SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Maps returned to the iPhone Thursday, allowing users to replace a glitch-ridden Apple program panned for omitting key landmarks and sending people in wrong directions.
"People around the world have been asking for Google Maps on iPhone. Starting today, we're pleased to announce that Google Maps is here -- rolling out across the world in the Apple App Store," said Daniel Graf, director of Google Maps for mobile, in a blog post.
"It's designed from the ground up to combine the comprehensiveness and accuracy of Google Maps with an interface that makes finding what you're looking for faster and easier."
Graf said the new mapping app is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch using iOS 5.1 and higher, in more than 40 countries and 29 languages, including Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.
"It's a sharper looking, vector-based map that loads quickly and provides smooth tilting and rotating of 2-D and 3-D views," he said.
The maps disaster marred the image of a company that seemed to have the Midas touch for hugely successful new products like the iPhone and iPad.
Apple Inc. (IW 500/9) was forced to make a highly embarrassing apology in September for its own maps application in the new iOS 6 operating system used by the iPhone 5, and urged customers to use rival programs while improvements are made.
"Google Maps for iOS" was a top trend on Twitter, and users and analysts immediately welcomed the news, some with satire.
"Now Google Maps for iOS is back; we can finally find our way out of this asteroid field near Alderaan that totally appeared from nowhere," said one tweet.
Another said: "Just installed the new Google Maps for iOS and confirmed what I've suspected for days: this is definitely not my house."
Greg Sterling, an analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence who contributes to the "Search Engine Land" blog, said the new application "is better than Google Maps for Android because it has been built or rebuilt -- from the ground up -- and didn't grow by accretion."
But he added that "it's also not 100% satisfying" because it is not integrated with Siri, Apple's personal voice-assisted program, to allow a user to speak and obtain directions.
Apple had booted off Google Maps -- which had been the default program for Apple devices -- when it developed its own application for its smartphones.
Apple's maps program immediately drew scorn for showing melting bridges, misplaced landmarks and major cities disappearing.
In Australia, police recently warned motorists about using Apple Maps on the iPhone's latest operating system after rescuing several people left stranded in the wilderness, saying the errors could prove deadly.
Victoria state police said drivers were sent "off the beaten track" in recent weeks while attempting to get to the inland town of Mildura, being directed instead to the middle of a national park.
Although most maps programs including Google's and Apple's are free, they are seen as valuable in keeping mobile Internet users in a company's ecosystem, where they can perform search functions and be targeted with ads.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012