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Google Maps app back on iPhones

Apple Inc. has returned popular online mapping system to iPhones after its own version failed to please customers.
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2012 08:35
Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook apologised in September to customers for errors in its new Maps service [Reuters]

Apple's iPhone has returned Google Maps, the world's most popular online mapping system, to its phones after its own navigation system failed to please customers.

Google Maps was returned late on Wednesday to the mobile telephones 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.

Google Inc. said its new iPhone app is a major improvement from Apple's mobile application.

"We started from scratch,'' said Daniel Graf, mobile director of Google Maps. Google engineers started working on the new app before Apple's September 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.

Apple Inc.'s navigation system was so coldly received by its users that some iPhone owners refused to upgrade to Apple's newest software, iOS 6, because they did not want to lose access to the old Google mapping application built into iOS 5 and earlier versions.

It 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.

"Life-threatening"

Among other things, Apple's maps misplaced landmarks, overlooked towns and sometimes got people horribly lost.

In one 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's previous refusal to include that popular feature on the iPhone app while making it available for smartphones running on its own Android software is believed to be one of the reasons Apple decided to develop its own technology.

The friction that has developed between Google and Apple as they jostle for leadership in the increasingly important smartphone market also played a role in the mapping switch.

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.

Google's new iPhone mapping app also will offer its street-level photography of local neighbourhoods for the first time on Apple's mobile operating system, as well as three dimensional 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 and there still is no Google mapping app for Apple's top-selling tablet computer, the iPad.

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