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January 24, 2013

Google Maps Ends 2012 Less Popular than it Began

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

A bit of a shakeup in terms of mobile app popularity in 2012 emerged today, as it was discovered by a comScore study, the Mobile Metrix rankings, that while Google (News - Alert) Maps entered 2012 as the most popular mobile app, it didn't end 2012 as the most popular, losing to a somewhat surprising foe, but for reasons that make a surprising amount of sense.

The Mobile Metrix rankings revealed that, by the end of 2012, Google Maps went from the number one slot in terms of popularity of mobile apps in the United States, to number two. It was beaten by the Facebook (News - Alert) mobile app. Andrew Lipsman, an analyst with comScore, ran down the reasons behind the fall, mostly pointing toward Apple's decision to replace Google Maps on iOS devices with Apple (News - Alert) Maps--a decision that in itself didn't last long or end well--as the key reason.

However, Lipsman pointed out that the move to re-establish Google Maps on iOS 6 was giving the app plenty of extra help as it works to retake its top slot in 2013. But it wouldn't be an easy win for Google Maps; while the new release for iOS 6 is certainly a help, Facebook still has what Lipsman called "a very positive trajectory," with little to get in the way of a clear upward momentum. 

Image via Shutterstock

Yet even comScore's (News - Alert) reports can only go so far, as the company only began ranking apps in March 2012. Without even a full year to make measurement of, the results have to be taken with something of a grain of salt. Moreover, further complicating the overall picture is the fact that Google, based on the comScore reports, holds five out of the top six total rankings, with Facebook representing the only break in the top five that isn't Google. Other apps in the top 10, meanwhile, feature Pandora (News - Alert), iTunes, Yahoo! Messenger, and Cooliris.

Those pulling for Google to reclaim its top slot, meanwhile, have a little extra reason to believe it can be done. They point to the reports that suggested that Apple's decision to pull Google Maps from iOS 6--at least, the temporary decision to do so--actually managed to slow the number of users who were upgrading from iOS 5 to iOS 6. Those users that stuck with iOS 5 could still use Google Maps, while those who upgraded lost access to the app for a while. When one app can prevent the rollout of an OS upgrade in so many users' cases, it's clear that that app is something special indeed.

The overall battle for app supremacy is likely to be extremely hard fought, with new entries making their play for the top rankings and the frontrunners looking to hold the ground they already have and take new ground to help ensure their slot at the top of the list. While no one's sure just what the market will look like this time next year, it's fairly likely that those in the top 10 will trade places somewhere, and there may even be some new apps making their presence known.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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