Data showing most people dumping iOS Maps seems legit

86 Comments

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(s aapl) 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 (s csco) 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.

86 Comments

Pierre

It isn’t just about how much less data Apple Maps use compared to Google Maps in order to complete the same set of lookups all over America. It’s also about how the data is cached and reused in future lookups around the same areas. In the past week, I did a few searches in Palo Alto, San Francisco and New York City, and each time I panned a bit around the immediate area. Now if I switch the phone to Airplane Mode, I can still browse my maps to the highest level of detail not just around the few locations I searched but over the *entire* Bay Area and the *entire* city of New York – and I still get the second highest level of detail over all of California, eastern New York and huge swaths of Nevada, Oregon and New Jersey. Without any data connection! Try that with Google Maps… No wonder people believe the Apple Maps app saw a 25x drop in usage.

Glen Raphael

Here in Manhattan, I used to launch the maps app every single time I go to a show or restaurant, because (when it included transit directions) it would tell me which subway lines I should use (in cases where more than one might be appropriate) and exactly when the next trains would arrive so I knew whether I should hurry or could take it easy walking to the subway stop.

Now, there’s no point launching Maps at all for that sort of query – doing so takes a bunch of extra clicks and delay in order to launch some other third-party app which I could just as well just launch directly. I’ve switched to usually launching KICKMaps, an app that doesn’t even *show up* in Apple’s list of available transit apps.

(it’s also a huge pain that the walking map doesn’t show the names of the subway lines that stop at particular subway stations – that factor alone is making me investigate other alternatives)

So my own personal usage profile is consistent with the story of people dumping the Maps app – I use it a small fraction as often as before and might well stop using it altogether.

Peter Deep

No Kevin, sorry, but think about what you are saying. There were more than 100 million iOS 6 downloads. You are saying that 96 million people – 96 MILLION PEOPLE – are refusing to use the Maps app. Think about what you are saying. It’s absurd!

greenlight

Even if Maps works without data, that says nothing about if Maps will use a data connection if one exists. Maybe it hits the server to check if it needs to update the cache, or to read traffic data, or any other of the little things it may do.

John

Just a quick question. As a follow up could you breakdown what apps users are turning to instead of Apple maps for mapping data?

Vera Comment

then where’s the requisite INCREASE in the use of other apps? surely those 5000 users need to get their map fix from something. WHAT ARE THEY USING?

aardman

What was iMaps usage before iO6? That is the figure to compare against. Not the number of iMap looks immediately after iPhone 5 and iOS6 was introduced. I checked out iMaps when I upgraded to iOS 6. Now I’m back to my more normal habit of hardly using it.

johndhynes

Why doesn’t Snappli say what navigation apps are being used instead? Also, it’s far from a random sample. Snappli users are, I’m sure, less likely to be using stock apps than the average iPhone user.

Dave Marcoot

Apple Maps has worked flawlessly here for me in Maryland. I find turn by turn so useful I will be using the new map much more than I was the one Google shipped withholding that functionality for themselves.

tylernol

Snappli should read up on vector graphics and cacheing some more.

Just_Iain

The one time I’ve used the new Map app, it was as accurate as the old Map. And doing a search on Google Maps quite often leaves me a half block away from where the actual location. So the question is are we holding Apple to a level that Google really didn’t meet?

trip1ex

Yes. Of course. This is overblown. These things always get overblown.

Afaik the street data in Maps is from Tom Tom and presumably in every TomTom GPS in millions of cars around the world. Never heard any outrage about them except for the usual grumbling a associated with every GPS device.

Bill F

If the request is made through Siri would it show as a map request?

Comments are closed.