comScore: Despite initial Apple Maps blunders, Google apparently lost the Maps battle on the iPhone

by: Chris SmithNovember 11, 2013


A new comScore report estimates that Google may have lost the Maps battle on the iPhone, despite Apple’s initial problems with its own mapping software solution (see one such example pictured above).

Google has reportedly lost as many as 23 million Google Maps users on iOS devices since April 2013, with those users now relying on Apple Maps for their mapping needs.

Apple Maps was launched as an integral part of iOS 6 last year, for the first time ever displacing Google Maps, the former default mapping solution for Apple’s mobile platform.

The two companies were not able to agree on terms back in late 2009, The Guardian reports: Apple wanted turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation and vector maps, while Google wanted to collect more data from Apple users via Google Maps.

Thus Apple got into the Maps business with its own product, which offered mixed results at first, and culminated with a rather huge PR scandal for the company. Ultimately. Tim Cook issued an apology for the Maps blunder, advising users to switch to other Maps apps if they so desired – at the time, a standalone Google Maps iOS app was yet to be approved by Apple. A couple of execs were fired soon after, including top iOS man Scott Forstall.

However, while many people may have assumed that Apple Maps was actually an advantage for Google, with iOS users downloading the Google Maps iOS app 10 million times in the first 48 hours after its launch in December of last year, it turns out that Apple users actually use the default mapping app in iOS more than Google Maps, which results into an unexpected loss for Google in the U.S.

As expected, Google did not comment on its Google Maps installed base:

Google told the Guardian: “We’re not currently sharing details on the number of downloads. While we can’t disclose specific performance metrics, we’re pleased with the product and user feedback has been positive.”

Google Maps - reservations

According to comScore, in September 2013, 35 million iPhone owners used Apple Maps, compared to a combined pool of 58.7 million of iPhone and Android device owners that used Google Maps in the region during the period – of those 58.7 million, only 6 million are iPhones, with 2 million of them not on iOS 6, which is the minimum iOS version required to run Apple Maps. (However, these numbers are a couple of million off when looking at a later estimation on iOS users still not running iOS 6 or later.)

In total, in September 2013, there were 136.7 million iPhones and Android handsets in use in the USA.

Comparatively, in September 2012, there were 81.1 million Google Maps users out of 103.6 million smartphone owners in the USA. A few months earlier, “in April 2012, comScore was quoted saying that in the U.S. there were 31.3m iPhone users of Google Maps, and 38.2m users on Android (from a collective base of 88.4m devices, implying a 78% usage rate).”

Since then, the usage rate has apparently dropped to 72% for iPhone users, climbing to 79% for Android users. comScore also noted differences in maps usage, with more iOS owners spending more time per month in maps than Android device users, and said that iOS maps numbers have further been affected by an increasing young iPhone population that doesn’t use mapping software yet.

Therefore, while the number of smartphone users has significantly increased in the USA by September 2013, Google Maps did not maintain the commanding market share it had in the previous years, with Google losing as many as 23 million Google Maps users to Apple Maps.

Out of a total current iPhone population of 60.1 million, The Guardian estimated that there were 43.2 million maps users this September, with 35 million of them using Apple Maps:

Modelling that change in [user rate] suggests that on the iPhone, there are about 43.2m maps users in all – which would break down to 35m using Apple’s maps, and another 8.3m who use Google’s maps at least once a month.

Separate data from Mixpanel for the U.S, supplied to the Guardian suggests though that there are about 2m iPhone owners in the US who have not upgraded their phones to iOS 6, and so cannot use Apple’s maps.

That means that Google has gone from having at least 31m users on the iPhone in April 2012 – and perhaps as many as 35m in September 2012, based on a model using a sliding scale of maps ownership – to around 6.3m who are using it monthly on iOS 6 and above, [and an additional 2 million that aren’t running iOS 6 or later.]

Obviously, Google Maps is a very important product for Google, which can be used to bring in extra ad-based revenue to the company, and other mobile-related benefits. And competition is definitely good for the consumer. The company has completely redesigned Google Maps earlier this year, while Apple has also improved its Apple Maps software, bringing it to Macs as well in addition to iOS devices.

