It’s been a week since Google released its first ever YouTube app for the iPhone and iPad. It’s now the top free app in iTunes and may be a harbinger of what will happen with the expected Google Maps app.
YouTube Loses Default Status
It may sound odd to some that YouTube is new to Apple’s iOS devices as an app, but that’s because it hasn’t needed to be until now. With iOS 6, which will be installed on the iPhone 5 and available as an upgrade for many older versions of the iPhone and iPad, YouTube is no longer a default application.
When news that YouTube was being dropped became clear in August, some saw it as a problem for Google. I, along with some others, figured it would be an opportunity. As I wrote back then:
It seems pretty likely that Google will release its own YouTube app when iOS 6 comes out. If so, that might actually benefit Google, rather than the dropping of Apple’s own YouTube app being a big casualty for Google, as I’ve seen some write.
Currently, Google has built up no audience with the YouTube app since that app is technically Apple’s YouTube app. Yes, being the default is nice. But you also don’t “own” that audience in the way you do with your own App Store-listed app.
Going forward, Google will start owning the YouTube app audience, assuming it releases its own YouTube app, as can be expected. When that happens, Apple can’t yank that audienceout from under Google’s feet again.
In addition, it’s extremely likely that YouTube will rise to be one of the most downloaded apps.
YouTube Gains New #1 Status
Will Google Maps Be Next?
That leads to Google Maps. Apple is shifting over to having the default Maps app be powered by its own data and that from partners. Google, the previous partner, is out.
The biggest drawback I found is the new Maps app. Apple has replaced Google Maps with a new maps app of its own. This app has one huge advantage over the iPhone version of Google Maps—it now offers free, voice-prompted, turn-by-turn navigation. Google had made this available on its Android phones, but not the iPhone. Apple’s navigation worked very well, with clear directions displayed as large green highway signs.
But the app is in other ways a step backward from the familiar Google app. For instance, while Apple’s maps feature a 3-D “Flyover” view of some central cities, they lack Google’s very useful ground-level photographic street views. And they also lack public-transit routing. Apple will instead link you to third-party transit apps. Also, while I found Apple’s maps accurate, they tend to default to a more zoomed-in view than Google’s, making them look emptier until you zoom out.
It’s unlikely that many iPhone lovers will abandon getting a new iPhone just because of the Maps app doesn’t seem as good as when it was powered by Google. Nor are existing iPhone and iPad users — who will get the new Maps as part of the iOS 6 upgrade — likely to rebel. That’s especially because they could shift to the Google Maps app.
There is no Google Maps app in iTunes yet, but it’s expected. Google has certainly been doing everything it can to pump up the idea it has great mapping data, including a special event all about its maps in June and opening up more about how much effort it puts into map building.
A Google Maps app probably won’t offer turn-by-turn GPS navigation, as happens with Android phones. That will likely remain an edge for Apple’s new Map app. But for those iOS users missing the old maps they’re used to for other things, such as local searches powered by Google, a Google Maps app will offer them an alternative.
If plenty really do prefer Google, we’ll know shortly. In about a week or two, Google Maps will either be a top app in the iTunes app store, as is YouTube now, or not.
Postscript: I’ve heard back from Google about its own app. The answer is no answer. It’s not saying. For more, see our follow-up story, As Google Maps Disappears In iOS 6, Google Remains Cagey About Releasing Its Own App
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