Nov. 16, 2012 at 3:14 PM ET
The Wall Street Jounal reports that Google is nearly ready to submit its Maps app to Apple for approval on iOS devices. The new app would compete directly with Apple's poorly-received Maps. Though you can't delete Apple native apps, the Google version would likely replace it, at least in use, for millions of iPhone owners.
The newspaper cites "a person with direct knowledge of the matter," who also reported that the app has already been installed for some non-Google testers.
Don't hold your breath, though. This isn't the first time we've heard Google was nearly done with this particular app. Rumors of it began shortly after iOS 6 shipped and Apple's maps started to get blamed for poor directions and bad points of interest. Some reports, quickly denied by Google's Eric Schmidt, even suggested Google had already submitted a replacement app, having foreseen the situation.
More reliable sources suggested that Google was planning on putting out an iOS 6 maps app before the end of the year, which seemed more realistic at the time and seems to jibe with the current rumor.
iOS 6 did away with a previous version of Maps powered by Google — along with a native video player for Google's YouTube — in what many characterize as a growing rivalry with the search giant. But Google's own Android versions of those apps have been deemed superior for several years, because they incorporate more features and are updated more frequently.
An official Google maps app on iOS could spell trouble for Apple. The company apologized for the quality of iOS 6 Maps, but has not issued any substantial corrections or updates. In fact, the Apple executive in charge of it left the company, and Maps — along with Siri — are now under a new executive.
Nokia, which owns the map database superpower Navteq, has recently rebranded its maps service as "Here" and will support Android, iOS and the Windows Phone ecosystems (in fact, anything with a modern browser can use it). But it remains to be seen whether this relatively new competitor will steal any significant market share from its entrenched rivals.
If Google intends to have their app out by the end of the year, it will have to be submitted soon, as the approval process alone can take several weeks.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.