At the end of the day, we’re going to remind you that data coming from research firms may not always be accurate, and that The Guardian is doing its own estimations based on the numbers provided by these analytics firms. However, such details on the maps battle between these two giants are certainly interesting, and we expect fierce competition to continue in this particular niche in the following years.

How often do you use Google Maps on your devices?

  • Anthony

    This is like Microsoft bragging that more people use Internet Explorer. I’d say most people don’t care or realize since the software comes pre-loaded on the phone.

    • MadCowOnAStick

      Yeah, most people don’t use their phones as a GPS.

      • Seth Forbus

        Speak for yourself. I don’t know anyone who still owns a stand alone GPS. Everyone uses their phone for it.

        • MadCowOnAStick

          *sigh* sarcasm

  • TournaFlyer

    With both (I assume) using up data, I think both will lose users to stand-alone apps like Co-Pilot. It’s not as good as Google Maps, but it’s close enough with just a one time $9.95 charge and no data usage.

  • Jerren Solomon

    There was a Maps battle?

  • Muddy_Water

    I wonder if this would different if you could choose the app you wanted and not be forced to use apple’s.

    • abazigal

      Probably. But it’s purely a thought exercise since the reality is that fewer people are using Google Maps and we know Apple will unlikely ever allow users to change their default apps.

  • Andriii

    Google Maps > Apple Maps
    Apple maps is unrealiable in other countries!

    • asdf

      EDIT: all countries

    • Jubia

      Actually, quite the opposite (at least, in my experience).

      Google Maps has been, for years, pointing wrong turns all around on my city (Porto Alegre, south of Brazil). Apple Maps, on the other hand, seems to be (or was, till I got my iPhone robbed) up-to-date most of the time.

      (Pure speculation of my part, but I guess since Apple used OpenStreetMaps for some places and there is a huge community around OSM here, that could’ve helped. But, again, I have no data to back it up.)

    • abazigal

      Not always.

      Once, my colleagues and I had to get to another school for examination marking. Google Maps directed her to the old holding area which was used when the school was closed for renovation a few years back (and apparently, Google never got round to updated that information).

      Conversely, Apple Maps show me the correct location the first time round. Is it because Apple is using even more outdated data? Who knows. But the results speak for themselves. Apple Maps suffices in getting the job done.

  • George

    that article contains too much number crunching and so I skipped to the end… Yes, I use Google Maps often on my Android phone… a lot…

    maybe a TL:DR version would be nice?

    • abazigal

      TL:DR: Fewer people are using Google Maps on their IOS devices ever since Apple Maps debuted in IOS6.

  • satsmine2k4

    Only because IOS users are very very very very very intelligent gals…

  • PeteJames1138

    One simple explanation and that is iOS users are restricted to apple maps by default and most users are too lazy to take the extra steps to use a 3rd party app as a default.

    • NeedName

      lazy and/or stupid. . .

      • TheMysteryMan

        Nope, only AND is valid there :P

        • Seth Forbus


  • Level380

    Clearly has nothing to do with Google playing with the interface on google maps at all and removing features that people love!

  • wikwakcow

    the disavantage here in indonesia, the internet connection is unstable. and google maps rely on internet connection to search for anything. I usually use google maps on pc/notebook only. but when i’m mobile, i rely on sygic.

    • Xennex1170

      Would I be correct in inferring from your statement that the iOS Google Maps does not have the ability to save a map in local memory for offline use which the Android version is able?

      • wikwakcow

        hi, i dont know about iOS or apple maps. so i can not comment on it. but, the google maps needs internet connection to search places or streets. when the internet connection is poor, it’s useless. i hope that google maps has a downloadble maps that has complete maps for a city or country. so i dont need internet connection when i travel to new places.

