Google Latitude Hits 9 Million Users as Native iPhone App Launches

Two years in the making, Google finally released a native Latitude app for the iPhone. Users had access to a web version of the service, but the native app adds background updating and other new features. Equally interesting, Google is announcing that it now has nine million Latitude users across all devices.

"Since launching last year, Latitude’s focus has always been on one goal: make it simple to stay in touch with friends and family by sharing where you are with each other," Chris Lambert, Software Engineer in the Google Latitude Team, writes.

"Simple setup. Simple sharing without fumbling for your phone. Now, you can use Latitude on your iPhone just like the more than 9 million people actively using it from Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile smartphones," he explains.

Latitude is Google's premier location service and, while it may not get the kind of attention the likes of Foursquare or even Gowalla get, it's probably the largest dedicated service of its kind, not accounting for Facebook Places' check-in functionality.

While it's not a direct competitor for Foursquare, there is no check-in functionality and there are no gaming mechanics, it's Google's best bet at the emerging market.

On paper, Latitude's growth is nothing short of amazing. In May, Google was announcing three million active users, an impressive feat at the time. But now, six months later, it's at nine million. Meanwhile, Foursquare is at about five million.

So what's Google's secret? Well, it has to do with the fact that Latitude is included into every Android device sold. And with millions of them hitting the streets each month, it looks like quite a few users are activating Latitude.

Since Latitude works in the background, now on the iPhone and the iPad as well, all you need to do to be using it is activate it initially. Still, it's a big victory for Google and the tool may become a big part of the company's push into the "local" market.

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