Google Latitude, the iPhone, and Apple’s values

by Ian Rosenwach on 9.10.2009

I’ve just started using Google Latitude for iPhone more.  But there’s a problem I knew about but hadn’t experienced.

My friends who have Blackberries have their location constantly updated on the phone.  I have to actually navigate to the Latitude website in Safari for my location to be updated! This is because Apple does not allow 3rd party apps to run “in the background”, persistently on the iPhone.  iTunes of course runs great, which makes iTunes 1000x more useful and engaging. You can double-click on the home button on the iPhone and go to the next track on my iPod – while still using a different app.

Here are some snippets from Google’s blog post that tell you how Google felt about it:

We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.

READ: We wasted money on building a Latitude app

Google, like Apple, continues to push for improvements in web browser functionality. Now that iPhone 3.0 allows Safari to access location, building the Latitude web app was a natural next step. In the future, we will continue to work closely with Apple to deliver useful applications — some of which will be native apps on the iPhone, such as Earth and YouTube, and some of which will be web apps, like Gmail and Latitude.

READ: Apple better make up for this

Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based web apps as well), we’re not able to provide continuous background location updates in the same way that we can for Latitude users on Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Mobile. Nevertheless, your location is updated every time you fire up the app and then continuously updated while the app is running in the foreground.

READ: Apple is unfairly limiting 3rd party applications from running in the background. Other phones are more open.

So Microsoft bundles their own applications with their operating system.   Apple gives their own applications an advantage on the iPhone – are these two companies really that different?

Update 9/18 – Google has posted their FCC filing on the Google Voice rejection, and touch on Latitude as well. The filing states that the Latitude app was rejected by Apple because:

  1. Replaced the preloaded Google Maps app
  2. Could cause user confusion since the preloaded Maps version is Google Maps
  3. Offers new features not present on the preloaded version of Google Maps

Apple states they don’t want apps that could replace such functionality and confuse users. Maybe the question about why Google wouldn’t just build this into the Maps app is a good one?

  • Kevin

    Problem is, the Google Latitude app does not delete the Maps app like Apple implies, just like how the Google Voice app doesn’t delete the Phone app (Apple also implied that). I think Apple is trying to mislead the FCC, and if Google releases the rejection notice that they received from Apple, it’ll be game over.

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