iOS finally gets official Google Maps app

In case you missed it last night, Google's Maps app for iOS was released last night to a collective sigh of relief from iPhone users. You can grab it here on the iTunes Store—or, you know, straight from your device.

The app offers quite a few functional and aesthetic improvements over the old, Google-powered Maps app that came with iOS 5. Among those: turn-by-turn navigation, more straightforward switching between directions and search, the ability to tilt and rotate the map, and a way to switch quickly between lists of directions and the map view. (Details simply slide up from the bottom of the screen, and you can swipe from side to side to view alternate directions.) Street View is available, too. You can even use the built-in gyroscope to look around Street View scenes.

The app's new features and actually correct cartography should feel like a breath of fresh air. Somehow, though, I feel a little underwhelmed. There's something oddly clunky about the interface, and it's just not very fast. Heck, panning around the basic map view feels downright choppy compared to the Apple app. I guess I must simply have Stockholm syndrome.

So what about all those other iOS apps that rely on the Apple service to pull up mapping data? Well, along with the official Google Maps app for iOS, Google says it's released a development toolkit and a "URL scheme" so that developers can "use Google Maps when building their beautiful and innovative apps." I wonder how many app developers will switch. If Google has its way, though, iOS users may be able to avoid Apple Maps altogether unless they decide to launch it (or they use Siri). That's especially good news for Australians.

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