Google gains from creating apps for Apple apps

NICK WINGFIELD & CLAIRE CAIN MILLER

For many people, smartphone shopping comes down to a choice of Apple's iPhone or one powered by Google's Android software. But now consumers can get an iPhone and fill it with Google.

Google has become one of the most prolific and popular developers of apps for the iPhone, in effect helping its competitor make more appealing products.

While some of its Internet services were built into the iPhone from the start, Google has stepped up its presence in the last eight months, pumping out major new iPhone apps or improving old ones. It also has expanded efforts to hire developers to make more such apps.

A maps app Google released in December has been the most downloaded program for the iPhone for much of the last month.

Google's strategy may look self-defeating at first. But analysts and technology executives say it is simply acknowledging the obvious: that there is an enormous market of avid iPhone users it wants to reach, an audience that is a target for ads and that can yield a bonanza of data that will allow Google to improve the online products that produce much of its profits.

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