Google continues to work around Apple with new HTML5 Maps app

Google has updated their online HTML5 Maps web app for both Android and iOS. But wait, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch already have built in Google Maps, right? Well, they have built-in Maps apps that use Google data, but the apps themselves are made by Apple and Apple hasn't exactly been updating them at a brisk pace.

So, like they've done in the past for Gmail and YouTube, Google is using Apple's "second development platform" -- complete with location services and local storage cache -- to get their own versions of their apps onto iOS and into the hands of users.

Now, when you visit maps.google.com on your phone or tablet’s browser and opt-in to share your location, you can use many of the same Google Maps features you’re used to from the desktop. This will allow you to:

  • See your current location
  • Search for what’s nearby with suggest and auto complete
  • Have clickable icons of popular businesses and transit stations
  • Get driving, transit, biking, and walking directions
  • Turn on satellite, transit, traffic, biking, and other layers
  • View Place pages with photos, ratings, hours, and more
  • When signed into your Google account, access your starred locations and My Maps

It's a smart move by Google, especially if rumors of Apple working on their own, next-generation maps app pans out. Apple has already replaced both Skyhook and Google with their own location database, and Apple has bought a couple of their own map-related technology companies as well.

Google is arguably the best in the world at web apps and while Apple would prefer everyone buy their shiny boxes and use commodity apps and services, Google wants the box to be commodity and the services to be the real, ad-driven value. By going HTML5, Google gets to dictate the look-and-feel across platform, ensuring a Google experience.

And like with Gmail, they even offer to help you put a WebClip icon right on your home page so you can use the HTML5 Maps web app rather than the iOS Maps app with the tap for a finger.

[Google Mobile]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 23 comments. Add yours.

Jacky Chung says:

It's still slower than the native app.

(Copy of) Dev says:

Damn inpressive webapp, but I wish these two titans could just play nicely here. Google kicks Apple's ass in services, and Apple kicks Google's in front-end design.

Kingprince says:

Still like the built in iPhone Map app..can't wait until they upgrade it something even better!

OrionAntares#CB says:

When they replace it with Bing maps?

OMFGitsJustin says:

Google MUST make a Google Navigator app for iOS.
I could die a happy man.

OrionAntares#CB says:

Only way that happens is if they take full advantage of HTML5 since Apple would never approve a native app version. This google maps version is a good step but there's a lot more to HTML5 they could be leveraging to make it better.

benjimen says:

Great concept, extremely annoying to use though. That advertisement bar at the bottom takes a huge chunk of screen real estate and would alone prevent me from using this app.
Built in app is much more intuitive and useful...

OrionAntares#CB says:

What advertisement bar? I haven't seen any advertisement bar.

Sir Nerdalot says:

Totally underwhelmed compared to the native app. Street View is where? How do I drop a pin?

OrionAntares#CB says:

Well since the "pin" is something Apple added, it's not there. Instead you get access to "My Maps". By "Street View" do you mean Satellite view? I assume you do since you seemed to be comparing feature between the native and web app and the native app doesn't have Street view. As for satellite view, check the layer list, it's there.

Andrew says:

Actually, the native app does have street view. After dropping a pin, click on it, then click the orange icon to the left.

impaler says:

Not a bad start. Google makes it tough to go all-Apple.

villainx says:

My Maps access instantly makes it on par with whatever benefit Apple's built in Maps.

Greg Foster says:

it would be so sweet if they could somehow build in the voice navigation...

Caribou says:

I hate how YouTube sometimes opens in Safari. I ALWAYS want the native app to launch. :-/

mark says:

"they even offer to help you put a WebClip icon right on your home page…"
yeah. but do I have to be bugged about it EVERY time I visit the web app?? same goes for YouTube mobile. for god's sake, give us a "don't show this again" checkbox on the darned things.

RagedUSMC says:

Really good app, but a few things missing and a few things need fixing..and it would be a great app!

Jnjewlz says:

I'd be happy if they would make the location of calendar events a hyperlink into any navigation/mapping software.

SockRolid says:

"By going HTML5, Google gets to dictate the look-and-feel across platform, ensuring a Google experience."
Something that is totally impossible to do on droid. Too much hardware and software fragmentation.
That's why Google will be replacing droid with Chrome. Google execs have publicly stated that ChromeOS is the future, and "the only relevant platform." Chrome is Google's Plan B after the Oracle lawsuit kills off droid.

Android says:

Um, hate to burst your bubble, but this is total BS. Android and ChromeOS have completely different dev teams, Android is their touch optimized Os and Chrome is designed for traditional mouse/keyboard hardware. Most of Oracles claims have been thrown out. Google is aggressively taking steps to control fragmentation on Android and the only place it seems to be such a big problem is on Apple tech blogs/forums. Prominent developers have publically stated that it isn't an issue that would make them not want to develop for Android. The product lines are more likely to remain diverged than to combine.

Android says:

Having a differing opinion does not make me a troll. Some people are so quick to throw that term around simply because they hear something different than what they believe/think.
I honestly don't get all the Google hate, and don't understand why respecting each platform for its pros and cons is so hard for people - Android fan and Apple fan alike. Nowhere in my post did I bash Apple or its products. I merely mentioned that the problem of "fragmentation" is overblown and where it has been noted to be an issue, Google is taking steps to correct it.
Perhaps you should learn to have an open mind and not dismiss me as a "troll" simply because I happen to have a difference of opinion. I think both Android and Apple have its strengths and weaknesses, but overall having both platforms is good. Competition spurs innovation. Apple's platform is not for me but that doesn't mean I like to remain in the dark about what it develops and what it brings to the table.