"The irony is that Apple ended up getting a better version of Google Maps on its system by booting it off," Sterling said. "At the same time, you could argue that Google is making a triumphant return to cheering crowds. So, in a way, everyone wins in this situation."
Investors didn't see anything positive for Apple. The company's stock slid $9.31 to close at $529.84, while Google shares crept up $5.14 to finish at $702.70.
There still isn't a Google mapping app for Apple's top-selling tablet computer, the iPad, but the company plans to make one eventually. Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., declined to say when it hopes to release an iPad mapping app. For now, iPad owners can use the maps in an iPhone mode. That won't be the best experience, but it still may be better than Apple's offering on the iPad.
In an indication of iPhone owners' exasperation with Apple's maps, Google's new alternative was already the top-ranking free app in Apple's iTunes store early Thursday morning. By noon EDT, users had chimed in with more than 10,000 reviews of the Google app. Nearly 90 percent of them gave Google maps a five-star rating — the highest possible grade.
The return of Google's map app may even encourage more iPhone owners to upgrade to Apple's latest mobile software, iOS 6. Some people resisted the new version because they didn't want to lose access to the old Google mapping application built into iOS 5 and earlier versions.
After initially omitting Google's new navigation tool, Apple added the app to its list of maps for the iPhone late Thursday afternoon.
Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., declined to comment about Google's map app.
Graf said Google isn't hoping to make Apple look bad with its new mapping app. "On maps, we have a friendly relationship," he said.