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Google Maps return to iPhone with new mobile app

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Google Maps has found its way
back to the iPhone.

The world's most popular online mapping system
returned late Wednesday with the release of the Google Maps iPhone app. The
release comes nearly three months after Apple Inc. replaced Google Maps as the
device's built-in navigation system and inserted its own map software into the
latest version of its mobile operating system.

Apple's maps application
proved to be far inferior to Google's, turning what was supposed to be a setback
for Google into a vindication.

The product's shoddiness prompted Apple
CEO Tim Cook to issue a rare public apology and recommend that iPhone owners
consider using Google maps through a mobile Web browser or seek other
alternatives until his company could fix the problems. Cook also replaced Scott
Forstall, the executive in charge of Apple's mobile operating system, after the
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Among other things, Apple's maps misplaced landmarks, overlooked towns
and sometimes got people horribly lost. In one example brought to light this
week, Australian police derided Apple's maps as "life-threatening" because the
system steered people looking for the city of Mildura into a sweltering, remote
desert 44 miles from their desired destination.

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contrast, is hailing its new iPhone app as a major improvement from the one
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"We started from scratch," said Daniel Graf, mobile director
of Google Maps. Google engineers started working on the new app before Apple's
Sept. 19 ouster, Graf said, though he declined to be more specific.

Digital maps are key battleground in mobile computing because they get
used frequently on smartphones and can pinpoint a user's whereabouts. That
information is so prized by advertisers that they're willing to pay much higher
rates for marketing messages aimed at a prospective customer in a particular
location, said Greg Sterling, an analyst at Opus Research.

mapping app for the iPhone doesn't include ads, but that will likely change,
based on the steady stream of marketing flowing through the Google maps app on
Android phones.

The additional tools in the free iPhone app include
turn-by-turn directions. Google's previous refusal to include that popular
feature on the iPhone app -while making it available for smartphones running on
its own Android software- is believed to be 1 of the reasons Apple decided to
develop its own technology. The increasing friction between Google and Apple as
they jostle for leadership in the smartphone market also played a role in the
mapping switch.

Google's new iPhone mapping app also offers street-level
photography of local neighborhoods, as well as three-dimensional views, public
transit directions and listings for more than 80 million businesses around the
world. The app still lacks some of the mapping features available on
Android-powered phones, such as directions inside malls and other buildings.

All those improvements are positives for Apple too, Sterling
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"The irony is that Apple ended up getting a better
version of Google Maps on its system by booting it off," Sterling said. "At the
same time, you could argue that Google is making a triumphant return to cheering
crowds. So, in a way, everyone wins in this situation."

Investors didn't
see anything positive for Apple. The company's stock slid $9.31 to close at
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There still isn't a Google mapping app for Apple's
top-selling tablet computer, the iPad, but the company plans to make one
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release an iPad mapping app. For now, iPad owners can use the maps in an iPhone
mode. That won't be the best experience, but it still may be better than Apple's
offering on the iPad.

In an indication of iPhone owners' exasperation
with Apple's maps, Google's new alternative was already the top-ranking free app
in Apple's iTunes store early Thursday morning. By noon EDT, users had chimed in
with more than 10,000 reviews of the Google app. Nearly 90% of them gave Google
maps a five-star rating - the highest possible grade.

The return of
Google's map app may even encourage more iPhone owners to upgrade to Apple's
latest mobile software, iOS 6. Some people resisted the new version because they
didn't want to lose access to the old Google mapping application built into iOS
5 and earlier versions.

After initially omitting Google's new navigation
tool, Apple added the app to its list of maps for the iPhone late Thursday

Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., declined to
comment about Google's map app.

Graf said Google isn't hoping to make
Apple look bad with its new mapping app. "On maps, we have a friendly
relationship," he said.

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