      • Nacos

        Google Maps WAS somewhat able (in a verry crippled way) to offer “offline” navigation however begining with version 7 and up, Google decided to bastardize its offline capabilities even further (in order to sell data). While the new Maps may (arguably) look better, it’s definitely a less capable, feature-stripped version of what once was a decent product.
        Although I’m a heavily involved Android user, I’m happy that Google is loosing ground in this respect – it’s really the only way for a giant to wake up from their own world of complacency and greed and to start offering something worthy of considering.

  • iTriune

    This would change if Apple allowed you to choose a default mapping app. Smh

  • SimonReidy

    iPhone and Android user here – unless you’re in the U.S. Apple maps suck. I haven’t seen them improve one bit in Australia since the launch of iOS6. One of the main reasons I jailbroke my iPhone was to make Google Maps the default mapping application (and Chrome my default browser!). Like all Google’s apps on iOS – Google Maps is a really good app (within the limitations that exist on iOS anyway).

    I agree with others that the vast majority of people would just stick to Apple Maps because they simply don’t know any better. If Apple actually gave them a choice over default applications I’m sure the outcome would be very different.

    • abazigal

      Apple’s Maps is actually quite useable here in Singapore. Gets me to my locations, and I actually prefer the absence of clutter on the map and how it generally seems to load more quickly and smoothly in general.

      • Acaa Aca

        Compared to Australia, Singapore is easier to map since it’s a major country with small land area. so it may be one of those outside the US exceptions.

        • abazigal

          You just hit the nail on the head.

          Google Maps is probably better in the US, where the majority of its user base resides. However, I recall reading reviews that Apple Maps can actually be more accurate than Google Maps in countries where the latter has less of a presence, such as Europe (which uses services like Yelp more extensively, which incidentally is what Apple uses to generate its mapping data).

          • Hellz

            i live i Europe. i havent had a chance to use apple maps outside my town but(i dont own iphone) but here they dont even have all streets mapped and those that they do are mapped wrong. my friend and i ended up 1-5 km away from our destination. he says that in lager cities its even worse. unfortunately for him, gmaps on iOS arent supported here so he is stuck with apple

  • Tom Z

    Two reasons:

    1. If apple would let someone choose a different default map program it would move the results much further towards Google Maps.
    2. If Google offered the version 6 type of maps more people would be willing to use it.

  • DarxideGarrison

    How about Google no longer support Chrome, Now, Maps, YouTube, etc. And see how many Apple users switch over to Android.

    • abazigal

      Except for google drive (thanks to google docs not working right in mobile browsers), I don’t use any of the other Google Apps on my Apple devices (of which I have 4, not including my Apple Tv). I am using Jasmine in place of the Youtube App. Mailbox to check my email (Thanks, Google, for disabling push). Safari as my browser of choice, and Google Now doesn’t even work in IOS anyways (because Apple doesn’t give them system-level access). Nobody around me uses Hangouts anyways, and other services like Google Wallet aren’t supported in my country anyways.

      The loss of those apps would really be no real consequence to me.

      • Eric Hayes

        So why are you on an Android site complaining sheep..

        • abazigal

          He asked a straightforward question, I gave a straightforward answer.

          Why? Something you don’t like about my answer?

  • Pedro

    I use both of them. In Spain, lots of small towns don’t show street data on Google Maps and even data and satellite views of big cities like Málaga were from 7 years ago until an update fixed it three months ago (now it’s like 4 years ago). However, search function in Apple Maps is useless, because it relies on Yelp and nobody uses it in Spain. I always use Google Maps when I’m looking for places like hotels or restaurants and then change to Apple maps for directions.

  • hmm

    Isheep: maaaaaaaa apple maps rocks

  • Tran Nguyen

    I used the Google map everyday. I able to say that I was addicted to the map. I used Google map off line when I am driving. I also have Apple map too. Apple map is very good on display. I haven’t tried it. But I think that Apple map is improved better than past. I tested Apple map on iMac, it is perfect for connecting to contact list addresses.

    • After my career data fee going up and I have more work from home sessions, I cut my data plan and use offline map and navigation based on Open Street Map with Skobbler render engine (Forever Map).

