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Saying that people missed Google Maps(s GOOG) on their iPhone(s AAPL) is an understatement. Google’s app was released Wednesday night and based on blog comments and many tweets, it was clear iOS users were happy and, most of all, simply relieved. And we know that it wasn’t just talk: just a little over eight hours since Google Maps was released, it had already risen to the top of Apple’s free iPhone app charts.
Exactly how many iPhone users downloaded the app is not clear — neither Google nor Apple has released any such statistics just yet. But zooming to the top of the free charts, bypassing mega-hits like YouTube, Angry Birds Star Wars and Snapchat, indicate a very large volume of downloads.
Its instant popularity is no big mystery. It was one thing for Apple to remove the very popular Google Maps as the default navigation app on iOS, but worse, Apple’s own Maps app was panned from the moment it arrived. While it included features like offline mode and voice-guided navigation, which Google’s app for iOS did not, it also lacked integrated public transportation directions and suffered from bad location data.
Google’s return is being especially well received because of the improvements the app makes over the previous iOS default app, including the addition of turn-by-turn navigation. But it is still missing a few things, such as offline mode and a dedicated iPad version.
Still, many users are relieved simply because they now have the option to revert to using a navigation app whose brand they know and trust not to lead them astray.