It appears that Google has put the kybosh on this ‘update’. They have advised 9to5Google in a statement that
A web version has been available in the country “for years.” Nikkei was also incorrect about the launch of an iOS client on Apple’s App Store.
Visiting China can be a chore when it comes to accessing Google products after the company pulled out of operations back in 2010, but it seems there’s moves to bring back some functionality with a new China specific maps service now available.
The service is being delivered to users via a web site and iOS app only at this stage. With Google having no Play Store access in China it’s unlikely we’ll see an Android app delivered to locals in that manner any time soon – though other avenues, including a standalone download possible for the APK which can then be side-loaded.
The Google Maps service for China is not feature complete, with Nikkei reporting that users attempting to use the Google Maps navigation feature redirected to an app from AutoNavi, a division owned by Chinese company Alibaba Group Holding. It’s the AutoNavi app that appears to be providing a lot of the mapping data for the Google Maps Chinese service.
The Chinese government is quite restrictive when it comes to the collection of data related to maps, as well as to what information is stored and distributed.
During my trip to China last year for CES Asia, I found I could use a lot of services thanks to tunneling of data back to Australia through the mobile provider (Vodafone) I was using. China has since announced it would crack down on tunneling through mobile carriers in China, so that avenue may be closed down since I visited.
Competitor Apple currently operates in China, with access to over a billion potential customers – an attractive proposition for any company. Android is quite a prevalent entity within China with Oppo and Huawei stores all over the place, making Google’s return to China almost a necessity.
It’s an interesting move, but a welcome one, and one which will be played out over time to see exactly how in-depth Google wants to go in China.