For many people, smartphone shopping comes down to a choice of Apple's iPhone or one powered by Google's Android software.
But now consumers can get an iPhone and fill it with Google.
has become one of the most prolific and popular developers of apps for
the iPhone, in effect helping its competitor make more appealing
products - even as relations between the companies have deteriorated.
some of its Internet services were built into the iPhone from the
start, Google has stepped up its presence in the last eight months,
pumping out major new iPhone apps or improving old ones. It also has
expanded efforts to hire developers to make more such apps.
app Google released in December has been the most downloaded program
for the iPhone for much of the last month. The company has cranked out a
YouTube app, an iPhone version of its Chrome Web browser and better
software for gaining access to its Gmail service. Two dozen iPhone apps
from Google are available on Apple's App Store, with variations for the
Google's strategy may look self-defeating at first. But
analysts and technology executives say it is simply acknowledging the
obvious: that there is an enormous market of avid iPhone users it wants
to reach, an audience that is a target for ads and that can yield a
bonanza of data that will allow Google to improve the online products
that produce much of its profits.
Google's support for the iPhone
also looks like a win for Apple, which, after all, makes money when it
sells an iPhone that is used to gain access to Google services.
potential risks lie in Google's growing presence on Apple's devices,
especially when it comes to apps that replace basic functions like Web
browsing, maps and e-mail.
IPhone users who spend much of their
time in Google apps could deprive Apple of valuable data it needs to
improve its own online services like maps. And those apps could help
Google build a deeper connection with users that makes them more likely
to switch entirely to Android smartphones later.
"The best way to
recruit users to those devices is to get them using the services," said
Chris Silva, a mobile analyst at Altimeter Group, a tech industry
research business. "Find them where they are, get them using the
services and ramp them up so when they have devices equivalent to the
iPhone, they are already in the market."
Stephen Stetelman, a real
estate agent in Hattiesburg, Miss., is a prime example of an iPhone
user whose loyalties are divided between Apple and Google. The first
thing Mr. Stetelman, 25, said he did when he got a new iPhone two weeks
ago was to download all of Google's major apps, including Gmail, Chrome
and Google Maps - all of which he said he considered better than the
comparable Apple apps that came with the phone.
"It's a little
ironic," Mr. Stetelman said. "But I think honestly the grace of Apple is
in their design and in their hardware. As far as online services and
applications and stuff, I think Google is still top of the line."
like Mr. Stetelman make executives at Apple nervous. Early in the
iPhone era, Steven P. Jobs, the company's former chief executive, who
died in October 2011, did not want Apple to approve any apps for the
device that replaced its core functions, one former senior Apple
Apple executives have long believed that they would
need to build up many of the same services that Google offers to
compete long-term in the mobile market, according to this person, who
did not want to be named to avoid jeopardizing relationships.
under scrutiny from federal regulators, Apple softened its stance and
began allowing apps for the iPhone, like Web browsers, that competed
with important built-in apps.
Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment for this article.
has moved to reduce the presence of Google services in apps that come
installed on its phones. Last year it removed the YouTube app - one that
Apple created for the earliest iPhones so they would have access to
YouTube videos. It also stopped using Google data to power its mapping
Instead, Apple began using its own maps service,
which has been widely criticized for mistakes, including misplaced
landmarks and inaccurate addresses. Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief
executive, issued a rare apology last September for its maps product and
later shook up the company's management ranks, in part because of the
Apple's decision to stop including Google's services on
its devices forced Google to quickly ramp up its own software
development for Apple's mobile operating system, iOS.
had engineers devoted to iOS projects, it had to hire outsiders to help
quickly design a Google Maps app for the iPhone.
That app appears
to be a huge hit. Widely praised by technology reviewers, Google Maps
for the iPhone was downloaded more than 10 million times in the 48 hours
after its release last December, Jeff Huber, a Google senior vice
president, said in an online post at the time.
Other Google apps
are among the most commonly used on the iPhone. Last November there were
11.8 million unique users of a new Google-created YouTube app for the
iPhone in the United States, and 6.4 million users of its Google Search
app, placing them both in the top 20 list of iPhone apps with the
biggest audience, according to Nielsen.
In October, Google updated
its search application for the iPhone with voice capabilities that more
closely resembled those of Siri, the often-maligned virtual assistant
included in the iPhone.
Google also bolstered its efforts last
year to hire more iOS developers, many of whom might be unlikely to
consider working for the company because of its focus on promoting the
Android operating system on mobile devices.
Last July, Google
bought Sparrow, a Paris-based start-up that made a popular app for using
Gmail on the iPhone, and moved some of its engineers to Silicon Valley.
December, it began posting Web ads to recruit iOS developers, providing
a link to a Q.&A. on the subject with the headline, "Wait, Google
has iOS mobile apps teams?"
Chris Hulbert, a freelance programmer
who spent three months working for Google in Australia last year, wrote a
blog post in which he compared working on iOS apps there to "working
behind enemy lines."
Google said it had not changed its strategy on Apple devices, but rather was continuing to build apps for all devices.
goal is to make a simple, easy-to-use Google experience available to as
many people as possible," said Christopher Katsaros, a Google
spokesman. "We've developed apps for iOS for some time now, and we're
delighted to see the recent enthusiasm for them."
Google makes its money not from selling phones but from selling ads that
appear on those phones. So it cares less about which phone a consumer
uses and more about whether that consumer uses Google apps - and shares
data with Google and sees Google ads.
When a consumer uses Chrome
on the desktop at work, for instance, then opens the same tabs and
continues using Chrome on phones elsewhere, Google knows much more about
that consumer's behavior, including the consumer's location and the
searches. The company's hunger for such data has, of course, raised
Chetan Sharma, an independent mobile analyst,
says Google's focus on iOS should concern Apple. "It just pushes Apple
to up their game in software," he said. "They're kind of behind."
© 2012, The New York Times News Service