Google (s goog) just updated its Google Shopper app for the iPhone (s aapl) with the addition of Google Offers purchasing and subscriptions, which allows users in some specific U.S. cities to browse for local deals a la Groupon (s grpn), then also buy them directly from the app, something that wasn’t possible in the previous version. The free app is just the latest recipient of a string of updates from Google aimed at bringing feature parity (or more) to iOS versions of many of its mobile products.
In the old version, users had to purchase their offers via other means, then could redeem and track them via the Google Shopper app. Now you can buy the offers directly, and also subscribe to offers for specific locations right from an iPhone. The purchases you make bypass Apple’s in-app purchase system entirely, and instead use Google Checkout to complete the transaction via an in-app browser interface.
But the Shopper update is just one of three major recent Google software changes that bring features previously only available on Android devices to the iPhone and iPad. Just Monday, for instance, Google+ got an update that brought improved notifications, full resolution photo uploading, and search function. And late last month, the Google Search iPad app got a considerable overhaul, which introduced slick built-in quick-access interfaces for Google Apps, making it almost like a limited version of Chrome OS within an app.
Google’s doing a good job right now of making sure its experiences reach as broad an audience as possible, but which experiences, specifically? Google+, its fledgling social network, is a major play to win back some of the ground it has already given up to Facebook in terms of being a destination on the web. In order to succeed at its goal of amassing as many users as possible, Google is aware that it has to reach mobile users on the platform where they live, even if that’s not its own.
Google Shopper, especially now with its local offers, is likewise a product that benefits Google most by being in front of as many eyes as possible. It’s purely about advertising reach and selling to groups, so it makes sense that Google would want to count iOS users among potential customers.
With the Google Search app for iPad update, the goal is once again to make sure as many people as possible are using its search products and apps like Docs, all of which help drive traffic to its primary properties and therefore, encourage ad revenue, too.
In short, Google’s improvements to its iOS business are strictly self-interested, which means users hoping to gain some of the more useful elements of Google services on Android devices will likely ultimately be disappointed. Don’t expect turn-by-turn navigation in Maps, for instance, or an official Google Music native player; these are things that remain valuable as competitive advantages for Android devices, rather than as standalone efforts to be promoted in and of themselves.