By Ian Bush

by technology editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The iPhone’s much-maligned Apple Maps app can take a backseat to Google’s version once again.

Google Maps has returned: it’s a free download in the app store.

Google got left behind in iOS 6 in favor of Apple’s built-from-the-ground-up Maps app. But Dieter Bohn, senior editor of The Verge, says it wasn’t ready for prime time:

“The data behind it is unreliable, so you had images of the Brooklyn Bridge melting into the ocean.”

A couple high-profile pink slips at Apple were thought to be because of the mess; CEO Tim Cook even apologized and noted alternatives to the app.

“Most have been relatively disappointing,” says Bohn, “simply because they didn’t have the time and the resources to build something as powerful and as native as what Google’s done here.”

Google Maps is only for iPhone for now — the search giant is still working on an iPad version.

“It does turn-by-turn navigation with spoken word,” Bohn says. “Google did a clever thing where it’ll still work if you don’t have the map open — it uses the standard iPhone notifications to tell you where your next turn is.”

And besides satellite and street view, traffic info, and walking directions, Google Maps includes SEPTA and other transit directions, which Apple’s effort did away with.

Bohn calls it the best-looking maps app he’s seen on any mobile phone.

“What’s impressive to me is just how fast it is, because it’s a native app with vector-based maps,” he says. “Everything is really speedy.”

Bohn says Apple Maps probably isn’t as bad as its reputation, but he thinks Google has the advantage in terms of a user trust factor.

But because Apple has integrated its Maps app into iOS 6, most of the apps on the iPhone won’t be able to interact directly with Google Maps.

“So if you tap on address, it’s still going to go to Apple’s maps application,” Bohn explains. “But Google is hoping to get developers to update their apps to link to their Google Maps application. And they’re also releasing a way — an SDK — for developers to build Google Maps into their application instead of using the standard Apple Maps. So it’ll be really interesting to see how many developers get on board and start using Google’s maps instead of Apple’s.”


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