This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
A report came out today, which claims that sources inside of Google are "not optimistic" that Apple will approve the submission of a Google Maps app into the iTunes App Store. But, we think the pessimism is extremely premature, and maybe beyond that this is actually a push by Google to avoid that exact fate.
Earlier today, The Guardian reported that an iOS version of the Google Maps app is in development and it should be ready to ship by the end of the year, which means the app has to be almost done if it could launch within the next 2 months. The report also says that the sources inside Google are "not optimistic" that the app will be approved by Apple, and that Google is proceeding as if such approval is "unlikely".
The quick rundown is that Apple had been using Google Maps as the baked-in maps app in iOS, and Apple still had a year left
on that deal, but chose to replace Google Maps with its own. Rumor has it that Google was withholding features like turn-by-turn and vector graphics from Apple in order to give Android an advantage, but that hasn't been confirmed. Either way, Apple moved to its own maps, which it had been building for the past few years
, and Apple's new Maps app was hit with a ton of bad press upon release, because of a number of problems. Since then, Scott Forstall who had been in charge of Apple's Maps project has left the company
, and users have been calling for Google to release its own Maps app into the iTunes App Store, and Apple has suggested users try alternatives
as the company works hard to fix the problems
Sentiment is split within Google as to whether or not Scott Forstall's departure would be a good or bad thing for Google's own maps app, but that Apple will undoubtedly "keep moving forward in an effort to make its obviously inferior product better". Apparently, Google insiders are also pointing to the iTunes App Store itself as proof that Apple won't approve a Google Maps app, because a new section in iTunes highlights alternative maps apps, but doesn't list apps which use Google Maps APIs and resources like Quick Route or Maps+.
Of course, the fact that these apps aren't listed also points out the flaw in the Google insider thinking: there are already maps app alternatives in the iTunes Store that are essentially 3rd party Google Maps apps, so how can anyone legitimately claim that Apple wouldn't approve an official Google Maps app? It makes no sense. As long as Google isn't using any of Apple's undocumented iOS APIs in the Google Maps app, there is no good reason why Apple would deny the app submission.
As we've mentioned before, Apple has already learned its lesson on this front with the Google Voice app, which Apple denied submission. The FCC opened up an investigation on the matter and essentially forced Apple to approve the app. Since then, Apple has never significantly delayed a Google app, even letting through a buggy Gmail app
. Apple has also opened up the App Store to browser alternatives and more.
And, that's the real trouble here. Just like some people still cling to the outdated notion that Android is a buggy mess, some people still use the idea that Apple will refuse an app submission as a scare tactic. The truth is that the bad press and geek rage alone will be enough to pressure Apple into approving a Google Maps app, if Apple drags its feet. Apple's own Maps app may not be great, but it still has the benefit of being baked-in to iOS, so any calls for directions or place searches will be directed to that maps app and not an alternative. Siri won't be able to work with anything but the Apple Maps app, so all alternatives are already at a disadvantage.
Apple doesn't really have any good reasons to deny a Google Maps app, and just like with alternative web browsers, Apple still has the advantage over alternative maps apps, because of how iOS works. So, if anything, this report and the thoughts of the Google insiders may just be nothing more than priming the media. Google needs us to be on the watch, because it's the media pressure that Apple would actually respond to. If it's behind the scenes, Apple might delay a Google Maps app, but if it's in the public eye, Apple has no valid reasons to hold it back. Google will surely let someone in the media know when the Google Maps app has been submitted, but we definitely don't expect there to be any delays, or impediments by Apple, but we'll be watching.