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Google Maps returns to the Apple Watch after a three-year absence

The search giant also updates its Maps offering for Apple's CarPlay software.

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Google is bringing its Maps app back to the Apple Watch.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google on Monday said it's bringing Google Maps back to the Apple Watch, more than three years after the search giant pulled the app from the device. 

The new app will include step-by-step navigation to places people have saved on the watch, like their homes or work. For other places, they can set the destinations on their phone, then continue from the watch. 

Google quietly removed the app from the Apple Watch in 2017, but said it expected to bring the service back "in the future." At the time, analysts suggested that while health and fitness apps did well on the device, others weren't yet suited for it.

The app has step-by-step directions

Google

The Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch in the world, owning more than 28% of the market, according to the research firm IDC. But when the watch first launched in 2015, it had several limits. The device didn't have its own cellular signal. Many apps only had basic functions and software makers hadn't figured out how to adapt to a screen that's a fraction of the size of displays on phones. 

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on why the company initially dropped the Maps app from the Apple Watch or why it's returning now. 

Google on Monday also said it updated the Maps app for Apple's CarPlay, the iPhone maker's software for car dashboards. The app will now show people a split-screen view of the map and other controls, including music playback or calendar appointments. 

The announcements underscore the frenemy nature of the relationship between Google and Apple -- fierce rivals but also owners of massive platforms that reach billions of people. Google makes several apps for the iPhone, though Apple has competing services in maps, browsers and other areas. The two tech giants are also collaborating on a joint project for digital contact tracing aimed to fight the spread of the coronavirus. 

Google updated its Maps app for Apple's CarPlay.

Google

Google has made other updates to the Maps app in recent months. In July, the service announced new ways to find Black-owned businesses, in response to racial justice protests around the world. 

As the pandemic began to take hold, Google added features aimed at people staying home. One new tool let people book virtual appointments, like online yoga or cooking classes, along with giving price estimates for the services. Another update let shops list special hours, like windows specifically designated for seniors or people with compromised immune systems.