86 Comments

Summary:

Last week Snappli, a data compression app, found that among 5,000 of its iOS users, many quickly began using Apple Maps only to see 1 in 25 such users keep using it. Some questioned the data and today Snappli explains the methodology it used.

iOS 6 Maps showing Eiffel Tower

Last week, data surfaced from app development shop, Snappli, suggesting that a large number of iOS users quickly tried iOS Maps and just as quickly dumped it. Since Apple launched Maps, its CEO, Tim Cook, offered up a public apology on the mapping issues and the iTunes App Store began featuring map alternatives. Clearly, there’s something not quite right. But folks looking to see the bright side of the picture don’t believe Snappli’s data so on Tuesday, the company penned a blog post to explain the methodology behind the numbers.

Because Snappli is a data compression service, some assumed that Snappli was simply looking at smartphone data usage to determine that Maps had a fast uptake, only to see 1 in 25 users continue to use it. And since Apple’s Maps use vector graphics combined with pre-loaded map data, it doesn’t need to keep getting more data for usage, so Snappli’s report was considered inaccurate. That’s actually a reasonable assumption, but it’s an incorrect one based on Snappli’s post, with emphasis added by me:

“[W]e were looking to see if we could detect any anonymized traffic from the Apple Maps app on any given day. We were not looking at the total amount of data used by the app. Our goal was to measure popularity, not how data hungry the app was, nor the impact of vector graphics.

Some of you have asked us whether we accounted for variability in traffic over days of the week – the answer is yes, we made the effort to look at usage for the five days before and the five days after a day zero (with day zero being the day each user updated to iOS 6).”

As I read this then — and I’ve clarified multiple items with the Snappli team over email today — the company’s report last week had nothing to do with the amount of data use for iOS devices running Maps; it simply checked the usage of maps, which would throw out the whole vector graphics argument. A Snappli rep told me in no uncertain terms that “Data we published was based on users using the app at all rather than on how much data.” I did additional inquiry, asking about Snappli’s process for apps that don’t use any data and was told:

“Snappli would know if any app was accessed or engaged with as long as any amount of data whatsoever is requested. When we used the terminology “using the app” we mean the user or the app itself actually making a data request of some kind however minimal. While Apple Maps has been shown to use less data than Google on iOS on a like for like basis due to use of vector graphics, there is still almost always a data request of some kind when users engage. So while its possible for a user to open an app, scroll a previously downloaded map and hence not pass any data whatsoever and therefore not be measured by Snappli, this is certainly an edge case.”

Essentially then, any iOS Maps user that didn’t request a single byte of data would pass by Snappli, sight unseen. That scenario — called an edge case by Snappli — would skew the data towards fewer Maps users, but even with those cases, it’s reasonable to believe that in Snappli’s data set, a large number of users stopped using Maps within a few days of upgrading to iOS 6. Other possibilities for the Snappli results: Perhaps the sample simply doesn’t use Maps on a regular basis or Maps is so efficient that it works with local device data for the majority of people’s needs.

Apple users are typically supportive of the company’s devices and services — and I mean that in a good way — so I wasn’t surprised to see enthusiasts dig a little deeper into Snappli’s original data. Besides, Snappli is a young startup so again, it’s reasonable to make certain assumptions and question them.

However, it appears that among its sample size of 5,000 Snappli users, most are looking outside of Apple for mapping needs. And the company’s founders, Eldar Tuvey and Roy Tuvey previously founded ScanSafe, which mined over 3 billion daily web requests, creating weekly industry research for several years before Cisco acquired it.

Will the Maps issue to any extent slow iPhone sales or have any major impacts to Apple? I doubt that; if anything it will help Apple make a good product even better as the company moves quickly to fix any issues in the Maps application.

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  1. Idon’t Know Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    It’s idiotic and you should know better than to publish this foolishness.

  2. The response skirts around caching by calling it an edge case. That’s not good enough. I’ve seen the reports of people using maps with no data connection, so caching can’t just be brushed away as an edge case.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel Iva Tuesday, October 2, 2012

      I think what makes the situation different to understand, Iva, is exactly what you’ve observed because every case is unique. We’re all looking for different map data or directions to different locations, so it’s hard to quantify and aggregate.

      1. Kevin, my appologies, but I can’t make sense of your reply.

        It should be fairly straightforward, if Snappli works as it says it does, to see if the sample of 5000 was using an alternative mapping app. If not, then either the sample doesn’t use mapping very much or Apple maps is very efficient with caching. But you can’t make a blanket statement that it is because everyone is dumping Apple Maps, especially when Snappli has the data to say otherwise.

