Why six of my top 10 iOS apps were for Google services

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: December 26, 2012

After countless requests, I composed two lists over the holidays, one for my top 10 Android apps and, likewise, a list of my top 10 iOS apps. These lists are always changing as I find new applications throughout the year, so I figured a list for each platform at the end of December would be a nice addition to the end of the year.

Creating the list of my top 10 Android apps was remarkably easy. There have been countless additions to Google Play in 2012, but choosing the best apps was easy work.

For iOS, narrowing the list down to 10 was difficult. It always is. There are always so many great apps and games that I want to squeeze in the top 10. But, at the end of the day, many of the best iOS apps around are discarded for better ones, ones that I use more on a daily and weekly basis.

In this list, which went live yesterday afternoon, six applications were for Google services. Four of those six were created my Google. In order – from first to last – my top 10 iOS apps are: Tweetbot, Chrome, Google Maps, Pocket, Reeder, 645 Pro/Camera+, iA Writer, Gmail, Google Search and Verbs. Chrome, Google Maps, Google Search and Gmail are all developed by Google. Reeder is an RSS reader that I use for my Google Reader, and Verbs is specifically a Google Talk client.

Just minutes after I published the list, I received several Twitter mentions and comments stating exactly what I explained. Six of my top 10 iOS apps are closely tied to Google services.

This was not an accident. Four of Google's own applications did not just stumble their way onto my list. And the other two earned their way into my top 10, too. My list was carefully created, composed after a few days of rearranging applications and making mental notes of what apps I use the most, what apps I enjoy using the most. The fact that six applications that are used for Google services made it into my top 10 was meant to drive home a point I have made several times now: iOS is stale, aging and needs an update to bring it up to speed.

With the exception of an RSS reader, there is an iOS alternative to each and every one of the Google services I use. Google Talk, or in this case Verbs, could be replaced with iMessage. Google Search (the app, not the service itself) could be replaced with Siri. The stock Mail.app supports push Gmail sufficiently. Apple replaced the Google Maps service with its in-house mapping in the stock Maps.app in iOS 6, which now supports free turn-by-turn navigation. And Safari is arguably better than Chrome in rendering, load times, etc. It even goes totally full-screen, whereas Chrome definitely does not.

With the exception of Reeder, I could replace all my Google-made apps and third-party apps for Google services with stock iOS apps or native iOS features. I could, and it wouldn't be a terrible transition.

I used the Mail.app exclusively until the latest Gmail update landed earlier this month. It wasn't nearly as robust as the Gmail app, but it worked quite well. Many of my colleagues use Messages on OS X or iMessage on iOS and Messages supports Google Talk, so replacing Verbs with iMessage would be a fairly simple transition, too. And Siri is definitely much easier to access than Google Search – you can ask a question without ever leaving the current application.

But there is a simple reason I choose these apps, why I chose six of them as part of my top 10.

Google has very nearly come full circle in 2012. In all its web services, Android design language and virtually all UX, Google has redesigned, streamlined and improved. The services and apps are chock-full of features that used to be exclusive to Web clients, features that aren't available in many third-party clients.

For example, I cannot set an auto response for my Gmail account from the Mail.app. I can from the Gmail app quite easily. And the search function is fathoms better than the stock Mail.app search utility. Google Maps has Street View, which is an irreplaceable feature of navigation, especially in unfamiliar territory, such as Manhattan. And I use Chrome on my MacBook and all my Android devices. I don't use Safari at all on the MacBook. So on iOS, Chrome is my best option, since I can view all open tabs from any device. Performance in Chrome for iOS is noticeably worse than the few alternatives and even Safari. But the tab and bookmark sync are irreplaceable.

All of that said, it's no coincidence that Google's apps are so great on iOS. Back in March, a story spread around the Web claiming Google made four times more money from iOS than from Android. That figure, I'm sure, has changed since Apple no longer licenses Google Maps for the stock Maps.app. However, Siri still queues Google in web searches and Google is still the default search engine (it can be changed to Bing or Yahoo!) in Safari.

A great chunk of change is made by Google from iOS. And it's finally starting to come around. Google's iOS apps are a pleasure to use. The Google Maps app, for example, is even easier and more fun to use than its Android counterpart. The iOS Gmail app is designed better and runs smoother than the native Android Gmail client (though it lacks some vital functions).

I use Google's apps not only because I'm heavily invested in Google Apps and services, but also because the search giant has turned up the heat and is outclassing Apple in software on its own platform.

Do you use a lot of Google apps on your iPhone? What about third-party apps for Google services, such as Reeder and Verbs? Or do you find yourself using the native iOS apps or other third-party apps, like Sparrow for email (which is also, ironically, owned by Google) or Dolphin Browser?

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