Apple Maps is booming. Well, at least according to Apple.
The company has today claimed that its mapping tool is now three times more popular on the iPhone than its ‘nearest rival’. That rival, in case you were in doubt, is Google.
It’s little wonder that Apple wants to shout about these latest figures.
In 2012, when Apple Maps launched as part of iOS 6, the service was nothing sort of a shambles.
There was the farm in Ireland it thought was an airport. The disappearance of Stratford–Upon–Avon. And the algorithm which listed Madison Square Garden as a public park.
Throw in a complete lack of public transport directions and no street view and you had arguably Apple’s biggest software disaster ever.
CEO Tim Cook had to stand up in the weeks after iOS 6’s launch and apologise, telling users things would get better. And while it’s taken some time, they certainly have.
The decision to include built-in public transport directions as part of iOS 9 was the culmination of years of work which has seen Apple receive reports of errors from users, boost its Maps staff and snap up mapping startups to help it improve it service beyond measure.
But is this boost in user numbers really down to all those positive changes? It seems unlikely.
Google Maps is still significantly richer and more detailed than Apple’s mapping app.
But because the latter is a native app, users are automatically directed to it from links within Mail and when using the voice control tool Siri.
Third-party apps, understandably, don’t enjoy such privileges.
Apple knows that, inherently, most smartphone users are lazy. The majority will use the app that comes with the device because it’s easy.
It’s only a vocal minority that eulogise different map services or more reliable email apps. It’s been able to use this fact to its advantage with Maps and appears to be reaping the benefits.
Analysts agree. IDC’s John Jackson told Associated Press that while the boost was impressive, Tim Cook and co “would not be in the position they are in” if it wasn’t for pushing users to their own app.
Apple says it now gets five billion map requests from iOS devices each week.
Obviously, it’s not saying how many of those are made by users who usually use Google, but click a link and end up in Apple Maps instead.
As ever with an Apple success story, especially one it’s choosing to tell, there’s more to it than meets the eye.