Report: Despite problems, Apple Maps wrested iPhone users from Google

When it comes to the great maps debacle of 2012, Apple might have gotten the last laugh.

You likely remember the pillorying the iPhone maker took when it removed Google Maps as the default navigation program in its iOS software and replaced it with its own, internally built app. Users immediately complained of warped pictures, bad directions and inaccurate data, with landmarks being placed in the wrong locations or completely missing. Things were so bad that CEO Tim Cook issued an apology to Apple’s customers, a rarity for the company.

One might think after all that bad press — and the complaints about the app that continued to come in long after it was launched — that Apple’s maps program would have been a complete flop. The reality is quite different, though.

Citing data from ComScore, the Guardian reported Monday that the vast majority of iPhone owners in the United States who use a maps app use Apple’s. Meanwhile, the portion who use Google’s Maps application plunged after Apple made the switch and now stands at a small fraction of what it was before. Indeed the total number of iPhone and Android smartphone owners who use Google Maps has fallen considerably since Apple switched to its own app, despite the fact that the total number of smartphones in use has increased.

“Google has lost access to a very, very important data channel in the North American market,” Ben Wood, a mobile analyst for research firm CCS Insight, told the Guardian.

The raw numbers are pretty stark. In September 2012, right before Apple released iOS 6, which included its new Maps app, Google Maps had 81 million U.S. users on the iPhone or Android smartphones. By December 2012 — right after the released of iOS 6, but amid the worst of the problems, the number had already fallen to 74.4 million.

It’s continued to drop since. In September this year, Google Maps had just 58.7 million mobile users in the United States. According to an estimate by the Guardian, just 6 million of those are on the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Apple Maps has grown from 0 users on the iPhone in the United States in September last year to 35 million in September this year. That’s out of just 43.2 million monthly users of any maps application on the iPhone, according to the Guardian’s estimates.

As the Guardian notes, there are likely good reasons to explain the fall-off in the number iPhone owners using Google Maps. Apple Maps is now the default mapping application on the iPhone and other iOS devices. That means that generally when a user clicks on an address in an email or asks Siri for directions, the device will launch Apple Maps, no matter what other mapping applications you may have on it.

Apple doesn’t allow users to change the default applications on the iPhone, so even if they might prefer Google Maps, they can’t designate it to be the application that automatically launches to give directions. That makes it much less convenient to use Google’s mapping application — or any other navigation app.

Photo by Troy Wolverton.


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  • Jamie

    Is it possible that the whole maps fiasco was completely overblown by the media? Not saying there weren’t problems, but, although rare, the media can take things a bit too far.

    • feedback12

      This was Sep 2012 when Apple stock had gotten ahead of itself. There had to be a big enough scandal to cast a shadow in the iPhone 5 release. Apple had to close lower due to the huge call open interest. We also had Samsung smarting over its loss and throwing money into negative PR.

    • Chris

      Everything with Apple is overblown. I had the iPhone 4, knew many people that had the same phone and yet non of us had reception issues yet we all did take the free case Apple gave out and most of us used it only briefly before going buck naked again. The whole maps things was funny because I failed to see how a bad 3D rendering of a bridge or the Statue of Liberty had any effect on navigation. Both map apps seem to get me to where I want to go without any trouble I just use Apple Maps more because its baked into my phone.

  • Eric Sanchez

    iIdiots will use/buy anything made by Apple even it sucks. Example iPhone, iPad, iPod or iTunes. Poor Lemmings. Have fun getting lost or even getting into an accident.

    • me

      Look Eric, we all know your welfare checks can’t afford you any Apple products so just save your breath on the Apple bashing.

    • Chris

      Haters gonna hate.

  • TJ

    I switched to Apple Maps right away, it had some issues. By the time Google Maps was ready for iOS 6, Apple maps has basically cleared up. I mean Google Maps used to send me on wild goose chases too. Nothing’s perfect. But the key difference between Apple Maps and Google Maps is that Apple’s business is not based on knowing your every move and desire and feeding you ads based on it. I’ve slowly but surely removed myself from the Googlesphere because I don’t recognize spyware as a valid business model. Google and Android are cheap because you pay with your personal info. I’d rather pay Apple with my cash, it’s more honest.

  • RadarTheKat

    There were real problems with Apple Maps. Now those problems are mostly corrected. Google Maps still has better data, but Apple is gradually catching up. But the difference for me is now the interface and map images. In most cases where I’ve compared the two, and I’ve done a fair amount of comparison between them to satisfy my curiosity, Apple’s interface and map rendering is superior. I won’t try to sell anyone, but just let you compare for yourself. I think you’ll see that Apple is doing quite a good job evolving their Maps offering.

    • Chris

      I agree 100% Google Maps is better in the sense that they have a way more robust POI database so it will show every McDonalds in my area unlike Apple Maps which might only show 2 of the 5, Google Maps also crushes Apple Maps with the street view feature since I don’t find flyover particularly useful for navigational purposes. Apple Maps from what I have found gives me better directions and the satellite and regular map rendering is the one area I think Apple has really surpassed Google.

