Who is Winning the Apple vs. Google iPhone Driving Directions Battle? Too Close to Call

Yesterday I published the first question of my driving direction survey showing an extremely fragmented market. It is a category led by Google but one that is fragmented and, after a long period of calm, is once again becoming heated.

Apple, with the release of their own mapping product in September, has quickly garnered market share and has created a playbook that others like Samsung could very well follow. After Apple’s disastrous rollout where their mapping product was widely criticized (ah the problems of a market leader), life has settled in. I wanted to see, 6 months in, how Apple Maps was fairing in the competition for iPhone users and how many users were actively using products other than Apple’s.

Using Google survey I created a filter question to ascertain their preferred device/software for driving directions. Five hundred users that indicated iPhone as the answer were asked this follow up question:

  • What mapping or driving directions app do you use most often on your iPhone?

The answer? Its a statistical dead heat with Google Maps for the iPhone showing a lead that is well within the margin of error of the survey.


What does this mean for Apple and Google?

The survey doesn’t really address whether the users still using Apple Maps are happy or just victioms of inertia. My anecdotal reports would indicate the former, that many are very happy with the product but I don’t have hard data to back that up. Apple, in releasing a product before it was fully ready, opened themselves up to plenty of criticism. More importantly they have yet to learn how to play defense well in an all too combative market that will take any opportunity to go after the market leader.

Apple has a solid market share and more importantly critical real estate. They have a product that is easy to use and very attractive. They seem to be willing to do what it takes to make Apple Maps a long term contender.

Google, a hyper competitive player, will (or should I say has) move into their release often, upgrade features till the other side gets tired strategy. Yesterday, after only two months on the market, they released a fairly significant upgrade to their iPhone Google Maps product.

As Googler Joel Headley noted on Google + yesterday in response to my survey:

It’s great to see a number of players that have great apps. I know it will help focus Google to develop new and exciting things in mapping not thought of by other folks. 

Google, not used to second place in the mapping space, seems willing to invest resources in regular and frequent upgrades to their iPhone app (even while Their Places Product is burning).

Mapquest, an early entrant into the iPhone driving directions market with an excellent product, lost a tremendous opportunity to gain visibility both before the Apple Maps release and in its aftermath. I am not sure how they missed their chance. They too could have been a contender and one has to wonder exactly what they were thinking during the fiasco. The many bit players, like the telco products, will never achieve lift off velocity. Waze, seems to have moved on with Apple’s entry.

It does seem to be a two horse race. Like I said yesterday “driving directions, long a stable and somewhat boring market, is once again in play”. The advent of mobile platforms has injected vitality and change into a market that needed just that.

Note: See yesterday’s post for methodology and issues related to the survey results that might impact the results.


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Who is Winning the Apple vs. Google iPhone Driving Directions Battle? Too Close to Call by

6 thoughts on “Who is Winning the Apple vs. Google iPhone Driving Directions Battle? Too Close to Call”

  1. Fascinating research Mike. I really appreciate the in depth analysis on driving directions and map providers. They are an under utilized end point in the local SEO space. If this data is accurate at scale than this would also seem to help bolster Acxiom in terms of a local data provider due to their direct pipeline to Apple maps.

    1. @Dan
      Clearly the space is very fragmented with 4 base map providers and 4 primary business listing providers. Both elements need to be accurate for an SMB to be comfortable that people can find their location. Given the fact that the market share is so spread out amongst vendors, Acxiom is just as important as Localeze or InfoUSA or Google and in the mapping world TeleAtlas is just as important as Nokia or Google or Openstreetmap.

  2. I think the Samsung question is an interesting one. They can’t use Nokia Here maps. Apple Maps is out. So do they use Google? Not a great long term option if they want to compete with them on the OS front. Or build their own? If they build their own, they need to get after it. As Apple showed, it isn’t easy.

    1. @Marc
      As I noted yesterday, it isn’t easy but it is doable. Samsung could do what Apple did and buy up a bunch of small companies and accrue institutional knowledge over time or they could sweep in and buy TomTom/TeleAtlas in one fell swoop. Their market cap is chump change these days.

  3. Hi Mike,
    TomTom has been cheap for years. A hundred bankers have approached them about selling to Apple, Samsung or someone. So far, the owners (a lot of stock still owned by founders) haven’t wanted to sell. Besides that, TomTom has map data but only just recently launched a mapping platform. I suspect that IF they do anything, it will be the former. A Samsung purchase of TomTom would make things interesting for Apple though since they use TomTom map data and don’t have many other options….the major commercail map data vendors would be owned by Nokia and Samsung. I suspect that have a deal where they get data in the case of an acquisition….just guessing though.

  4. For what it’s worth, my wife recently got a new job. On the way to the job she had to turn off google maps, and turn on apple maps to get the correct directions.

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