By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated November 17, 2012.
Google is readying a gift for users of iOS 6 devices. According to news reports, the technology giant is preparing to submit to Apple its Maps app for that new operating system.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Google has distributed a beta version to testers outside the company, and is putting on finishing touches. The paper cited "a person with direct knowledge of the matter."
This could set up the Battle of the Map Apps, as Google's popular application goes head to head with Apple's new, poorly received one. But acceptance on Apple's platform is not yet assured for Google. Apple-originated apps cannot be deleted, so Google's app would have to co-exist. Additionally, Apple is under no obligation to accept Google's offering into its App Store, and has been known to reject apps that compete with its own.
Apple's Maps Fiasco
When iOS 6 emerged in mid-September, Apple's Maps app replaced Google's, apparently part of the ongoing competition between the two giants. Apple had also replaced the native video player for Google's YouTube video site. Apple has claimed that it replaced Google Maps with its own because Google had been updating the version for its own mobile platform, Android, but not the one for iOS.
But Apple's Maps has received so many complaints and bad reviews that Apple CEO Tim Cook formally issued a rare apology to customers. In a letter posted on the Apple Web site in late September, he said that "we fell short" of the commitment to "make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers."
And, although it's not clear if it was related to the Maps fiasco, Apple iOS head Scott Forstall recently left Apple.
There have been many complaints about Apple Maps' accuracy, visual quality, and functions. For instance, there simply is no public transportation component currently for car, bus or pedestrian routes. Directions cannot be edited, so that, for instance, someone might get directions to a destination and, on the way there, decide to change transportation types midway by getting out of a car to walk.
Real World Accuracy
Other examples of missing or inadequate data: One blogger calculated that, compared with Google Maps, street view in Apple's Maps has been removed from 41 countries, traffic information from 24 countries, and transit information from 51 countries.
A graphic depiction of freeways in Oakland, Calif., shows some parts of the roads going vertically, and the location of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. is misidentified. Search functions in the app have also been criticized, in that even large search targets -- say, Canada -- are ending up with "no results found" until Wi-Fi was turned off, for some unknown reason.
The maps space is also heating up with another major effort, from Nokia. Earlier this week, the Finnish handset maker announced Here, a new brand that includes a mapping service for mobile devices using Windows 8, as its new phones are, as well as ones based on Android or iOS.
Here draws on the company's extensive experience and data related to maps, is being propagated to cars and handheld GPS devices, and will offer new functionality, such as real-time data overlays on street scenes when the app is used on Nokia phones.