What a journey for both Apple and Google regarding Maps on iOS. The companies started out as buddies back with the original iPhone in 2007, but five years later they are fierce competitors. Google Maps have been a stock resource on iOS devices since 2007, but Apple decided to go separate ways, and developed their own Maps app as part of iOS 6 complete with voice guided navigation, vector map tiles, 3D flyovers, and more. The previous Google Maps app hadn’t really changed since 2007, and it was relatively rudimentary with graphic map tiles, and list based navigation.
The companies split regarding maps for a number of reasons beginning with Apple wanting to cut Google’s influence on their stock iOS screens. Apple also wanted Google to provide voice guided navigation and vector tiles to the stock Maps app, but Google wanted some compromises by Apple. Google wanted to tie in more Google services to the iOS Maps app mainly around locations, as Google makes money by selling your location data to provide personalized/sponsored local search results. Apple didn’t want that, and this was the excuse they needed to create their own Maps app with voice guided navigation and vector tiles.
Apple launched their own Maps app in September with iOS 6, and it was disappointing enough for Tim Cook to apologize for. There’s no doubt that there’s a great design, but the map data and local search are the main problems, especially internationally. Yesterday, Google released the Google Maps app for iOS in the App Store complete with voice guided navigation and vector tiles on top of their existing map data, local search, and street view. There was so much back and forth between the companies, and all of their various decisions lead to problems for both. Apple had to make their own Maps app that wasn’t up to expectations, and Google lost out on being the stock Map resource for the hundreds of millions iOS users.
Both companies definitely lost a little, but iOS users come out as the obvious winners. Now, there are two full featured navigation apps for the platform that are completely free to use, and that’s not to mention all of the deluxe paid navigation apps. iOS users have the choice, and either way they get voice guided navigation and vector tiles, and there’s the map data and local search of Google as well as the smooth UI and 3D flyovers from Apple. If you have an iOS device, you can use one or the other, both, or another app, but the ultimate takeaway is that it’s your choice. With iOS 5, iOS users didn’t have access to either the full Apple or Google Maps with voice guided navigation and vector tiles, and now with iOS 6 they have both.