Why Apple will not allow Google Maps app in the Appstore

By this point its pretty clear that Apple’s home grown maps application is an overall downgrade from the Google powered app that existed prior to iOS 6. It seems it gave us one benefit, free turn by turn navigation, at the expense of literally everything else - good satellite imagery, useful points of interest, general usability around the world, public transit, etc.

So what can we make of all this? I sense there are two sides to this saga. On the one hand, people want a separate Google Maps application to become available on the Appstore. On the other, some claim that the new Maps is fine, are willing to live with it, or directing naysayers to navigate to maps.google.com in Safari. There’s no right or wrong side, it’s personal preference.

Recently there have been rumors that Google is indeed attempting to bring their Maps application to the Apple Appstore. Unfortunately, even if true, I don’t believe we consumers will ever see it.

Let’s think about Apple’s thought process and decision making that brought us to this point. There was something about Google powering the iOS Maps application that dissatisfied Apple, evidenced by their decision to replace it with their own version. (The “we don’t know if it was Google who didn’t want to continue that relationship” argument is flawed. Google’s entire business strategy is based on having its services on as many platforms as possible to collect data and serve ads.)

One reason that has been floated around is Apple’s hatred of Android, but that seems petty and childish. A more realistic reason may be that Google was collecting huge amounts of user generated navigation and location data through the app, data that Apple did not like giving away for free. This data has enormous potential for accurate mapping, understanding human movement, human behavior, and many other applications that a company can use to their financial advantage. It isn’t much of a leap to see Apple wanting to have all iOS user generated location data for itself.

To accomplish this Apple decided to create its own mapping service. But after testing it they must have seen its shortcomings compared to Google’s app. So what were they going to do about it? They could either offer both, letting their customers pick which one they wanted, or they could eliminate Google maps from the equation altogether and force people to use their own application. They went with the second option.

Lets try to reason why they went that route. If they offered both Google’s and their own maps, people would probably have used Google’s offering more often than not, because it was better more often than not. If that were to happen, all that user generated location data would still be going to Google for free instead of going exclusively to Apple via their own application. They did not like this scenario.

So what does this all mean? It means that it doesn’t make sense for Apple to have come this far, offering their own Maps service (to satisfy their own agenda) while removing a superior Google product, then turn around and offer that exact competitor’s maps application in their own Appstore. They’ve used the “duplicating built in functionality” argument for rejecting apps from their Store before, and they can use it again.

This is a real loss for consumers. Apple’s actions are completely done for their own interest and not at all for their customers. I was ready to stand in line and buy an iPhone 5 tomorrow morning. Now, I’m not so sure. For everyone’s sake, I hope I’m wrong.