In case you weren't around when a noisy chorus of iPhone fans made Twitter explode Wednesday night, you'll be pleased to hear that Google Maps is now available for Apple's iOS. Google has redesigned the app from the ground up, with a new interface "that makes what you're searching for faster and easier," says Google Maps director Daniel Graf in a blog post. Indeed, it's the same Google Maps users have known and loved for years, with some nifty new improvements: Voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, live traffic updates to (theoretically) make your commute easier, and public transit directions for more than 1 million transit stops.
Apple famously gave Google's app the boot in favor of an in-house mapping tool when it pulled the curtains off iOS 6 earlier this year, and in the process learned the hard way that building maps is no easy feat. Google's high standards require deep troves of geographic data and years upon years of user feedback to properly fine tune it.
So far, Google Maps is doing pretty well in the App Store: More than 1,300 people have given it a four-and-a-half-star rating and — no surprise here — it's already surged to the #1 spot. Users are elated, and even the most ardent critics are relieved.
"Not only was it questionable whether this would ever see the light of day, but I don't think anyone expected it to be available this soon," says Instapaper creator Marco Arment at his blog. "What this timing really shows is how much Google needs to be on iOS. They're primary in the business of reaching as many people as possible."
"Let me say loud: Hallelujah!" says Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic. "If you're like me, you've been waiting to upgrade until the mapping situation was worked out." Now it's time to take full advantage of iOS 6.
"Rumors swirled that Google would create an iPhone app of its own, one that would use its seven-year-old, far more polished database of the world," says David Pogue at the New York Times. "Today, Google Maps for the iPhone has arrived. It's free, fast, and fantastic."