Nokia HERE Paves the Way for Google Maps for iOS


Maps 007

Today Nokia HERE hit the app store and from the comments (and my own quick look at the app), I’d say it’s okay. Not awesome, but passable. That’s not important though, not by a long-shot. It shows something that is even more important—Apple is okay with competition with Maps. And maybe, just maybe, this will reach into other core iOS apps too.

AppAdvice has this smart conclusion to their post about Nokia HERE and what it means for Google Maps for iOS, they hit the nail on the head:

By approving the app, Cook would prove that he isn’t afraid of the competition. It would also make some disgruntled customers very happy. And once again, it would show the world that he isn’t Jobs – for better or worse.

I’ve talked about whether or not Apple would quash Google Maps and if we’ll be seeing it anytime soon at length, so I won’t belabor the point here. The whole Maps debacle, I think, is one of the moments that will define the beginning of Tim Cook’s time at the helm of Apple. The app has gotten better (not having transit directions is a big gap for me), but I think we can all agree that Maps needed help at launch. It has been Tim Cook’s reaction to it that has been defining. He apologized for the problems. He had a special app store category created—and highlighted—in the App Store for alternatives. Now he’s made it clear that apps like Nokia HERE are okay—Nokia HERE or Google Maps for iOS.

Competition is good now at Apple. At least for some of its own apps

And as long it still can’t be set as the default app (natively).

However, this is a step in the right direction for Apple. The precedent has been set. Google could argue, if their app isn’t approved, that Nokia’s was (hello FTC investigation…) and there isn’t a reason a Google Maps app is any different (except we expect it to be better than HERE). Let’s look at the bigger picture. Apple is facing increased competition on the mobile front. Android’s openness is both a strength and a weakness, but it’s popular as well. Could we (finally) see changing default activities like browsing or maps or mail come in iOS 7?

Would that really be a bad thing for iOS and Apple? I think it’s safe to muse that Steve Jobs probably wouldn’t have agreed to the change, but Tim Cook might be more open to it. Why? Because I think Tim Cook doesn’t feel like Apple has to be perfect at everything. Maybe it’s fine to have the core apps that are solid, decent, but maybe aren’t the best of breed. Maybe other people can spend their time making a best of breed browser or app for email or maps app or even a music player. I might prefer Safari on my Mac, but I used Chrome exclusively before that (Firewho?) and I could switch back any time. That’s the strength of OS X—the best app can rise to the surface and not take anything away from the larger experience.

I think Tim Cook, and maybe even Jony Ive, is ready for that. Apple has brought iOS to a great place, but it’s matured and needs a kick in the pants to move to the next level. I think the next level is being able to choose our own default apps. I think mapping apps might be the first test of this.

And I don’t think we’ll have long to wait to find out.

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