Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Looks like I wasn't the only iOS6 holdout

A few months ago I said that I wasn't going to upgrade to iOS 6 on my iPhone 4 until the disaster that was Apple Maps was resolved. A couple of weeks ago, Google finally came to the rescue with its well-reviewed Google Maps App for iOS 6. That allowed me to finally upgrade to iOS 6. Turns out I wasn't the only one to do so, as Josh Constine reports:
Apple Maps was so bad that people refused to upgrade to iOS 6 until they could get Google Maps, says data from massive mobile ad exchange MoPub. The 12,000 apps it supports saw a 29 percent increase in unique iOS 6 users in the five days after Google Maps for iOS was released. Chitika reported just 0.2 percent growth immediately after the launch but it seems people waited for the weekend to do the long install.
I didn't get around to finally doing it until this past weekend, so I'm not included in those numbers. But it's nevertheless fascinating that I am just one of millions of people who refused to upgrade my phone's entire operating system simply because of flaws in a single mapping app. It goes to show just how basic and crucial a smartphone's navigation function is to its users.
MoPub’s CEO laid it out for me, explaining “we observed since the launch of Google Maps for iOS 6 a 30 percent increase in unique iOS 6 users, and we think it’s related to Google Maps. It verifies the hypothesis that people were actually holding back to upgrade until Google Maps was available.”

That was in fact my hypothesis last week after seeing one friend tell others that Google Maps had arrived, and then watching them all sit down and immediately upgrade to iOS 6 and download Google Maps — which itself racked up over 10 million installs in the first 48 hours after launch. Google will probably never release this data, but I bet it saw a massive drop-off in traffic to the iOS 5 Maps app it powered that people clung to instead of switching to iOS 6.
Having spent some time playing around with it, I can say that Google Maps for iOS 6 deserves the positive reviews it is getting. It is visually appealing, easy to use, contains data previous versions lacked (such as building footprints) and has many cool features (you can shake the phone to report an error to Google!). It's better than any Google Maps app I've used previously; in fact, Google has even admitted to the New York Times (which also loves the app) that the new iPhone app is superior to the Maps app for their own Android devices.

Which begs the question: why would Google create such an outstanding app for their competitor's operating system? Why not just say to iPhone owners, "hey, if you don't like Apple's flawed mapping app and want to use our app instead, you'll just have to switch to Android." Tim De Chant explains:
It’s an impressive app, but most reviews fail to ask, why didn’t Google do this in the past? Why didn’t they provide this level of data detail for the old maps app? Because they didn’t have to. Google essentially had a monopoly on mobile mapping, and they thought Apple had no choice but to use their service. Accept our terms or else.

Well, Apple called Google’s bluff. Say what you want about the bad PR Apple suffered from their maps, but they got Google to provide the mapping data needed so iOS users don’t feel like second-class citizens. Plus, now Google has a little competition. In the long run, we’ll all benefit from that.
Exactly. Apple Maps might be a disaster now, but that means that it can only be better as Apple continues to refine it as well as the data behind it. Google needs to stay a step ahead. By releasing their best product yet in Google Maps for iOS 6, Google comes away looking like the white knight for millions of new iOS 6 users even as they retain their superiority in the mobile mapping and navigation realm.

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