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Google Updates Maps For iPhone

New features include Google Contacts integration, search icons to find places and more.

 12 Best iPhone, iPad Apps Of 2012
12 Best iPhone, iPad Apps Of 2012
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Google Maps for iPhone has received its first significant update since the app was launched late last year.

Google Maps for iPhone 1.1 provides a way to integrate Google Contacts so that a search for a friend will identify the friend's home address -- if it's stored in your contacts -- on the map. Doing this allows the user to see transit options and travel times, to save or share the address and to open a Street View image of the location.

The initial version of Google Maps for iPhone, which despite its name also works on iPod touch and iPad, arrived in December 2012 after a three-month forced absence from Apple's iOS ecosystem.

[ Could legalizing unlocked smartphones benefit your business? Read What Unlocked Phones Mean For Businesses. ]

When the iPhone first launched, Apple and Google cooperated to put Google's map data into the Apple-made Maps app that shipped pre-installed on every device. But the relationship between the two companies soured as it became clear that Google would be competing directly against Apple through its Android mobile operating system. When Apple released iOS 6 in September 2012, it introduced a revised version of its Maps app that relied on map data from Apple and its partners instead of Google.

The result was poorly received due to map inaccuracies -- so much so that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology and two Apple executives lost their jobs. During Apple's Q1 2013 earnings call, Cook said that the company will keep making improvements to bring Maps up to its high standards. Apple appears to be still seeking software engineers to follow through on Cook's commitment.

Google Maps for iPhone, by contrast, has been warmly received. Though Google declined to provide updated download figures, SVP of commerce and local Jeff Huber previously revealed that the app was downloaded more than 10 million times during its first 48 hours of availability.

Google Maps for iPhone 1.1 brings the English version of the app to seven more countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE. It also provides the user with a choice of measurement systems: miles or kilometers.

Searching with the updated app may also be a bit more efficient in certain circumstances. Google has added several new search icons to its nearby places menu bar, which sits just below the search bar. This allows users to conduct local searches for things like cafes, restaurants, bars and gas stations with a single tap. Additional tap-to-search place icons can be revealed with an additional tap: post offices, hotels, grocery stores, pharmacies, movie theaters, malls, hospitals, ATMs and attractions.

Google declined to say whether it is working on a version of Google Maps specifically for the iPad. "Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device," a company spokeswoman said in an email. "We don't have any specific plans to share at this time."

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