  • retiredinboyntonbeach

    Has anybody considered the possibility thst AppleMaps has improved — maybe even improved so much that it’s better than Google Maps now????

    If not, then you should. Try them both, side-by-side fir the same search, and see which one you like better.

    You might be surprised! very surprised, indeed.

  • me

    Love Apple Maps and the 3D building effects. Was using it to navigate around Italy and plan my trip next year!

  • feedback12

    I got rid of most Google apps on my phone and now simply use the browser when needed. I had YouTube but Google would keep hijacking whatever I was doing to launch the app. If Apple had a default search app I would probably use it too mainly due to privacy concerns.

  • Man this is a stupid way to write the story. Apple kicked off 100% of all Maps users from Google in one day when they forced everyone to use only Apple Maps, and Google has since then won back a significant amount even though it’s still impossible to use Google Maps on an iPhone/iPad as the default maps app. Any Apple user who actually enjoys this must be a moron or something.

    • Paul

      Mr. Wolverton above is citing conclusions from a reputable statistical report. your theory is based on how you feel…. just to keep things in perspective. Moron is certainly an objective term.

      • fring

        Since when did a clueless troll on a drive-by…have feelings?
        Charbax just likes poking Apple users in the eye then running away.

    • Chris

      Oh how moronic of me to use Apple Maps when I also have Google Maps on my phone oh will someone please come shake me so that I can be more like Charbax.

  • Paul

    I don’t understand why Android users are among the most foul-mouthed people; look below, count how many times they refer to users of a phone they despise with derogatory names! It’s hard to believe they promote Android because of the “choice factor” and yet when others exercise a choice that is different from theirs, they get to be called morons, idiots or whatever!

    • Mark

      @Paul, first you have to look at the pool of Android users. Many of these comments made are done by individuals paid by Samsung and other Android phone manufacturers for fake web reviews. From students being paid to 3rd party companies, do a simple google search to unearth this despicable practice. Imagine immature kids trying to have an intellectual debate about their preferences on comparable phones and it will quickly devolve into and neanderthal like rant. Pointless. Also, study shows that iPhone owners are generally more educated and command higher incomes which would indicate very little time to engage in pointless, uninteresting debate with the comatose. So your observation has been well documented and a sure sign that Android caters to the base in intellects and income brackets.

  • Luis

    Wow these iOS users are some of the most stuck up and arrogant people out there…

    shaking my head at some of these comments.

    • retiredinboyntonbeach

      Merely because we use better vocabulary, better grammar, and more respectable language than some other people doesn’t necessarily mean that we are “stuck up and arrogant.”

  • Luis

    Btw I’ve compared Google maps on ios 7 on my 5th gen ipod touch and ipad mini to Apple Maps. I can’t say how better Google maps was. Then I compared Apple Maps to Google Maps on my Android device and it just left Apple Maps in the dust.

    Apple Maps is good but not that good. Solid.

    • retiredinboyntonbeach

      Hmmn. I wasn’t aware that you could download Apple Maps onto an Android device. That’s interesting to know. Perhaps the Android version of Google maps is significantly better than the iOS version, which would explain why on my 5th gen iPod Touch the Apple Maps app is superior to the Google Maps.

    • Drock

      curious how you are able to test this on an android since apple maps is not available on android devices?

  • Chris

    Google Maps is awesome and is great mostly because of its huge database for POI which is way better than what Apple has as of right now, I also enjoy street view but not nearly as much as I once did. With that said I enjoy Apple maps and use it more than Google Maps on my iPhone because its baked in just like Google Maps is for Android phones so I can use Siri to get directions and can access the addresses I have saved under contacts of friends and family ect, I also think the satellite footage is much clearer than Google Maps and I have really enjoyed the new interface since iOS 7. I mean really why are people so passionate about this topic? All I care about is that both apps get me from A to B and since that is the case I fail to see why this is such a big deal. Google Maps is the gold standard and this Apple fan has no problem admitting that I just wish many of the Apple haters could give Apple credit for being the gold standard in other areas but that is just wishful thinking.

  • ericpsilver

    Right now I use an iPhone. After losing a couple hours of my life and being late to a couple important meetings because of Apple Maps, my next phone will run Android. For me, this looks like the last incarnation of Apple where their closed garden around the Apple ][ led me to switch to a PC.

    • retiredinboyntonbeach

      You are the first person I’ve ever known who switched from an Apple computer to a PC. Back in the days when compatibility between Apple operating systems and Windows was a big problem, some folks actually had two computers, one to use for their own work and another to use for emailing documents back and forth to/from other PC users. But those compatibility issues are long gone, and there’s no real need to have a Windows-based computer any more for anything except Minesweeper.