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Google’s Latitude app finally comes to the iPhone

After a lengthy delay, the location-based Google Latitude app is now available in the Apple App Store. The free app is similar to Foursquare and Gowalla, allowing users to identify the location of friends and to tag their own location as well. The app will run in the background to update locations even if an iPhone is locked.

Latitude briefly appeared in App Stores outside of the U.S. last week, but quickly vanished with no reason given. One possible explanation for the false start is that a wrong version was released: the version currently available is tagged 2.00 while the one that surfaced last week was reportedly labeled 1.00.

In February 2009, Google announced that the Latitude iPhone app would be available “very soon.” Apple, however, had other ideas and the app became stuck in app approval hell. According to Google, Apple was concerned that Latitude’s presence might cause users to confuse the app with the iPhone’s built-in Maps app. Later in the year, Google responded by releasing a Web-based version of Latitude for the iOS.

Apple had previously thwarted Google’s efforts to release its Google Voice app in the App Store. But in September, the App Store policies underwent a revision that allowed for a more liberal selection of apps that could pass through Apple’s notoriously strict approval process. The Google Voice app appeared in the App Store in November.

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