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Apple's Map App Is Making a Killer Comeback

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Despite the disastrous and buggy release of Apple Maps last year, the app has seen solid growth in use while Google Maps has plummeted.

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According to the market research company ComScore, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps had 81 million mobile users in September of 2012, with as many as 35 million of them accessing the maps app via an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. This was right around the time that Apple launched its own, buggy Apple Maps. The app was so bad and filled with errors that Scott Forstall, Senior of Vice President of iOS Software at the company, quit after pressure he faced for refusing to sign an apology. Instead, CEO Tim Cook made a public apology for the app's initial failings. Later, Richard Williamson, the head of the Apple Maps team, was fired.

Now, it appears the tables have turned: According to a new report from ComScore, 35 million iPhone owners used Apple Maps during September 2013 while only 6.3 million iOS users still used Google Maps. In September 2013, Google Maps was the preferred map app of 58.7 million Android and Apple users, down from 81 million just one year ago. This represents a shift from 78% of all Android and iOS users on Google Maps to 43% in only one year. This loss of 22.3 million total users of mobile Google Maps is primarily an effect of iOS users sticking with the app native to their iPhones, even after last year's disastrous rollout.
A Mad Magazine parody of a famous cover of The New Yorker, lampooning how inaccurate Apple Maps was.

ComScore's report found that Apple users generally have more interaction with maps than Android users, with 9.7 million iPhones accessing Apple Maps every day, compared to the 7.2 million that access Google Maps for Android. iOS users spend 75.5 minutes per month in mapping apps compared to 56.2 for Android users.

Both companies have invested in acquiring new mapping technology lately and not surprisingly, Apple leads in this regard as well. Since July of this year, Apple has acquired three mapping companies, crowd-sourced location data company Locationary, city transit guide HopStop.com, and mass transit mapping app Embark, as well as the indoor location startup WiFiSLAM, which will help users navigate buildings. Meanwhile, Google has acquired one such company, Waze, an Israeli GPS-based navigation app that uses crowd-sourced data to provide travel times and optimized routes.

Because of fixes to Apple's once bug-ridden Apple Maps, aggressive acquisitions, and innovations such as 3D Flyover, which gives users a compelling visualization to pair with their navigation needs, Apple's map app has taken about 80% of Google Maps' iOS traffic in just one year. Granted, Google Maps is still the leader by volume, since Android is the world's most-used mobile platform.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville

Editor's Note: This story was ammended to reflect that Scott Forstall was not fired, but quit the company.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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