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Monday, Nov 11, 2013 10:30pm
Report: Apple Maps dominant on iOS after a year of improvements
A year ago, Apple's own Maps program - which had launched to scathing press and user reviews due to errors, graphical glitches and the dropping of transit directions - was the laughing stock of the mapping industry. Google Maps - which finally produced its own iOS app after months of playing coy - was in the catbird seat, with 81.1 million users (out of a combined 103.6 million US iOS and Android market). One year later, things have changed.

Apple's Maps program is now both literally and figuratively the "default choice" of users on the iOS platform, with Google Maps use on iOS dropping from 35 million active users a year ago to 6.3 million today. Even more surprisingly, use of Google Maps in North America is dropping generally: the service now has only 58.7 million users across the combined 2013 pool of 136.7 million North American iOS and Android users, with Android accounting for nearly all of those users, reports Britain's The Guardian.

Google Maps has lost 23 million users in the US alone over the last year, and is used by just 43 percent of combined Android and iOS users, even though it is the default maps application on the Android platform. Meanwhile, mobile data analyst ComScore reported that 35.1 million users accessed Apple Maps last month out of an estimated iOS US audience of 60.1 million, or 58 percent of users - while Google Maps was accessed by just over 10 percent. Statistics indicate that use of mapping apps has fallen generally since 2012, but Google Maps's fall on all platforms is outpacing the overall average.

A number of factors play a role in the precipitous decline of Google Maps on iOS. The fact that Apple issued a public apology and equally public vow to continuously improve its Maps program - which it has been seen to be doing - and that Maps is the default and included on a wide variety of very popular iOS devices plays a large role. The program, even from its earliest days, was as good or in some cases better than Google Maps on driving tests centered in large US cities, which is how the majority of users leverage the program. Another factor was that the personal assistant service Siri accessed Apple Maps - bypassing Google services - when used for navigation.

Meanwhile, Google's map services - while still perceived to be better overall - have been seen as stagnant, with competition from Microsoft and Nokia as well as other GPS companies entering the app field nipping at its heels. The iOS version of Google Maps requires a separate download, only this summer finally delivered an iPad version, and carries advertising (where Apple Maps doesn't) - which was unlikely to help the company field and keep long-term users, apart from those who needed transit directions (an area Apple has revealed it is adding through a series of job postings).

Apple decided to create its own maps application after Google allegedly broke a promise of feature parity with the Android version starting in 2009. The search and advertising giant refused to add turn-by-turn directions and other features to the iOS version of Maps, which was an Apple application but relied on Google data, in order to promote its own Android platform as better. The iPhone maker finally resorted to licensing data from TomTom and other GPS companies and creating its own app, the mishandled launch of which cost iOS chief Scott Forstall and Maps head Richard Williamson their jobs.

The ComScore study also revealed that iOS users access mapping apps more frequently than Android users, with 9.7 million iOS users rated as using a mapping program at least daily, versus 7.2 million Android users. Separate data from Mixpanel suggests there are around two million iOS users who haven't upgraded to iOS 6, and thus cannot use Apple Maps and are mostly reliant on the old Google-power Maps app (if they use mapping software at all).