      2. Every case is not unique though. Every person is usually looking at maps around where they live and work. If you just stick to doing that it’s quite possible to use no data in multiple launches of the iOS6 Maps app, as I verified using a web proxy. I could even zoom in and out in locations I had zoomed into before without using data.

        Almost everyone mostly spends time around a specific area, and those areas are easily cached.

      3. Kevin, it may simply be that the “edge case” is far more frequent than expected. Per Charles Arthur in the Guardian, he traveled all over Korea for more than a day with no data connection whatsoever — yet Maps continued to show street level detail.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/sep/29/apple-maps-how-good

        1. Yup, great point, Michael, and I linked to the same article in my post. People seem focused on looking/panning/zooming, but what happens when you turn off your data connection and do a simple Maps search? When I do that, I get no results. When I reactivate the connection, I get results. So I think a small bit of data would be passed for that fairly standard use case. Thanks!

        2. Michael, just to follow up a bit more on my last comment, I searched for directions in Maps without a connection and, as expected, got an error that the Map server was unavailable. That means any search for directions passes data and therefore, Snappli should see it. Long story short: Snappli may not be able to see who’s using Maps for looking at maps, but it should be able to see Maps usage for searches and directions. Thoughts?

      4. when I read the piece yesterday about the guy who had maps but no network, I decided to do a test. tracked my location all the way to work (about 2 miles on the bus). when I got to the office I turned airplane mode ON – so all my radios were off (iphone 5). I was able to see everything along my route.. including zoom. wander off the tiles I had already downloaded showed nothing. so it appears clear to me that maps works w/o data (i was using vector). I had usable maps, and Snappli would have no idea I was using them.

        1. Vera, that’s a good test that proves how much map data is cached. Can you try again, but this time when you turn off your connection, search for something on the map or request directions. I believe both of these activities do request mobile data. Thanks!

  3. Did anybody think that a lot of people opened up Maps to look at it right after they bought the phone or upgraded to iOS 6, and since then haven’t been looking at it? I mean, most of us already know how to get work, and that’s where we go 5 days a week. I don’t use Maps every day, but I definitely played around with it a bunch the day I upgraded to iOS 6.

    1. And that’s exactly what I think happened. I doubt very much that a large percentage of people use maps (Apple’s now, Google’s before) every day…most of us use maps once or twice a week, to get to a new place for the first (few) time(s) (my spatial memory sucks, I need to drive to a place 3 or 4 times before it sticks), and then not anymore. I mostly use Waze for my navigation (Google maps sucks for navigation in .mx, apple maps didn’t change that at all), but I use it, at most, 3 times a week, and I’m pretty sure I’m actually more a typical use case than an atypical one.

  4. So far I have used iOS Maps about a dozen times. In each case the information was accurate and I appreciated the lack of “clutter” on my iPhone when I even glanced at it. In most cases the voice navigation was more than sufficient to guide me to my destination.

    I did not do any “flybys” or worry about satellite images that much, although, when I did they were fine in my geo area in Southern California.

    Antenna-gate “tempest in a teapot” again?

    1. Exactly. So overblown.

  5. uh, that is not the reason we should trust the data, because again, the maps app doesn’t need to grab data over and over again, even on the second or third visit…

    as most people are finding out, Apple’s Maps are not nearly as bad as the over hype media machine suggests, by pointing to a few landmarks out of place… as if google didn’t have any mistakes…

    someone did a study on Canada, and 800 locations were not correct, most were not even in canada…

    1. Marco Tabini tried to compare the same spots on Google Maps and the result shows that Apple Maps aren’t quite that bad in Ontario:

      http://vore.cc/post/32503374905/old-maps-vs-new-maps

      tl/dr; The locations were often not found on Google Maps either, but Google will always return a result even if it is inaccurate (for example Google put more of the locations outside of Canada), Apple tries to make more accurate matches.

      1. Marco’s analysis is flawed. CLGeocoder (the method he used to generate his results) doesn’t actually use Google Maps, even under iOS 5; it’s an internal geocoding system at Apple. So, his entire post is moot, since he’s comparing Apple’s data with … Apple’s data.

        The actual results given by Google Maps are much, much better than his analysis indicates.

        For what it’s worth, Apple’s road data in Ontario is very accurate — they’re just oddly missing the names for a ton of small towns.

