Google has reportedly distributed a test version of Maps for iOS to people outside the company, putting it on a collision course with Apple over mapping.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is putting the finishing touches to the iOS app before submitting it to the App Store, citing “a person with direct knowledge of the matter”. The iOS app is expected to include turn-by-turn navigation, which was not included in previous Apple versions of Maps.

Google Maps has proved a major headache for Apple ever since it dumped the app in iOS 6 in favour of its own Maps service. The move was highly unpopular among Apple users and even prompted an apology from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Observers have been expecting Google to launch an iOS Maps app ever since, with the last official word from Google coming in late September when CEO Eric Schmidt said the company had not submitted an app to the App Store. Neither Google nor Apple has confirmed the latest news.

In the meantime, Apple has continued to work on its own Maps application, with the division now coming under the leadership of SVP for internet software and services Eddy Cue, following the departure of Scott Forstall.

The WSJ says that Cue has been “hands-on” with the maps team and participates in regular meetings to fix the product.