Apple & Google Maps Parted Ways Over Features, Voice, Control

| Analysis

Apple's decision to drop Google Maps in iOS 6 has been met with derision and criticism from many quarters, but a report from AllThingsD claimed that the decision was made because the two companies couldn't agree on certain features, including voice-control directions in iOS. The issue of who controlled what was also a source of rancor between the two companies.

Apple vs. Google

Exploring that more deeply, AllThingsD's sources paint a picture where the goals and priorities of both Apple and Google were directly in conflict.

1.) Apple powered its old iOS Maps app with Google data. Apple controlled the front end, including the branding, while Google controlled the data.

2.) Apple wanted to add voice-controlled turn-by-turn directions to its Maps app, but it needed Google's OK and data to do so. Google had spent years building up the databases that made this possible, and the company was keen on keeping voice-controlled turn-by-turn directions as a flagship feature of Android.

An unnamed source said, “There were a number of issues inflaming negotiations, but voice navigation was the biggest. Ultimately, it was a deal-breaker.”

3.) Much of that mobile user data—perhaps most of that data—had come from iOS users. iOS users represented a much larger percentage of Google's mobile mapping services user base than Apple's smartphone market share.

[Update: I received a note from a knowledgable source taking me to task for writing that mobile user data contributed to Google Maps. That source was correct, and I have edited the above point to reference mobile user data, which had been my intent.- Bryan]

4.) As John Paczkowski wrote, "[Apple] was now in a position where an arch-rival was calling the shots on functionality important to the iOS maps feature set."

5.) Google wanted branding inside of the Apple Maps app, which Apple declined. Google also wanted more say on which features were offered in the Maps app, which was also declined. Google wanted to add in Google Latitude specifically. Guess what? Apple declined to allow it.

With this backdrop, it's easy to understand that the two companies were effectively at an impasse. Apple wanted things Google wasn't willing to offer, while Google wanted things that Apple wasn't willing to offer. The two companies are bitter rivals in the smartphone market, and with mobile mapping such an important aspect of the smartphone experience, it was only a matter of when, not if, Apple and Google would find themselves at loggerheads.

As long as Google refused to allow voice-controlled turn-by-turn directions, iOS would be at a competitive disadvantage to Android, even though iOS customers were doing the heavy lifting in building up Google's mapping data.

As long as Apple refused to allow Google a say in what features got added to iOS Maps, it wasn't getting everything out of those iOS users that it could. iOS participation in Google Latitude, for example, would be a major boost in the popularity of that Google service. The value of branding inside iOS Maps is also enormous, if hard to quantify.

In the end, there is simply too much value in mobile maps for Apple to allow another company final say in what it can do, or for Google to allow its arch-rival total access to what it has spent so much to build without paying Google's price for that access.

The two companies had to go their own way on maps, and what's left to argue about is the timing. Many believe Apple Maps isn't ready for prime time, and it's possible that Apple should have taken the remaining year of its contract with Google to continue to build up its infrastructure before dumping Google Maps from its platform.

The reality, however, is that over time, this will be less of an issue for us, the end-user. Google and Apple going head-to-head over maps will end up giving all of us a better feature set and a better experience. This will be especially true if Google builds a standalone Google Maps app for iOS and Apple allows it on the App Store.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

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7 Comments Leave Your Own

nealg

This story sounds the closest to the truth of all the stories I have heard about the maps issue.

I still find it hard to believe that Google was caught totally by surprise by all of this. They should have been able to read the handwriting on the wall.

If it is true that iOS users add the most data to Google’s databases for maps, then not getting turn by turn was a dealbreaker for Apple. There will be some short term pain but hopefully, in the long term, it will be worth it for Apple users.

I personally don’t use maps a lot but with turn by turn, I would probably be using it more.  Can’t really look at the phone and drive at the same time.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Google’s perspective on this reminds me of one of my favorite Bill Clinton jokes. So they lose some traffic and revenue. What they gain in return is a hammer that all their licensees can use over Apple for at least the full iPhone 5 product cycle. And use it they will. No great loss for Google.

This is a strategic blunder for Apple. They could have and should have used the Safari model. Make it optional while it bakes.

Bryan Chaffin

Brad, I strongly disagree. This is a huge loss for Google. It’s massive, but will be lessened if they get into the App Store.

Google just lost 100 million of the most profitable users on the planet. Those 100 million are worth more than the next half a billion (or more) combined.

The proof in this pudding are Eric Schmidt’s comments about how Apple made a mistake and how it’s up to them and blah blah blah. It’s classic projection and a sour attempt at wish-fulfillment.

I will agree with you, however, that Apple should have let it bake longer. That it didn’t will end up being a short-term problem and Apple will still sell every iPhone 5 it can make.

mrmwebmax

+

From Apple’s perspective, does it make any sense allowing a Google Maps app in the App Store? From what I understand, the more that users use a map app, the better it gets. Thus, allowing a Google Maps app in the App Store runs Apple the risk of iOS users abandoning Apple’s Maps app in favor of Google’s, thus effectively killing any chance of Apple’s Maps app becoming a better product and making the entire exercise one of futility.

I can’t see how or why Apple would ever let Google’s map app into the App Store.

ctopher

Is it classic Apple taking the long view? Seeing that the puck was headed for the Google Goal they picked it up.

Taking their ball and going home seems petty, and people have been excoriating Apple for it since they replaced the Google Maps App. Many also believe this would never have happened under Mr. Jobs.

While I agree it seems spiteful for Apple to push Google out, I think they are taking the long view and spending some of that good will they have with customers in order to get to a better place. Also, I think Jobs would have backed the move given his distain for Android.

Now the argument goes that this place may be better for Apple and its hegemony but what about the customers? On the surface, this move seems to be counter to the goal of a superior experience. But I wonder what role the vector based graphics plays in all this.

The few good reviews of the Apple Maps App I’ve read suggest that the app is faster and draws more smoothly. Did Apple want to combine Google’s data with this vector based technology and Google decline? They would decline because they would have to share the crowd source data and we all know Google want’s all the data it can sell.

As a shareholder, I applaud this move on Apple’s part.

Simons

So… By “Google refused to allow it”, do you really mean that Apple refused to upgrade to the 2nd tier of licensing for Google Maps?

JC Davis

Apple is dissing its customer base.  Most users have used and liked Google maps and it worked flawlessly.  Now because Apple and Google have a tiff they can’t work out a business relationship that is at the benefit of Apple’s customer base.  Apple now seems to think they can dictate to the world what we will like an use and only Apple can reap the rewards.  They want to corner the market and they are about to find out that the world doesn’t like to be monopolized.  I am leaving the Apple base and going Android.  Won’t buy and iPhone and will be going to an google based pad to use their superiority in data management versus Apple.  When it starts cutting into the bottom line the Apple will begin to understand that the customer comes first.

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