In another move in Google’s continued bid to dominate the entire internet — albeit with useful and occasionally innovative services — the search giant has officially launched Latitude for the iPhone.
Latitude allows users to locate and track each other, via their cell phones. Since its original launch back in February this year, it’s been rolled out on a number of mobile platforms, including Android, Blackberry, Nokia smartphones and Windows Mobile (allowing us all to find the one guy who actually uses a Windows Mobile handset).
The iPhone and iPod touch app, which launched today, is a web app which makes use of iPhone 3.0’s ability to use geo-location services from within Safari. Notably, Latitude’s initial launched sparked a wave of controversy surrounding privacy-related issues, an issue familiar to Google after recent issues in the UK regarding the rollout of Google Streetview clashing with data protection laws.
For now, Google claims that Latitude for iPhone and iPod touch is only available in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The plan is to add more countries to the service, down the line. It would seem on first glance that iPhone-users outside of Google’s initial launch territories are fresh out of luck, however, that may not be the case.
I’m based over in Finland, Nokia’s heartland and a country that is perhaps way down Google’s launch priority list for Latitude. I tested out the Latitude web app earlier today and discovered that it works perfectly, despite being in an unsupported country. It’s worth noting however that I signed up for Latitude while living in the UK and my Google account is UK-based.
Google notes that since the iPhone can’t run apps in the background, unlike several competing devices, the service will be updated as and when the web app is visited in Safari. In the official blog post, Matt Belez, Product Manager on the Google Mobile Team, noted that “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.”
Opening Safari and pinging Latitude with your location is a functional workaround, but I can’t help but think Apple should have been more accommodating to Google. Embedding Latitude within the native Maps app would have provided a richer and more streamlined experience, without duplicating functionality across the apps, such as Directions and Search.
Complaints aside, it’s a functional and potentially fun service. Users can access Latitude now by visiting google.com/latitude from their iPhone or iPod touch.