        References:

  6. also, the graph itself implies the exact opposite, that Google has lost all of it’s users, because Google maps did not pick up from where the supposed loss of people using Apple Maps…

    it is pretty clear that most all are using Apple maps from their own data…

  7. The same way Apple uses 3rd party hardware components should apply to software components ( like maps and youtube). Apple simply cannot assume they make the best software. In fact, they only make the best platform and let 3rd party developers do the heavy lifting on apps. Google has spent years and billions to make maps what it is today and I am sure they wont be standing still while Apple tries to catch up. Apple should swallow their pride and put google maps back on. If not, they will certainly be looking at reduced sales of future products based on the inferior maps app they are stuck with. Maps is one of the highest use apps on mobile and users won’t settle.

    1. actually, it will be extremely easy for Apple to catch up and actually make maps twice as good as Google’s, nobody is analyzing Google’s data, when they did, in Ontario, they found 800 locations of meta data were not correct, most of them were not even in Canada… and the really big reason that Apple will easily surpass Google maps, Apple is using 3D vectoring… Google is not… and 3D vectoring brings about huge advantages… what will be funny too is when Google realizes they have to use 3D vectoring, they will run into the exact same problems… which are a few errors… they will of lost about half of all those years of “experience” and money…..

      most of the problems people are pointing out, are meta data out of place, this just requires someone typing in the correct location data… these are on servers, and Apple wouldn’t even have to release an update to the app to correct that data… that is extremely quick to fix too….

      I realize you’ve fallen for what the media has portrayed, but the fact is, Apple’s Maps are pretty good… not perfect, but pretty good, especially for a first version… it seems every single person who actually tries to use Apple maps for the intended purpose, actually got where they were going… including Consumer reports who did a comparison in NY, and another set of bloggers did one in San francisco, and basically all the regular people in between are finding their towns are well represented…

      so while you are claiming Apple didn’t make good software, you are basing it on the same media who said Apple was sunk because they didn’t include Flash, and look how that turned out…. and the same media talking about Antenna-Gate, which turned out to be in their heads… if you squeezed a Samsung phone tight you would also loose reception they found out. you’ll notice Apple never changed the antenna design in the iPhone 4 nor the basic design in iPhone 4S for that matter, and suddenly no one was complaining about antenna’s anymore…

      why? because Apple released on most carriers, so people could compare actual literal side by side, and the differences were minimal…. Antenna Gate… yet Apple sold more iPhone 4s and iPads than Samsung did in smartphones, iPhone 5 will sell twice as many as any combination of several of Samsungs phones….

      because people are actually noticing that the iPhone 5 is really good, and maps is pretty good….

      1. And you have fallen for the apple fanboy hype sorry to say…..

    2. i agee 100%

    3. “Apple simply cannot assume they make the best software.”

      Really? So Apple revolutionized the mobile industry by introducing software so bad that Google completely redesigned Android to make it a bad copy of iOS. Software so bad that everyone – Google, RIM, HP, Microsoft, Nokia – has been struggling ever since to catch up. Yeah, that sounds like a company that doesn’t make the best software.

      Oh, and you do realize that the previous Maps app was made by Apple, NOT Google? It used Google’s data, but the actual Maps app has always been built by Apple. And as far as software goes, the new Maps app is superior in every way to the previous version: vector graphics, 3D flyover, turn by turn voice navigation, etc. The only problem with the new app is the data, the software is absolutely beautiful and one of the best (if not the best) mapping apps on any platform.

  8. What sliver of iOS users are using this proxy service that nobody had heard of prior to their press release, and what correlation is there between people who need to use a proxy and those who use maps, or specifically Apple’s?

    Also, who prints such tenuous assumptions and leaps of logic as “reasonable enough sounding facts for a headline!” Oh right.

  9. Look at what this new iPhone 5 under Tim Cook has brought, a bad decision about doing away with Google Maps. Now read the stories coming out now about how the new iOS 6 has a “Purple Haze” issue with it’s camera and how it does not let some people connect to their wifi system and now stories coming out about how iPhone 4 and 4s owners are complaining about accelerated drain from the new iOS 6 as well. This is just bad hardware and software, that is all it is and not worth the money for inferior products just to be part of the club.

    My wife and I have bought 2 each of the 3GS about 6 months after they came out and we loved them, we then bought 2 each of the 4’s about 3 months after they came out, of our 4 iPhones we bought them all in Singapore over the Singapore Apple website and whenever I went to Singapore I would pick them up at our apartment. I did ask on both purchases if I could have it fixed in Jakarta (our main home) if we had problems with them. Both times Apple’s Singapore staff told me yes they could fix them in Jakarta. It was not true.

