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

A new study from comScore seems to reveal that Google may have lost the Maps battle on iOS devices so far, even though Apple Maps had its fair share of issues at launch.
November 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?