Google Maps in China plummets in usage with Apple iOS upgrade

Google's market share in China has been on the decline since shutting down its search engine for the country

Google's mobile maps product saw its market share in China decline by close to 50 percent in the third quarter due to Apple switching to its own maps product for its iOS 6 upgrade, according to a Beijing-based research firm.

At the end of the third quarter, the company's market share fell to 9 percent, making it the sixth largest vendor in China's mobile maps sector, according to Analysys International. This marked a major fall from the second-place spot it held in the previous quarter when its market share was at 17.5 percent.

The decline largely stems from Apple's September upgrade to its iOS operating system, which removed Google maps and replaced it with Apple's own mapping product for China, according to Yi Jingxue, an analyst with Analysys International.

"In September, once users made the change to the new iOS, Google lost a lot of users," she said.

Google's popularity in the country has been on the decline since 2010, when the company decided to shut down its search engine at the Chinese domain google.cn following disputes with the Chinese government over censorship. The company's global search engine, along with Gmail and Google Maps, still remain available online in the country. However, access to the products can be either slow or blocked, due interference from Chinese censors.

"The user experience on Google Maps hasn't been very good," Yi said. "This has driven away many of the company's partners to use other mapping products."

To continue operating Google Maps in China, the company last year had to apply for a state license from the Chinese government, or face penalties. Google said Tuesday it is still in discussions with Chinese authorities about how it can offer a maps products in China.

At the top of China's mobile maps market is AutoNavi, which also provides the map data for Apple's iOS 6 app, according to Analysys International. AutoNavi was one of the first companies in China to provide mobile maps, and had a 25.9 percent share of the market in the third quarter. Baidu, China's largest search engine, was second with a 19.1 percent share.

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