Note: This post first appeared on LocalVox.com
Last week included some BIG news about maps that you may have missed. Despite the launch debacle, press ridicule and ultimate Tim Cook apology, Apple Maps has made big strides in taking market share from Google Maps. It now boasts 35 million users, which is a strong number for such a new product.
Now of course, Apple Maps is the default app for addresses and frankly it annoys me a bit when it launches when I don’t want it to. That may lead to some of the active user counts being higher than they should be – I am an “active user” even though I exit out immediately and switch back to Google Maps. That number is inflated.
However the indicator that carries the most weight is the number of people who have left Google Maps altogether – 23 million of their 81 million user peak in September – in an area that is growing rapidly. This means that Apple’s market share gains are very real.
As you can see from the above graph from ComScore, Google Maps took a 10 million active user hit when the iPhone 5 was released and people upgraded their IOS. Then it began resuming it’s growth curve but at a flatter rate. Now into total there is a 23 million gap of people who have switched over.
Maps are a critical stronghold for both Apple and Google as mobile is local and local is mobile. We carry powerful, Internet-connected computers in our pockets to interpret the world around us – and maps are at the center of it all. Google understood this and refused to provide driving directions to the iPhone app, to which Apple responded by pulling it’s support for the IOS6 launch. While Google could justify Google Maps gave consumers a reason to choose Android, the iPhone 5 was still incredibly popular. In fact, keeping Google Maps and driving directions off had no effect on IOS6 adoption (as measured when it was added).
Now it looks like Apple’s hold out on Google Maps was extremely effective. And that bundling of Apple Maps is the key to long term success (barring questions on monopolies).
“Google has lost access to a very, very important data channel in the North American market,” commented Ben Wood, mobile analyst for CCS Insight, a research company based in London. “But Apple was adamant that it wasn’t going to give up on doing its own maps, even when it had problems. This is a war of attrition.”
That said, Apple still has a long way to go to have market credibility and Google has a fundamental advantage here in it’s longer history of mapping software, algorithmic expertise and scale. But make no mistake, it’s a battle for how we interpret the world around us – where we go, where we shop, where we eat, what we do and who we see. It’s a fundamental warfront for each company.