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Google reportedly distributing near-final version of standalone iOS Maps app

Photo of alleged native iOS Google Maps app leaked in October. | Source: Ben Guild

It was reported on Thursday that Google is distributing a test version of a standalone iOS Maps app to people outside the company, suggesting an application to the App Store may be imminent.

According to a person familiar with the matter, a Google Maps-powered app may soon hit the iOS App Store as the internet search giant is almost finished tweaking the software for Apple devices, reports The Wall Street Journal.

"We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world," a Google spokesman said. "Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system."

Google's standalone app will reportedly feature turn-by-turn navigation, which was reportedly one of the main reasons Apple ditched the service in iOS 6. According to reports, which were later corroborated by CEO Tim Cook, Apple decided to move away from Google's service because of disagreements related to offering free turn-by-turn directions, a feature Google had long since included in its own Android operating system.

Apple replaced the first-party Google-powered Maps app in the latest iOS 6 with a new in-house proprietary solution. Using assets from recent mapping-related acquisitions, along with help from TomTom data, Apple's Maps app, with its Flyover 3D mapping tech, was one of the standout features of iOS 6 when the mobile operating system was highlighted at WWDC in June. Critics and consumers panned the new Maps app for lacking Google's massive dataset, as well as missing features like Street View. The issue was further compounded by incorrect data and quirks with the Flyover function.

The fallout from the system's debut prompted Cook to write a letter to customers, apologizing for the new mapping service's shortcomings.

Street View
Google's Street View as seen in mobile Safari.

Google has been working to re-establish its presence on iOS after its YouTube app was also deprecated from the platform, and has offered a number of free apps that return most of that functionality back to Apple's devices. Maps has been noticeably absent, however, though the company did activate Street View for web apps, meaning mobile Safari users can access the feature in-browser.

In October, photographs of an iOS device running Google's alleged standalone iOS Maps app were leaked to press, showing what appeared to be a near-final version of the software. It is unclear if and when Google will submit the app for approval.