Apple Maps: Is There a Hidden Agenda?

The enhanced version of Apple Maps is one of iOs13’s hidden gems. After iOs13 launched, Apple (AAPL) Maps’ new version expanded to New York and the northeastern part of the US. The company plans to release revamped Apple Maps to the rest of the US by the end of 2019 and globally by 2020. The company announced map makeovers in June at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Updating the Apple Maps app is the company’s attempt to take on Google (GOOG) and Waze.

What has improved in Apple Maps?

Apple launched its mapping program in September 2012 on iOs6. However, the maps weren’t impressive. Users were frustrated due to inaccuracy, mislabelled landmarks, faulty locations, and a lack of transit directions. Apple suggested using alternatives like Google Maps, Nokia Maps, Waze, and Bing. In 2019, Apple launched its updated maps, which it rebuilt over the years.

Apple stopped third-party apps and built its proprietary database by sending its vehicles across the streets. The new maps feature broader road network coverage, accurate addresses, improved pedestrian data, and exact landmark locations. The app also has indoor maps for some malls and airports in the US. The Look Around feature is one of the key enhancements in Apple Maps. Similar to Google Maps, the feature enables a 3D view of the location. Apple Maps also allows you to add addresses as favorites so that you can create a collection of frequently-visited places. The company plans to add real-time transit details and flight updates as new features on the app.

Why is Apple investing in maps?

Previously, maps led to immense face-loss for Apple. The company admitted its failure to build a quality map app. Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized said that the company “fell short on this commitment.” Now, the company wants users to quit using Google Maps and take Apple Maps seriously. The company re-invested heavily in the infrastructure. Apple used many aerial devices and cars with cameras and LIDAR sensors to collate data. The company is revamping the mapping app out of repentance with a broader business aim.

Apple wants to compete with Google. The company doesn’t want the search-engine giant to capitalize on iOs users anymore. Maps aren’t just for getting from one location to the other. Apple could earn digital advertisement revenues from local business owners. Globally, small and big businesses want propaganda for services to local audiences. They can obtain propaganda through mapping apps. With over one billion iOs users worldwide, mapping apps are a good opportunity. As a result, Apple doesn’t want to let go. Bloomberg reported that Google might monetize its map services. Brian Nowak, a Morgan Stanley analyst, said, “Sometimes I say the most under-monetized asset that I cover is Google Maps.” According to Baird Equity Research, Google Maps could deliver $5 billion of the company’s incremental revenues by 2020.

According to eMarketer forecasts, Google leads the pack in digital ad revenues in the US with a 36% share. Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN) are the other providers. Apple wants to make its presence felt here soon.

Apple Watch and Apple Car  

Fending off rivals isn’t Apple’s only focus. The company wants to improve its mapping service to enhance Apple Watch’s functionality. Run-tracking and navigation are Apple Watch’s sales drivers. Users should be able to rely on accurate mapping software to use these features.

Apple Maps is also a fundamental building block in the company’s secret and much-anticipated self-driving cars. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said, “Apple will launch an Apple Car sometime between 2023 and 2025, with the car set to be positioned as ‘the next star product.'” The self-driving cars will require highly-effective mapping software and location data to deliver superior results. As a result, instead of relying on third-party apps, Apple wants to take charge.

Challenges ahead

Apple Maps has immense potential. However, the app has to map the world before we can compare it with Google Maps. Verto Analytics says that as of April 2018, Google Maps had 154.4 million monthly users in the US, while Apple Maps had 23.3 million monthly users. So, Apple has a long way to go before it makes a visible impact.

Before turning Apple Maps into a well-monetized asset, the company needs to focus on improved users’ experience. There are also regulatory roadblocks that need to be considered. European authorities already have Google under the scanner for privacy concerns. There could be similar scrutiny in the US. I think that Apple needs to go slow. The company needs a well-defined and perfectly-timed strategy.

Apple stock is flirting with its 52-week high. The stock closed in the green at $224.59. The stock got a boost after J.P. Morgan raised its target price from $243 to $265. Meanwhile, Google stock lost 1.1% and ended at $1,205.10.