Monday, August 13, 2012

What Does the New Apple vs. Google Competition Mean for the Maps Industry?

Google Maps was released in 2005. Since then, it has only got better and better until now. Currently, it holds the majority of market share among online mapping services. Apple has integrated Google Maps into iOS since the release of the first iPhone in 2007. The native Maps application on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad has always used Google Maps.

But with the 2012 release of iOS 6 for these devices, Apple will be giving Google the boot. What effect will this have on the digital maps industry? What does this mean for all the parties involved? Continue over the break for more.
Microsoft also has had its own maps service that has changed names over time. Currently, it is called Bing Maps and barely poses any competition to Google.

I looked at some statistics to help me predict what impact this break-up will have on Google Maps’s market share.

New competition in a quiet industry

With Apple’s release of its own maps with iOS 6, we see the advent of a completely new company into the scene. Moreover, it’s not a small startup. It’s the already-giant Apple. That makes three popular mapping services on the web.

As I mentioned before, Google has been the undisputed leader in the digital maps industry. Therefore, there has not been much competition in the field and the maps industry has been really quiet.

Apple's features compared to Google's

Now, Apple seems to be taking Google head-on. Their maps have features quite similar to Google’s (with the exception of Street View; Apple doesn’t have an alternative). Apple has turn-by-turn navigation as well (on newer devices), which Google doesn’t have.

Apple’s products and services tend to be hand-curated and perfected. The App Store is an example. Every single app has been approved by Apple. While Google Maps has a community of contributors and moderators mapping the world, Apple will certainly make their maps themselves. They have acquired several mapping companies over the past few years and are using their data. If they can make very detailed maps of the whole world, they can directly compete with the giant that is Google.

Moreover, some people say that many aspects of Apple’s maps are already better than those of Google Maps. Bear in mind that Apple’s new maps come with iOS 6, which hasn’t been released yet. reports that Apple has 25% more local listings than Google in its maps. I am not sure if this figure is reliable or not. This may also be US stats.

Another thing worth noting is that at this point, Apple has no transit directions in its app. Google Maps does a pretty good job at giving directions that involve getting on buses and trains. You see, it’s really hard to suddenly start making a detailed map of the world with all these features.

A lot of people seem to say that Flyover, Apple’s 3D map view is better than Google Earth’s 3D cities that were released recently. Both services have limited coverage in this area. Very few cities have been captured in 3D using planes and only certain developed urban centers are available. Since both companies have this newly implemented feature, there’s a really good chance that this will cause some amazing development in this new dimension of maps. Healthy competition between two companies usually brings good products for the consumers. Soon, both companies may have complete 3D models of the entire planet (how cool is that?). If Microsoft doesn’t get into this, I predict that Bing Maps will never see such popularity.

Usage stats and predicted impact

I couldn’t get newer stats, but in March 2011, 40% of Google Maps’s usage was on mobile devices. That’s quite a huge amount. What impact will Apple’s ‘ditching’ of Google Maps have? Quite a lot, actually.

According to Business Insider (US stats only), 90% of iOS users have “touched” the Maps app during April 2012. Also, 45% of Google Maps’s mobile traffic comes from iOS (not counting people accessing via web browser).

A huge amount of Apple’s customers will use stock apps only. Take the elderly for example. These tech-impaired people will directly go to the stock application instead of looking for a good alternative Maps app. When Google comes out with their own Maps app on the App Store (which they will, like YouTube), will people get it? Many will, but many won’t.


We’ll learn who benefits and who loses because of this only when iOS 6 comes out and is adopted by a lot of people. But the important point is that the maps industry is seeing some really good competition now. This will surely lead to better products for the consumers in one way or the other.