I guess Google really is in a feisty mood tonight. After the Chrome Web Store, Chrome OS, some leaked Google +1 information, and a Google Groups re-launch, we’ve just gotten word that Google has launched an official Latitude app for the iPhone. But oddly, it’s only available right now in the Japanese version of the iTunes Store. But we suspect that will change shortly. (Update below: Looks like Google quickly pulled it before it got any farther.)
Back in May, Google told us that they were evaluating building a native iPhone app with the launch of iOS 4.0, which allowed for background location (a core feature of Latitude). Latitude has technically been available on the iPhone since July of 2009, but only as an HTML5 app, not a native experience. This hampered it for a number of reasons — the top one being that it could not run in the background.
Shortly after the web app launch, Google quietly clarified why it was a web app and not a native app: because Apple said so. In other words, Google was led to believe that Apple would reject their app if they tried to release a native one.
But that was in the middle of the Google Voice fiasco. Times have changed. For example, we now have a native Google Voice iPhone app.
If you happen to be in Japan, you can find the Latitude app here. The rest of the world should probably look for it shortly in the iTunes Store. After all, a number of third-party Latitude apps already exist worldwide. Plus, all the screenshots are in English — with most of the locations in the United States…
Oh, and the app description is also in English:
With Google Latitude, see where your friends are right now. Latitude lets you stay in touch with your friends and family by making it easy to share where you are and see each other on a map.
With Latitude, you can:
* See your friends on a map – find out who’s nearby and meet up.
* Share your location continuously with whomever you choose – help friends and family stay in touch with you, even when you can’t take out your phone.
* Control your privacy – share only city-level location, hide your location, or turn off background updating at any time.
Latitude lets you share your location in the background, even when the app is closed or your device screen is locked. Background updating requires an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 with iOS 4 or above.
You can also enjoy Latitude from your computer at google.com/latitude to see where your friends are or turn on optional apps such as Google Location History for a personal history dashboard.
Latitude has existed as a core part of Google’s Android operating system for a while. It will be interesting to see how it fares in the location wars now that it’s natively on the iPhone as well…
Update: And it looks like Google may have pulled the app for now. It was likely an accident that it went live in the first place. If they can figure out a way to more officially launch it in the next few days, my guess is we’ll see it then. Of course, this post may have changed things…