When the news first surfaced that Apple had been quietly developing its own mapping application to eventually give Google Maps the boot, many believed the reason was because of an expiring contract with Google. This may not be so: According to a new report released by The Verge on Wednesday, Apple may have had a full year left in its contract to use Google Maps before the Cupertino giant pulled the plug to introduce its own iOS Maps app.
Citing “two independent sources familiar with the matter,” Apple reportedly made the decision to give Google Maps the axe “sometime before Apple’s WWDC event in June,” in which the company introduced its all-new Maps app as a part of iOS 6, which finally released to the public last Wednesday.
Google wasn't happy to hear that Apple was abandoning its Maps application, so in a competitive move, Google decided to hold its own event on June 6 -- just five days before WWDC -- just to introduce its “Next Dimension of Google Maps.” But Google's announcement, while a prime example of chest-beating on display, did not undercut Apple's mapping plans at all; in fact, Google and its CEO Eric Schmidt have repeatedly said Google Maps would still be available on iOS, which gives those users a choice of their favorite Maps app.
Schmidt, while fielding questions from reporters in Japan on Tuesday evening, spoke on the tension between his company and Apple over their mapping solutions.
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“We think it would have been better if they had kept ours. But what do I know,” Google said. “What [are] we going to do, force them not to change their mind? It’s their call.”
Unfortunately, an official Google Maps app is reportedly still a ways off. After Google learned its Maps app was getting kicked from the iOS home screen, the company reportedly went into panic mode, and developers have still been hard at work to finish the incomplete Google Maps app for iOS. Sources say the application won’t be ready to ship for several months, since Google’s desire to use 3D imagery in its iOS app to compete with Apple is more complicated than it sounds. According to The New York Times, Google uses 3D image functionality in Google Earth, but since that application has a completely separate code base from Google Maps, it will take time to combine their codes.
Apple has admitted on several occasions that it’s Maps application is not nearly finished, but luckily for iOS users, while there is no dedicated application at this time, it is still possible to use Google Maps in iOS 6. All iOS users need to do is click on the Safari browser application and visit the Google Maps website (maps.google.com). Once you’ve arrived on the page, users will be prompted with a choice to let Safari and Google Maps use their current location, in which they will need to click “yes,” and after that, users can press the share button at the bottom center of the screen, and click the center option that features the Google Maps application logo, which reads, “Add to Home Screen.”
Once the user clicks that option, Google Maps will be restored on iOS 6. The only features missing in the new application are Street View and the old stylish animations for when a pin would drop on a location, but other than that, all of the old features from Google’s popular Maps app are still there. Users can find local businesses by searching any number of terms, and they can also view areas’ traffic, transit and cycling routes, as well as see 2D and 3D satellite views.
So while there is a new sheriff in town – Apple Maps can’t be deleted from the iOS home page – Google Maps is not dead by any sort of the imagination. Google will probably have its official Maps app ready within the next six months.
We may not understand why Apple felt the need to detach from Google Maps earlier than its contract stipulated, but in all likelihood, it was a result of the growing divide between the two companies. For quite awhile, Apple and Google had mutual respect for one another, and Steve Jobs had said on a number of occasions that Apple would never get into search as a sign of respect towards Google. But when Google launched its own smartphone operating system with Android – one that copied and directly competed with Apple’s revolutionary smartphone design – there was a deliberate shift in tone between the two companies. Friendly competition became serious.
Apple Maps wasn’t completely ready by the time it debuted last week, but it’s a great start for a maps application built from the carcasses of three separate companies acquired by Apple, including Placebace, Poly9 and C3 Technologies, which were purchased in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. Combining and folding in proprietary technology from three separate companies into one seamless application was not going to be a perfect effort, and while the application itself still has a number of kinks to figure out, there are a lot of features to love (Flyover, anyone?) and there’s plenty of room to grow. Google may have been booted from iOS prematurely, but at least it wasn’t a permanent ban; Street Views and Local Search will (hopefully) be back very soon.