Google Maps returns to the iPhone, iPod Touch

Google Maps app at the App Store. Apple

Google's popular Map app is returning to Apple's iPhones after a drama-filled break.

When Apple launched its new mobile operating system iOS 6, it dropped Google Maps in favor of its own mapping. Users complained of missing landmarks, wrong directions and the lack of public transportation directions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to customers a week later and said the company was working to make Maps better. However, the senior vice president of iOS software Scott Forstall reportedly refused to join in Cook's apology and stepped down.

Rumors then circulated over whether or not Google Maps would return to the iPhone.

But on Wednesday, the search giant released Google Maps for iPhones. The app is built by Google, not Apple, so it has a different look and feel than the previous version of Google Maps.

"We started from scratch," said Daniel Graf, mobile director of Google Maps. Google engineers started working on the new app before the company's Sept. 19 ouster from the operating system, Graf said, though he declined to be more specific.

Google Maps comes with voice guided turn-by-turn directions -- a feature that is thought to be at the heart of the conflict between Apple and Google.

According to AllThingsD, "multiple sources familiar with Apple" say that Apple's hand was forced because it wanted the feature, which is already available in Google Maps for Android mobile phones. But the sources posit that Google didn't want to give a competitor its precious data, having invested tremendous resources into bringing the feature to its own Android system.

There still isn't a Google mapping app for Apple's top-selling tablet computer, the iPad, but the company plans to make one eventually. Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., declined to say when it hopes to release an iPad mapping app. For now, iPad owners can use the maps in an iPhone mode. That won't be the best experience, but it still may be better than Apple's maps on the iPad.

Google Maps is available at the App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and is compatible with iOS 5.1 and higher.

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