Google Latitude briefly appeared last week in the Japanese App Store, but disappeared just as quickly. As of early Dec. 13, it’s now available as a free download for all iPhone users. The official app lets you share your device’s location info with contacts of your choosing.
When Google Latitude initially launched in February 2009, it seemed a pretty ideal candidate for the iPhone platform, but Apple apparently didn’t agree. The Mac-maker originally blocked the release of a native app, citing possible user confusion about whether Latitude was actually the Maps app. So instead users got a Latitude web app, which can’t run in the background, limiting the appeal of Latitude’s functionality.
The new app does let you update your location info in the background, thanks to iOS 4′s multitasking abilities. It also lets you disable background updating, set your location manually, or hide your location from specific contacts, in case you’re engaged in some kind of elaborate spy games. You can also choose either metric or imperial units of measurement, and the type of map used to display your contact’s locations.
Latitude is the second official Google app to get a reassessment from Apple’s app review team. The first, Google Voice, was released in the App Store on Nov. 16, after a lengthy period in limbo while Apple “studied” it. Apple’s new stance regarding these apps might stem from its release of App Store review guidelines, but I’m willing to bet it has more to do with a sense that Apple needs to maintain close feature parity with Google’s Android operating system by offering as many Google services natively on the iPhone as it can. It’s hard to believe it’s just coincidence that Apple blocked both Latitude and Voice when it had little to no competition in the realm of app-enabled smartphones, but that now that Android is growing so quickly, there’s suddenly no issue with either app.
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