Apple's new Map app for iOS 6 is looking like a major dud, and now some users might be desperate for an alternative. Oddly, Google is now appears to be waffling about whether it will step up to the plate by providing a native iOS Google Maps app.
After Apple announced that Google would no longer be providing the built-in Maps app for iOS, word went around that the search giant would be repackaging its map service with a native app. The idea was that if Apple was going to roll their own Map app, Google would provide a competitor application through the Apple app store.
Now, that seems less certain. Many outlets, including TechCrunch and Search Engine Land, have received a cryptic statement from Google regarding a native map app for iOS. "We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world," reads the statement. "Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system."
Far from being a promise of better things to come, the statement provides no assurances that Google has any kind of iOS solution in the works. What's odd is that when Apple announced it would no longer support the built-in YouTube app, Google pushed out its own which has since become enormously popular.
Interestingly, Drew Olanoff at TechCrunch suggests that this might be a major power-play on Google's part. "Let consumers experience what a really bad map experience is like and let them get angry at their beloved Apple," he writes.
"Let Apple explain why their Map App isn't up to snuff yet, and that it takes time and talent to make something absolutely wonderful. Let the consumers ask Apple why they kicked the experience that they were used to for five years out of the phone completely." Olanoff goes on to suggest that Google should then swoop in with their own app, when iOS users are desperate and fed up.
However, it's possible that Google is playing another game entirely. The details of the split between the search giant and Apple are unclear; who instigated what and why might never be known publicly. However, as the UDID scandal revealed, there is big business in gathering information on mobile device users. It might be the Apple didn't want to share that information, or that Google wanted a better way to gather it that didn't jibe with Apple's vision. If we knew the companies' motivations, then this whole situation would be much, much clearer.
Whether Google will try to entice users to a native Google Maps app, or away from Apple and over to Android, is yet to be seen. Whatever the case, something is going on inside Google. A critical piece of iPhone functionality is deeply flawed, and Google holds the only fast, easy solution. This should be interesting.