Now with turn-by-turn navigation, Google Maps returns to iOS

Three months after being dropped as the default mapping app in iOS, Google Maps is back. On Wednesday evening, Google Maps(s GOOG) for iOS 6 hit Apple’s App Store(s AAPL). The new app has been redesigned by Google and has, among other features, voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation and transit directions.

AllThingsD was first to report Google Maps’ imminent arrival. The app has a very different look than the one Apple collaborated on with Google for previous versions of iOS. Google says this version will load faster, and has smoother tilting and rotating for both 2D and 3D images.

Google’s app has been much anticipated since Apple removed it as a default app with the launch of iOS 6 in September. Apple ditched Google Maps reportedly because Google had declined to include turn-by-turn directions in the iOS version of its app.

Apple’s own Maps app, its first-ever effort in this area, landed with a thud back in September. Users immediately complained the app offered poor directions, mismarked landmarks and bad 3D imagery. Apple also chose not to build public transit directions directly into the app, but instead left that task to local, third-party apps.

Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized for the app’s condition and promised the company would improve the app. Though there’s been no definitive word about what Apple has done to make improvements, Cook said in an interview last week that Apple has “a huge plan to make it even better.”

In the meantime, however, a third-party app from a familiar brand like Google will be welcome to iOS users. It won’t automatically work the same as when Google Maps was the default app but Google has released an SDK that will allow developers to display Google Maps and Google location data within their own app, instead of defaulting to Apple’s Maps app.