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Google Maps returns to iOS as an app after Apple's removal

After months-long absence due to Apple's embarrassing removal of the feature from its mobile platform, Google's maps returns as a standalone app.

Screen shots of Google's new Maps app for iOS.

Once banished from Apple's iOS, Google Maps has returned to the mobile platform in the form of a standalone app.

The official Google Maps app returned to Apple's App store this evening. As expected, the new free app includes turn-by-turn navigation, just like its Android counterpart, as well as public transit directions, integrated Street View, and a 3D-like Google Earth view.

However, as quickly as it showed up, the app apparently vanished from the App Store. Many iOS users complained about not being able to complete the purchase, getting a message that "the item you tried to buy is no longer available." (9:05 p.m. PT update -- It's back in the store.)

Error message would-be Google Maps buyers are seeing. Screenshot by Declan McCullagh/CNET

CNET has contacted Google and Apple for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

Early reviews of the new app appear to be positive.

The app features a "beautiful interface and a lighter feel," one early user told CNET. "It has far more information when it comes to listing places like restaurants." (See video embedded below for a demonstration of the app.)

Google supplied the map function to iOS devices until the release of iOS 6 this fall, when it was replaced by Apple's homegrown mapping solution. The maps were found to be rife with embarrassing errors, leading Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a rare public apology on the subject.

Apple retreated on claims that the app was the "most powerful mapping service ever" and even began promoting other maps apps in its App Store.

The ouster of iOS software chief Scott Forstall was said to be linked to Cook's apology and Forstall's unwillingness to sign it. Richard Williamson, who was in charge of the company's maps software for iOS, was also reportedly fired.