iPhone 5 will see Google Maps app by end of year: report

Google Maps could be coming back to the iPhone a lot sooner than any of us thought. 

Apple employees hang an iPhone 5 sign at a store in San Francisco last week. Google Maps may be making a return to the iPhone sooner than expected, according to a new report.

The iPhone 5 was well-received by critics and consumers alike, with one major exception: Apple Maps, the in-house replacement for Google Maps, which had been a default app on the iPhone for years. Apple Maps, detractors argue, is a "flop," a "debacle," and just plain "ugly." 

One analyst summed up the problem thusly: "In the short term, Google has a better mapping application, and iPhone customers will suffer."

But maybe not for long. According to a new report in The New York Times, Google will release a new iOS 6 maps app, perhaps within the next couple of months, and almost certainly before the end of the year. The Times sources its article to "to people involved with the effort who declined to be named because of the nature of their work"; neither Apple nor Google has offered official comment. Still, this is one rumor that we buy. 

From the Times:

One reason that it will take Google some time to build the iPhone app: it expected the app with Google’s maps to remain on the iPhone for some time, based on the contract between the two companies, and was caught off guard when Apple decided to build a new application to replace the old one... There are several complicating factors to Google’s development of the app. Google’s contract with Apple to keep the maps app on the iPhone had more time remaining, and Google did not know that Apple had changed its mind until Apple said publicly in June that it would replace the app with its new maps app.

In other words, this whole thing got sprung on Google, which is now playing catch-up. That makes sense. It also stands to reason, of course, that by the time Google gets together a new mapping app for the iPhone and iPad, Apple will have corrected some of the flaws in its in-house application, including the lack of transit directions and the plethora of glitches (check out this Tumblr for a compendium). 

Another thing to consider: Apple is going to have to approve any Google Maps app before it appears on any Apple product again. John Paczkowski of All Things D says that talks between Google and Apple failed because of a spat over turn-by-turn directions – and that Apple eventually decided to go with its own in-house product. Would the companies reach an agreement this time around? 

Ask Eric Schmidt, the chair of Google. Speaking at an event in Tokyo this week, Schmidt said Apple would "have to approve [Google Maps]. It’s their choice." 

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