Google releases Latitude, software that helps users find each other on Google Maps for Mobile, for the iPhone and iPod Touch. However, the search engine's latest foray into mobile and wireless Web applications is greeted with criticism from bloggers who say as a Web app instead of a native iPhone app Latitude is less valuable. Others say the Web app is just plain poor.
July 23 proudly released Google Latitude
for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch gadgets as a Web application running in Apple's Safari browser,
but that isn't
good enough for some mobile road warriors who crave native applications.
Launched on Android, BlackBerry, Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile smartphones
in February, Google Latitude
is a Google Maps for Mobile
feature that lets users share their locations with their friends on a map.
Latitude is also integrated with Google Talk, so users can update their
status messages and profile photos, as well as call, SMS (Short Message
Service), send instant messages or e-mail each other within the program.
Curiously, Google didn't launch Latitude for the iPhone at that time, and
now it is becoming clearer why: corporate politics. The Latitude application is not a native iPhone program
and cannot run
in the background on the device independent of the Safari browser.
This means Google cannot provide continuous background location updates in
the same way it can for Latitude users on Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and
Window Mobile phones.
That's not for lack of trying; there is no mechanism for applications to run
in the background on iPhone, according to Mat Balez, Google Mobile Team product
manager, who said in a blog post:
"After we developed a Latitude application for
the iPhone, 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
Balez added that Google worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the
iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users.
So, users get a Web application that has not been truly blessed by Apple's
iPhone App Store even if Apple is okay with it.
Even so, Google claims the location is updated every time users launch the
application and then continuously updated while the application is running in
TechCrunch's MG Siegler questions
whether Google is kowtowing to
Apple with this approach. The question has relevancy given concerns over whether Google CEO Eric Schmidt's seat on
has unduly influenced either company in any way.
Balez added: "In the future, we will continue to work closely with
Apple to deliver useful applications-some of which will be native apps on the
iPhone, such as Earth and YouTube, and some of which will be Web apps, like
Gmail and Latitude."
The Google Latitude Web application supports iPhone/iPod Touch OS 3.0 or above
and is available in the United States,
and New Zealand.
iPhone users who want to try Google Latitude can type google.com/latitude into
their iPhone's Safari browser.
However, if early test results are any indication, Google Latitude for the
iPhone leaves loads to be desired. ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick said
Google Latitude is "just a dumb
list of your friends and their physical locations."
The short list of his complaints reads as follows: no status messages; no
places in Latitude; no granular control over location exposure; inefficient
location refreshing; no Web interface; and the inability to sort contacts by
Kirkpatrick recommends users try Brightkite instead. In the meantime, see
all of the coverage on TechMeme here.