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Google Tests iOS Map App

Google released a test version of its iOS map app to a number of guinea pigs outside the company, the Wall St. Journal reported this week. The search engine is putting the finishing touches on the app ahead of submitting it to approval to Apple’s iTunes app store. Yet those on older iPhones postponing their update to iOS 6 amidst widespread complaints of the dysfunctional Apple maps app will likely still be sticking to Luddism for the foreseeable future. Google sources told the Guardian the company is “not optimistic” Apple will approve the app, meaning you might have a better chance of seeing pigs fly around the moon than land the anticipated Google iOS map app on your iPhone.

Google’s expected map for iOS is said to include turn by turn navigation that will operate more similarly to a GPS device, a feature that wasn’t included on previous versions due to disagreements between Apple and Google. The app is also said to provide Google more revenue potential through ads from local businesses or tie-ins to other Google paid services.

“We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world,” a Google spokesman said. “Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system.”

Google maps had been the go-to maps app for the iPhone since the phone’s inception, yet Apple understood such an arrangement gave Google too much marketing power and decided to preinstall a version of their with the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 platform this spring. The trouble is the map sucked. Map detail was lacking in major US cities, while cities like London, Beijing and Tokyo were virtually blank. Location markers were misplaced. Several airports were miles off in the long location. The snafu was enough to prompt Apple’s CEO Tim Cook to issue an apology about the map release and fire iPhone software chief Scott Forstall who refused to apologize, though several analysts have hinted Forstall served as a scapegoat and Apple’s map issue points to bigger problems in the company.

Google Maps wasn’t the only Google product Apple removed from its iOS 6 platform. It also removed the YouTube app, which had been preinstalled on previous iOS platforms.

Google did release a YouTube app for iOS 6 and successfully got it approved at Apple’s app store. The catch is Google does not compete directly against Apple on its YouTube app, nor is Apple trying to win over users with an obviously inferior alternative as it does with its maps app. Apple will be probably be more likely to approve Google’s new map for iOS 6 if it can fix the problems in its own app first. The shakeup from Forstall’s firing points to the company searching for a solution, but who knows when its app will be dependable enough to take you to the airport and not the middle of a nowhere location several miles away.

Google has a right to be paranoid about approval prospects. Google’s sources pointed to the lack of an map app in the “Find maps for your iPhone” section of the App Store that uses Google’s APIs to work.

While its true that Steve Jobs never would have issued such an apology like Cook’s, it’s even more likely he never would have had to, as the problem probably wouldn’t have existed under Jobs, renowned for hammering out most of the kinks of Apple products before released. Even the much ballyhooed “Antennagate” was fixed with a simple Bumper protector, which the phone is really designed to have anyway. If Apple’s new “Mapgate” takes a bumper, you might need to call your insurance agent.

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