The iPhone-maker said in June that it was planning to drop a popular mapping application by arch-rival Google, and followed through on that threat with the launch of iOS 6, timed to coincide with the release of the hotly anticipated Phone 5. Sources within the company told AllThingsD this week that talks broke down between the two rivals after Google refused to include turn-by-turn voice navigation in their iPhone app, even though it is a premiere feature on state of the art Android phones.
Watching their largest competitor call the shots must have put a little too much pressure on Apple, which all but acknowledged Friday that they launched a half-baked mapping application in response. “As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps,” Cook wrote. “In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.”
While his letter promised that Apple’s “Maps” will get better the more people use it, he also bit the bullet and recommended some alternatives. “While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze,” Cook wrote, “or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.”
The timing of the apology could hardly be worse for Apple, too: With iPhone 5′s selling like hotcakes, their eager followers will just have to wait for Apple to make improvements, even as owners of the latest Google phones get features like compass mode on Google Streetview, which simulates perspective as if you’re actually standing on the ground in the place you’re searching for, and downloadable maps that can continue route navigation even while the phone is offline.
The chasm between both companies mapping applications has some industry watchers suggesting that Google Maps could emerge as a killer app and a key wedge between the rivals, who together own more than 80 percent of the growing global smartphone market. And while Apple was the first company to introduce a touchscreen phone with Internet capabilities, Google already has a wide lead in market share, with figures from the first quarter of 2012 showing Android pulling away from iOS at 59 percent of smartphone shipments versus Apple’s 23 percent.
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