Google Maps returns to Windows Phone (does anyone care?)

google-maps-wpAfter a flurry of bad PR late last week, Google has apparently rethought its user-agent string blocking of Windows Phone devices to its Google Maps service, and users are now reporting that they’re able to access Google Maps (we can confirm that browsing to from our Windows Phone now works, where it didn’t earlier in the week).

What’s interesting about the whole mess is that it hasn’t been very clear when exactly Google actually began blocking Windows Phone user agent strings from accessing Google Maps in the first place, and it very well may be that the block has been in place for quite some time… and that nobody noticed until this week.

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land dug deep into the details of the story in a post on Saturday, and then updated it with some new findings:

In the end, the only thing that really seems to have changed is that a bunch of people who likely never went to Google Maps directly in their Windows Phone devices before just tried to for the first time and discovered the redirection, which probably was long-standing.

Next, things got magnified when The Verge reported on its own forum discussion with this lead:

  • Google Maps has never officially been supported on Windows Phone, but today many users have reportedly been cut off entirely. Frustrated owners report that trying to visit the web version of Google’s popular service results in them being redirected to the company’s main website.

Many users have been cut-off? Frustrated owners? Again, it really seems like a number of people who never used Google Maps directly from their Windows Phones heard about this in the forum, tried it themselves and confirmed it. And to say they’re frustrated? Since so many clearly never used Google Maps this way before, how were they suddenly frustrated not to be able to do something they never did before?

With Bing Maps hardwired in to a number of features on Windows Phone, including mapping an address in an email or from IE, and with Nokia pushing its mapping services for Nokia phones, there just isn’t a big need for Google Maps on Windows Phone (unlike say, for the iPhone).  Of much greater importance is Google’s decision to cut EAS support for Gmail, making it far more difficult to access Gmail on a Windows Phone, but maybe all the bad PR coming from the Google Maps fiasco will convince Google to rethink providing a Gmail app for Windows Phone.  One can only hope.