accepted in the iTunes App Store would be up to Apple.
Schmidt also expressed the hope that Google would remain Apple's search partner on the iPhone but stated the issue would be up to Cupertino to decide.
In the Works
Google's developing a maps app for the iPhone and iPad that it wants to complete by year end, The New York Times reported, citing people involved with the project.
Neither Google nor Apple responded to our request to comment for this story.
Whether Apple will approve of an iOS map app from Google is a question that has yet to be resolved.
"I don't think Apple will let [Google] back in regardless of what Google or users want," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld. The chances of this happening are "very slim and none."
Losing Your Way With iOS
Apple's Map app in iOS 6 has so far been a fiasco. Its mistakes include losing the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. Cities in the UK have been lost, and Apple Maps shows Shinjuku subway station in the middle of a park.
Further, Apple Maps has located the Diaoyu Island chain, which is at the heart of a dispute between China and Japan, in two sites, possibly dampening the hostilities and turning the wrath of the disputants upon itself. The mapping mishaps have been so numerous and at times laughable that a Tumblr page has sprung up listing various Apple Map mistakes.
The Root of the Problem
The problem is apparently the result of Apple's piecing together maps from various sources. In the U.S., Apple's using data from TomTom, which also supplies Google with its mapping data, but overseas it turns to other services.
In contrast, Google uses data from its Street View vehicles in addition to the data it gets from TomTom.
"Apple is now years behind folks who have been delivering mapping software," Enderle remarked. Because of that, piecing together various mapping apps over a foundation created by Apple "is not as easy as you think."
Apple "has always crippled third-party navigation apps, preventing things like turn-by-turn directions," Enderle continued.
Picking up the Pieces
Apple will probably recover from this situation, Lopez suggested.
"You've already bought the phone, so what are you going to do now," Lopez asked. "I think in about a year, a year and a half, they'll have fixed it."
Apple "will try to fix this" but "should buy a solution that works," Enderle suggested.