Google Restoring Access to Maps on Windows Phones

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Google said today that it is working to restore access to Google Maps on Windows Phone-based gadgets. The search giant blamed the blackout on a poor maps experience on Microsoft’s mobile platform.

The problem cropped up on Friday, when Windows Phone users trying to access the mobile Web-based version of Google Maps found themselves redirected to Google.com on their phones. PCMag’s Sascha Segan confirmed the problem on his own HTC 8X.

At the time, Google stayed mum, but the company said today that the redirect was necessary in order to provide the best experience on the mobile version of Internet Explorer.

“We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users,” Google said in a statement. “In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality.”

That’s because the mobile version of Google Maps is optimized for browsers running Webkit, which Microsoft does not use.

As a result, Google said that it “chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com.” That phrasing seemed to suggest that the redirect was in place for longer than the last day or two, and Google confirmed that it was, but did not have an exact date for when it was put in place.

Some media reports said that Google’s explanation didn’t add up because Firefox doesn’t use Webkit, but Google Maps was accessible on Mozilla’s mobile browser. Google said it does not offer a redirect on Firefox mobile because Mozilla’s browser “did offer a somewhat better user experience” than IE.

Google said today, however, that “recent improvements to IE mobile and Google Maps now deliver a better experience and we are currently working to remove the redirect. We will continue to test Google Maps compatibility with other mobile browsers to ensure the best possible experience for users.”

Google did not elaborate on what those recent improvements entailed.

There has been some bad blood between Microsoft and Google of late. Microsoft lashed out at Google this week, claiming the search giant refused to allow a “full featured” version of its YouTube app for Windows Phone. Thursday night, meanwhile, Redmond argued that the FTC’s recent antitrust deal with Google did not go far enough.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 10 p.m Eastern with additional comment from Google.

By Chloe Albanesius, PCMag


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