    After only one month my wife’s iPhone 4 stopped working. I contacted Apple many many times and it took more than 6 weeks to finally have Apple to repair the phone free of charge even though it was under their so called warranty.

    When I made complaints to Apple Singapore about this and climbed up the complaint ladder in Singapore I was told by the last Apple Singapore staff that he was the last one I could complain to, no one else was higher in the Singapore office even though he was only in Customer complaint division. LOL. Again more Apple lies. I was given very bad information by the Apple employees for the repair for the phone and the arrogance I received exceeded anything I have been submitted to by any other company in this world.

    Have you ever tried to contact Apple via email? I then searched the net and emailed the only email address I could find, media@apple.com. Then I was contacted by Apple SE Asia and they refused to responsibility for their staff and the way I had been treated and then the staff got really arrogant and did not care that I was grossly misinformed, it was arrogance extraordinaire and I could not get her iPhone 4s fixed in Jakarta but had to make a trip back to Singapore to do it.

    No longer will we financially support Apple, they only want money now for untested inferior software and blah products like the iPhone 5 that is still playing catch up to the Samsung Galaxy S3. The home button is crap already on my wife’s Apple iPhone 4 so yesterday she got her new Samsung Galaxy S3, she loves it and easily transferred all data and contacts over from her Apple 4 with the Samsung software.

    If you want to really let Apple know how you feel about these injustices done by this arrogant company then contact these people:
    Jayesh Kamath jayesh.k@apple.com Janine Beach jbeach@apple.com Frank Teo frank_teo@apple.com media.help@apple.com Shelley Reid sreid1@asia.apple.com media@apple.com

    1. you do realize that there are no Apple Stores or staff in Singapore right? and that there are third party resellers, some of them not legit…

      and that you were complaining about Apple staff at Singapore, and Jakarta that do not exist….

      so you had a third party reseller, tell you that you could fix your phone in jakarta at a non existent Apple presence? or that some other third party reseller was going to fix it for you???

      and now you are blaming Apple about the words of a third party non associated reseller??

      i can picture the conversation now with Apple…. you need to send it in…. yes, and it will take a long time to get it back to you…. no we don’t have any stores in jakarta….

      no we don’t have any stores in jakarta… you have to send it in….

      i imagine after about the fifth time they having to say this to you, that you felt they sounded arrogant alright… you probably have that right….

      1. Unfortunate for you, both at Singapore and Jakarta, there’s legitimate Apple Stores. I can confirm some of their place if I had the mind, though there’s one near my place.
        Your arrogance, Honk Jhonk, is more like the Apple’s guys arrogance. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, why don’t you just sew your mouth shut?

      2. Checking http://www.apple.com/retail/ … no Apple Stores in Singapore. So no Apple staff. You have been dealing with a reseller. Their customer service is nothing to do with Apple.

        Visiting http://www.apple.com/sg/service/ would have found you an official supported service centre, did you do this?

        Apple don’t offer support via email. You have to call them. There number is 800-186-1087.

        There less than 1 minute and I have solved your problem. Seriously, whine and bitch on a board, rather than actually do something about it – Apple don’t need you as a customer, you are a drain on their resources.

    2. C-Cross, again, there are no Apple retail stores in Singapore, or Jakarta, there are THIRD PARTY RESELLERS selling Apple products, some are not legit… all you had to do to show you didn’t know what you were talking about, was to show the link to the locations….

      since you don’t know the difference between an Apple Store, and a Third party reseller, I imagine you too would have felt everyone you spoke to, started to sound arrogant after they told you five times there are no Apple Retail stores around you.

      1. Honk is perfectly right, there are no apple retail stores in either Singapore to Jakarta, only (premium) resellers. To be clear, what we mean by “Apple Store(s)” are retails outlets run by Apple the company. The way one tells if it’s a real Apple Store is by the presence of Genius Bars, and you would well know that there are no Genius Bars in either Singapore or Jakarta.

    3. The “purple haze” problem existed before the iPhone 5 and exists on other phones/cameras too.

      http://www.dpreview.com/articles/6867454450/quick-review-apple-iphone-5-camera/3

  10. Obviously people will open the map app and play with it when they first receive the phone. Everyone is curious to see the changes, however, not many people have use for a map app on their daily life.

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