updated 09:41 pm EDT, Wed September 26, 2012
Those on iOS 6 can use Google Maps as web app with ease
While users wait for cartological improvements in Apple's new Maps service, they can still use all -- and then some -- of the functionality of the "old" Google-based Maps app by simply employing an iOS technology: visit the Google Maps website and add it as a "web app" to the home screen. David Pogue, a columnist for The New York Times, reports that Google plans to add Street View technology in two weeks' time. Apple has issued a statement noting that its own Maps is a first release and that it will improve, but is also scrambling to correct outdated maps and other errors.
Initial reports that Apple threw Google Maps overboard in a rush to get its own Maps application onto iOS 6 appear to be inaccurate, or at least incomplete. Numerous reports have emerged that Google refused to add turn-by-turn navigation to Apple's original Maps application without wider access to user data, more branding, the introduction of ads and other services.
Negotiations between the companies are said to have broken mostly over the refusal by Google to add turn-by-turn to Apple's original Maps app, possibly forcing the company to run with its own Maps app before it had originally planned to, as the year remaining on Google's contract would indicate.
Making a web app out of Google Maps will, ironically, give users (particularly of iOS 6) more features than were present in the original Maps app. Recent additions to Google Maps on the web include new biking directions (currently in beta), more updated maps and geographic data, updated business locations and some features borrowed from Google Earth. The addition of Street View to the web app, along with the still-available Google+ Local iOS app that has the full database of business listings, should address all but the lack of spoken-word directions from Google (a feature the company has withheld from both iOS users and web browsers as an exclusive for Android).
Apple's own Maps app offers free spoken turn-by-turn directions and integration with Siri, but has been lambasted in the press and by users, particularly those outside major metropolitan centers, for issues with the map data, incomplete or outdated listings. In places where the map data is more complete -- notably including much of China -- the app has won praise for its cleaner and more scaleable vector map design, easier-to-read labels, integration with Siri and the elegant (though somewhat less functional than Street View) Flyover feature, which is currently only available in limited areas.
MacNN has learned that Google does, in fact, have an updated Google Maps application in testing that is compatible with iOS 6. Whether the app has actually been submitted to Apple for approval has not been confirmed, and statements by Google's Eric Schmidt on the matter are open to interpretation. The latest predictions have it becoming available later this year.