Disgruntled iPhone users pining for the good old days of Google Maps have one small thing to celebrate today — Google Street View is back.
No, Google hasn’t released a Google Maps app for iOS 6 users, but the company has added Street View for mobile browsers. Today’s update for Google’s web-based mobile maps includes a Flash-free version of Street View that works in mobile web browsers, including Mobile Safari, which gives iOS users an easy way to access Street View.
The performance of Street View in Mobile Safari is not quite up to par with the native Google Maps app that Apple sacked, but, provided you have a decent network connection (3G worked just find in our testing), it works well.
To use the new Street View, point your mobile browser to maps.google.com and search for a location. Then click the familiar “pegman” icon at the bottom right of the screen to bring up Street View.
It remains to be seen if this is just a nice new feature for the mobile version of Google Maps, or the first step in a long-term strategy for Google Maps on non-Android devices. Will Google build out its web-based offerings, which work in any browser, and skip the native app on platforms it doesn’t control?
Google Maps in mobile browsers still lacks voice over turn-by-turn directions, but the difference between web and native Google Maps apps is fast disappearing. Mobile bandwidth keeps increasing and mobile devices keep getting more powerful. Couple that with emerging HTML APIs like WebRTC, which gives browsers better access to your mobile device, and a platform-native Google Maps app feels less and less necessary.