Mending Maps: iOS users turning increasingly to Apple Maps over Google’s offering

There’s no two ways about it – Apple Maps was a bit crap when it launched in September 2012. And its crapness has been well documented – you know, stories of cities turning up in the sea, farms labeled as airports, the Sears Tower being shrunken down….It got worse, with cops in Australia having to rescue travelers in a national park who became stranded after using the app for directions.

Within days of its release, the disgruntlement among users of Apple Maps was so widespread that company CEO Tim Cook felt moved to issue a letter of apology in which he admitted the software “fell short” of expectations and even recommended alternative navigation apps.

Since then, however, the Cupertino company has been busy knocking Maps into shape – and we’re talking about much more than a lick of paint and wallpaper over cracks. We’re talking a complete overhaul; a top-down review; the hiring of mysteriously named ‘ground truth managers’; and the acquisition of navigation-based start-ups that, y’know, have a clue when it comes to navigation.

And it appears the effort is beginning to pay off.

A recent Guardian report, using data from research firm comScore as the basis of its findings, says that while 58 million US-based smartphone owners currently use Google Maps on iOS and Android, this is considerably fewer than the 81 million using it in September 2012, just before the Web giant’s app was removed from the iPhone with the launch of iOS 6.

When Google relaunched its Maps app for iOS two months later, iPhone users flocked to it, with the Mountain View company announcing 10 million downloads in its first two days alone. However, it appears many iPhone users are now enjoying the benefits of a much-improved Apple Maps, ignoring the presence of Google Maps on their device, unless they’ve chosen to wipe it, of course.

The report says that 35 million iPhone owners in the US now use Apple Maps at least once a month, compared to just 6 million using Google Maps on the iPhone – and this figure includes 2 million iPhone users who haven’t or can’t upgrade to iOS 6.

Some of this extra engagement with Apple’s navigation app can of course be attributed to the fact that users get automatically taken to it whenever possible, such as with location searches made using Siri. But the fact that Apple now has 35 million iPhone owners in the US alone using the app at least once a month – apparently with little complaint – shows the company is heading in the right direction with its improvement program.

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