As part of its announcement of the new-look Maps app for Android today, Google slipped in some other news. Latitude, the social location-sharing service that launched in February 2009, is to be retired on August 9th 2013. Its features will be split between the Google+ mobile app and the Android OS – but it appears that iOS users will no longer be able to maintain a location history with Google. (Update: The Google Search iOS app will still log your location history).
An information page on the Google website explains that Latitude has been removed from the latest version of Google Maps for Android, and that the Latitude app for iPhone will be removed from the App Store. Additionally, the Latitude API will be withdrawn, meaning any apps that use it to access your location and location history (such as the recently-launched Esplorio) will no longer be able to do so.
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Latitude allows you to see your friends on a map (as long as they’ve opted into sharing their location with you), with their locations regularly updated. What’s more, it records your location at all times, allowing you to see a brilliant history of everywhere you went on any given day, plotted out on a map.
It has always been something of a niche product, with many people unkeen on real-time location sharing on a map even with their most trusted friends. It’s fair to say that many people won’t be that bothered about the demise of Latitude – there’s unlikely to be a Google Reader-style backlash – but the good news is that almost all of its features will live on, albeit in slightly different forms.
Map-based location sharing has been possible in Google+ for Android for a while now, although your Latitude friend list won’t be ported across. You can opt to share your location with certain individuals or with any circles of contacts that you wish. Google says that this feature will be coming to the iOS Google+ app soon. Anyone who used Latitude’s Foursquare-style location check-ins will be able to use the similar feature in Google+, and their check-in history will be ported over.
The location history feature (the main reason I use Latitude, personally) will still be available – but only to Android users. You can find ‘Enable location history’ in the Google Settings app in your Android apps tray. It seems that iOS users, who relied on the Latitude iOS app to report their location, will no longer be able to keep adding to that history unless they switch to Android (Update: As noted above, the Google Search iOS app will still log your location history – you can find the option in the Privacy section of the settings).
It makes sense for Google to retire Latitude. It has been an odd outlier within the company’s product portfolio in recent times – social but not ‘Plus-ified’ like most other Google social services have been. Few will mourn its death – except those developers who used its API.
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