      And while I still use Google Maps on laptop, not miss it on Android at all.

  • Tahnir

    No one who actually used google maps would ever doubt it’s superiority. Well unless you’re the most fanatic fanboy/girl.

    • abazigal

      No one is.

      I can, however, question the definition of ‘superiority’. Sheer mapping data? Undeniably Google. Ecosystem support? Google loses to Apple where IOS and its users are concerned.

      Ultimately, it’s a package deal.

  • abazigal

    I am using apple maps exclusively, for the few times I do need a mapping solution to get to a certain place.

    To me, the biggest draw is Maps integration with Apple’s own apps and services. I tap on an address in Safari or ask Siri where a certain place is, it is Maps that launches, not Google Maps. I believe that is the number one reason for this phenomenon – convenience.

    Not to mention that with Mavericks, I can send directions from my macbook air to my iPhone. One less reason to use Google Maps.

    You may argue that pound for pound, Google Maps is undeniably superior to Apple’s Maps, but the point here is that Apple’s Maps is “good enough”, in that it gets me to my desired destinations (hasn’t been wrong for me so far), and is far more accessible.

  • APai

    it’s good that some section of users will not be under the influence of google, and others under apple. this whole concept of monolithic corporations is beginning to spook me. it’s okay that a chunk of users think apple is the best. we need some strong competition. increasingly we are seeing tendency towards single large corporations rather than many small services. you simply can’t seem to trust that any small/ medium businesses will stick around for sometime. some of my favorite apps are getting bought over by google – the results are varying but i’d have preferred them to be standalone – example quickoffice, waze, snapseed, etc. ultimately, this ecosystem crap is turning out to be walled gardens rather than open standards increasingly. I think we should step back and reflect on the same. especially in the wake of NSA outing. putting all eggs in one basket , especially US based services

  • Kevin

    google maps are by far the best out there, reason ios users dont use it as often as others is because they can’t set it as a default app and places they click will auto open in apple maps. i’m sure its not by choice, as that really wouldn’t be a smart move to take.

  • whatsa2

    So apple users spend more time in imaps?
    given the large numbers of people.
    one can only assume some parity of map usage needs…

    -people are getting lost and navigating longer?
    -have trouble reading the maps
    – are not where they thought they should be and need to check again?

    • abazigal

      People are spending more time on Apple’s Maps compared to Google’s Maps. Either way, they would still be spending the same time in a maps app.

      People are no more lost than before. They have simply changed in terms of preference of services, that’s all.

      • whatsa2

        Oh Ok so all those mapping errors that are constantly coming up would not cause

        longer usage? Apples mapping is poor and will be for many years.
        wonder why all the car manufacturers license Navteq?

        and 100s of others? Google and apple rely on getting a small amount of updates from navteq but that is a small portion of the real changes

        basically less apple users now use apples maps and the ones that do spend more time using it?
        Its smoke and mirrors as the writer has suggested.

        All the lost people i run into don’t have Navteq maps
        And thats 90% with iphone and 10% google and for google thats mostly the limited off-line caching.

        Honestly I would rather ask directions than use apples maps.

  • Groud Frank

    This is further magnified by the fact that you can’t set default apps and users just don’t want to make those two extra taps in their display. It really is a win by default.

  • phurr

    Nokia Drive seems to work pretty good.

  • Alex Ohannes

    Formatting and grammar errors, yet again. Shame, shame, shame.

    • Billy Royle

      only thing worse than an isheep and android fanboy is a grammar snob.

    • mrjayviper

      these are not professional writers. don’t expect much :)

  • mrjayviper

    not sure how this is an android article AT ALL when comScore report talks about an iOS app.

    • abazigal

      Well, in a sense, it does affect a google app / service.

  • iDude

    I just sold my S3 for the iPhone 5s. Couldn’t be happier.

  • chuebner

    I tried Apple maps on a recent business trip on an old iPhone 4 (iOS7) outside the US. Switched back to Google maps quickly. Apple maps still lacks precision and the 3D mode looks as if it was painted by a toddler.