Apple beefs up smartphone services in a “silent war” against Google

Enlarge / Apple allegedly still holds a grudge against Google ever since co-founder Steve Jobs called its rival Android operating system a “stolen product.”

FT montage/Reuters

Apple is taking steps to separate its mobile operating system from features offered by Google parent Alphabet, making advances around maps, search, and advertising that have created a collision course between the Big Tech companies.

The two Silicon Valley giants have been rivals in the smartphone market since Google acquired and popularized the Android operating system in the 2000s.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs called Android “a stolen product” that mimicked Apple’s iOS mobile software, then declared “thermonuclear war” on Google, ousting the search company’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt from the Apple board of directors in 2009.

While the rivalry has been less noisy since then, two former Apple engineers said the iPhone maker has held a “grudge” against Google.

One of these people said Apple is still engaged in a “silent war” against its arch-rival. It is doing so by developing features that could allow the iPhone maker to further separate its products from services offered by Google. Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

The first front of this battle is mapping, which started in 2012 when Apple released Maps, displacing its rival Google as a pre-downloaded app.

The move was supposed to be a shining moment for Apple’s software prowess but the launch was so buggy—some bridges, for example, appeared deformed and sank into oceans—that chief executive Tim Cook said he was “extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers.”

Apple’s Maps has improved significantly in the past decade, however. Earlier this month it announced Business Connect, a feature that lets companies claim their digital location so they can interact with users, display photos, and offer promotions.

This is a direct challenge to Google Maps, which partners with recommendations platform Yelp to offer similar information and makes revenues from advertising and referral fees.

Business Connect goes further by taking advantage of Apple’s operating system to give iOS users unique features, such as seamless integration with Apple Pay or Business Chat, a text-based conversation tool for commerce.

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