Friday, December 14, 2012

Google Maps returns to iOS, features new SDK

Google Maps is back on the iPhone and in the iOS App Store, as the company trumpeted in a blog post late Wednesday. To be clear, end users shouldn't give any props to Apple, though; it was the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's idea to boot Google Maps of out iOS in the first place, replacing it with their own home-grown and half-baked app.

Internet Security
That Apple Maps app received not just user criticism, but has been called dangerous by the Irish Minister of Justice, as well as the Australian police.

Things became so bad that Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to issue an open apology, recommend alternative map apps, and lopped off at least two people involved in the fiasco.

Apple is surely nonplussed now. The new version of the app, which is optimized for the iPhone 5, but not the iPad -- yet -- includes turn-by-turn navigation, something that hadn't been in the app previously, the lack of which reportedly prompted Apple's decision.

Another new feature in Google Maps for iOS: Google released a new SDK that will allow developers to use its mapping service within their own apps. To make a long story short, developers can use Google Maps instead of Apple Maps in their software. We're sure Apple is grimacing right about now.

With a so-called "URL Schema," developers can link URLs to Google Maps instead of Apple Maps easily; if users don't have Google Maps installed, they wil lbe directed to the App Store. A full API for third-party developers allows them to integrate Google Maps fully into their app instead of using Apple Maps.

With the new app, and a new design, come some features users will need to discover. For example, a shake brings up an option to send a report to Google detailing a map or app bug. A two-finger swipe to the left brings up a menu where users can toggle traffic and satellite view.

User ratings show that Google has hit a home run with the new app, built from scratch. By early Thursday morning, PST, it had nearly 9,000 ratings with 4.5 stars. One of them, by Reed Morse, emphasized the issue with Apple Maps in Australia that had police warning against its use:
I almost died in Australia, thank god this is out.
As is typical of a new high-profile app release, Google has also posted a demo video of Google Maps for iPhone. It is embedded below.



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