Google Inc's mapping tool has returned to the iPhone, months after Apple's replaced it with a home-grown mapping service that prompted user complaints, a public apology from Apple's CEO and the firing of a top executive.
The free Google Maps app is now available in more than 40 countries, the company said in a blog post. (link.reuters.com/jek64t). Google's new app adds popular features - previously available only on Android devices - such as turn-by-turn navigation and birds-eye view of landscapes.
Apple launched its own service in early September, replacing popular Google Maps, which previously came pre-loaded in Apple devices, but the service contained embarrassing errors and drew fierce criticism.
The public uproar over the shortcomings led Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook to apologize to customers frustrated with glaring errors and, in an unusual move for the consumer giant, to direct them to rival services such as Google's browser-based Maps instead.
Google's new mapping service was the No. 1 downloaded app in Apple's app store on Thursday.
"People around the world have been asking for Google Maps on iPhone," Google's director of Maps, Daniel Graf, said in the blogpost.
Apple iPhone and iPad users around the world welcomed the move by Google. Many users, who had held back on updating the software on their Apple devices to iOS 6 due to the fear of losing Google Maps, downloaded the software to take advantage of the improved maps.
"Well, it looks like I can download iOS6 now! GoogleMaps returns to the iPhone in a stand alone app," @LorenzoKayo said on Twitter.
Apple's home-grown Maps feature - stitched together by acquiring mapping companies and data from many providers including Waze, Intermap, DigitalGlobe and Urban Mapping - was introduced with much fanfare in June by software chief Scott Forstall. He was later asked to leave the company for the mishandling of the mapping software.
With the new Google Maps, Apple device users can now access public transit information, live traffic and the popular street view feature.
Google said in June that there were 1 billion monthly active users of Google maps services and that the Street View cars have driven more than 5 million miles (8 million km) photographing streets all over the world.
Apple, meanwhile, is fixing the errors in its mapping software. Eddy Cue, a long-serving Apple executive who runs online products, has taken charge.
(Reporting by Poornima Gupta in San Francisco, Tej Sapru and Ankur Banerjee in Bangalore; Editing by Chris Gallagher, Dan Lalor and Steve Orlofsky)