Apple’s recent launching of its own mapping software, to replace the default Google Maps on iPhone and iPad devices, has been described by industry pundits and observers as the latest escalation in a war that is heating up between the two technology giants. Both companies have been focusing on mobile for several years now, and are clearly established as the two dominant players in the space. iOS and Android have a combined 80% market share in the mobile space in the U.S., and Apple and Google are competing on a range of related technologies, from voice technology (Siri versus Google Voice) to, now, location-based services and mapping tools. Both companies want to rule. Is there room for a duopoly in mobile? Or will one eventually dethrone the other and become king?
When it comes to location-based services, Google has a firmly established head start. Its Google Mapping software will continue to be the default map application on all Android phones, which outnumber iOS-based mobile devices by a factor of nearly 3-to-1. Far from resting on its laurels, Google recently made changes to its Places pages in the maps channel to incorporate more social elements, and is enhancing its 3D and street view imaging. This market leadership position is clearly something that Google will fight to hold onto. But Apple’s announcement is sure to shake things up. We can expect the new iOS6 to launch with a beautiful and simplified user interface for its mapping tool, more integration with Siri for recommendations of local businesses, and likely integration with reviewing or even mobile payment technologies.
Companies who have been focusing solely on optimizing their presence in the Google Maps channel may need to turn an eye towards Apple to ensure that their results are consistent regardless of the mapping tool being used. Then, add the wildcard of Bing into the mix; some analysts are predicting lofty market share gains for the Windows Phone — these predictions may be a stretch, but regardless of what you think of them, Bing as a mapping tool is gaining traction, and Microsoft isn’t disappearing anytime soon.
This war isn’t going to fade away. Nearly three quarters of U.S. smartphone owners get location-based data on their phones, a percentage that has been growing by leaps and bounds since last year. The market size is enormous, and the stakes are huge. As it plays out, it’s more critical than ever for businesses to focus on where the users are, and to ensure that local information and marketing tactics are reaching users on multiple platforms.
Sari Stein, Digital Strategic Planner