Google Maps has found its way back to the iPhone.
The world’s most popular online mapping system returned on late Wednesday with the release of the Google Maps iPhone app. The release comes nearly three months after Apple Inc replaced Google Maps as the device’s built-in navigation system and inserted its own maps into the latest version of its mobile operating system.
Apple’s maps proved to be far inferior to Google’s. The product’s shoddiness prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a rare public apology and recommend that iPhone owners consider using Google maps through a mobile Web browser or seek other alternatives until his company could fix the problems. Cook also replaced the executive in charge of Apple’s mobile operating system after the company’s maps became a subject of widespread ridicule.
Among other things, Apple’s maps misplaced landmarks, overlooked towns and sometimes got people horribly lost. In a particularly egregious example flagged this week, Australian police derided Apple’s maps as “life-threatening” because the system was steering people looking for the city of Mildura into a sweltering, remote desert 71km from the desired destination.
Google Inc, in contrast, is hailing its new iPhone app as a major improvement from the one evicted by Apple.
“We started from scratch,” said Daniel Graf, mobile director of Google Maps.
Google engineers started working on the new app before Apple’s Sept. 19 ouster, Graf said, though he declined to be more specific.
The additional tools in the free iPhone mapping app include turn-by-turn directions. Google’s new iPhone mapping app will also offer its street-level photography of local neighborhoods for the first time on Apple’s mobile operating system, as well as 3D views, public transit directions and listings for more than 80 million businesses.
The iPhone app still lacks some of the mapping features available on Android-powered phones, such as directions in malls and other buildings.
There still is no Google mapping app for Apple’s top-selling tablet computer, the iPad, but the company plans to make one eventually. Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, declined to say when it hopes to release an iPad mapping app. For now, iPad owners can use the maps in an iPhone mode. That will not be the best experience, but it still may be better than Apple’s maps on the iPad.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment about Google’s new apps, but it approved the technology before its release.
Graf said Google is not hoping to make Apple look bad with its new mapping app.
“On maps, we have a friendly relationship,” he said.