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Google Out-Innovates Apple On iPhone Apps

Motivated by more than 100 million iOS users, Google is developing better iPhone apps.

5 Apple iPad 5 Wishes
5 Apple iPad 5 Wishes
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Google recently released a new tool that lets iOS developers embed Google's Chrome browser within their iPhone applications. The idea is to keep iPhone users in the app instead of sending them to Safari when they do things like clicking on a Web link. As long as Google's Chrome browser is installed on that particular device, the iPhone user will have a more seamless experience in apps that take advantage of this new tool.

This is just the latest in a string of things Google has done to make Apple's iPhone a better device.

Earlier this week, Google provided a significant upgrade to the Gmail application for iOS. Similar to the tool mentioned above, the new features in Gmail let iPhone users go from the Google Gmail app to Google's Chrome, YouTube, or Maps applications rather than Apple's native browser, video app, or mapping products.

[ iOS is winning the mobile Web race -- but will it hold its lead? Read iOS Boosts Web Traffic, U.S. Market Share. ]

Chrome for iOS, Google Maps for iOS, and YouTube for iOS are all excellent stand-alone apps that in some ways surpass those included on iOS devices from Apple. Chrome may still be limited by Apple's rendering engine, but its account syncing tools (desktop-to-mobile) are quite good. Google Maps outclasses Apple Maps in terms of ease of use, accuracy and features such as live traffic (although Apple Maps is still better at 3D flyovers in select cities). Google's separate YouTube app, which it re-released in late 2012 after Apple kicked it off the iPhone, was an improvement over the app it offered a year ago.

In other words, Google is making it easier -- and more appealing -- to keep iPhone users embedded within the Google experience even though they are using Apple's smartphone. Why is it doing this?

Google and Apple are clearly "frenemies" in that they rely on each other for some things but compete in others. Google's Android operating system launched 16 months after Apple's iOS did, but it eventually overtook iOS to become the dominant smartphone platform in the world. Apple has been fighting Google, both in the courtroom and out, to regain market share and take back its smartphone crown. Apple actively rid the iPhone of Google's services, only to eventually let them back in through the App Store after users complained about the Apple-only experience.

Why should Google care that iPhone users stick with Google's services? Probably because there are more than 100 million iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users out there. Google is an advertising company, and it can't ignore that many eyeballs.

Apple and Google may be competitors, but Google knows that many iPhone users are affluent and more apt to spend money on items they see advertised on their iPhones or iPads. For that reason alone, Google will always cater to the iPhone crowd.

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