Google’s big push to make better iOS apps than Apple

Some of the best basic iPhone apps hitting the iOS App Store (s aapl) lately aren’t from the iPhone maker, but from one of its biggest rivals. Google (s goog), which recently launched or relaunched a series of well-received apps for Apple’s flagship devices, is now courting Apple developers, in addition to wooing Apple users over to Android.

This week, the company published a recruiting video for an in-house iOS developer team, as noted by 9to5Mac. This video is just the latest part of a recent push from Google emphasizing its commitment to Apple’s platform after its Google Maps and YouTube apps were dumped from their default presence on iOS devices this summer. Google acted shocked and semi-insecure (publicly, at least) when Apple made it known that both apps would no longer come preinstalled on its devices.

Away from the public war of words, Google has not only recovered from the fallout, but has come roaring back and embraced its status as just another developer working on Apple’s platform — and one that’s trying to best Apple at its own game. You can see this outward confidence in the new video, which invites iOS developers to come “do cool things that matter.

Google isn’t just making cool apps that people like on a competing platform, such as its Android mobile OS. It’s making well-liked apps that are core to the functionality of its rival’s devices. By improving on Apple’s Mail, Maps, Safari, Camera and Siri with apps of its own, Google is successfully beginning to wedge itself between the iPhone and iPad maker and its customers. And in the process, it’s begun to build its own lot of loyal iPhone and iPad users.

The last three months, in fairly quick succession we saw:

And this list doesn’t include other popular, earlier releases in 2012 like Chrome for iOS, and YouTube for iPhone. As has been previously noted by the Next Web, the new design language Google is using in these apps is very, very good. It’s quite clear that Google is swiftly getting better at mobile design.

And it’s not an accident: the company’s iOS development team has cultivated a specific look and feel for its products on Apple’s platform. Now it’s devoting and building whole teams to creating apps for iOS. After years of internal debate over the role of apps or websites as the best home for Google services on mobile devices, it’s become pretty clear that those within Google advocating for better apps have prevailed.

People are starting to take notice of Google’s improvement at the same time that Apple’s design chops have been taking some heat. When Apple releases a new app these days, its design is nitpicked to death, and complaints about gaudy textures, poor functionality, and confusing design details get the design community and users in a huff. The Apple Maps disaster is just one example. But Podcasts, Siri, Calendar, Game Center and more have also been met with criticism.

2013 is going to be a year when Apple must prove itself again in many ways: can its leaders improve the company in the eye of investors? Can it come up with more revolutionary products that keep customers coming back? Can it continue to stave off tablet challengers?

And now with Google’s full-court press on iOS, another big thing we’ll be watching for is whether Apple’s internal reorganization can produce basic apps that are core to its own device’s experience and will defend and reassert Apple’s design strengths.