Comscore, whose accuracy is generally between a Lotto Quick Pick and a drunken dart throw, says Google Maps usage has fallen since Apple Maps came on the scene. The Guardian has a good overview: How Google lost when everyone thought it had won.

We shouldn’t be surprised that in the absence of choice, people take the path of least resistance. What’s missing in these discussions is how it’s criminal Apple gets away with not allowing alternative defaults for maps, browsers, calendars, and any number of other areas, which means every time you click a link or address in the OS it opens Safari or Apple Maps, in my opinion inferior apps. Some developers get away with this by having settings to set Chrome or Google Maps as your default, like Tripit just added, but this is implemented in a hacky, per-application way, and every app puts their setting in a different place if they support it at all.

If Microsoft did this a decade ago we’d call for the DoJ to reopen their investigation. Apple has the best phone, best tablet, and in many ways the best operating system — we should not give them a pass for this blatantly self-interested and user-hostile stance. Defaults matter.

39 thoughts on “Apple and Google Maps, and Defaults

  1. First off, Calendars does NOT force you to use Apple’s iCal, nor do you even have to use Calendars……there are plenty of alternatives in the AppStore. I use Calendar 5.

    For Browsers, Safari is free and comes standard, much like IE comes on a Windows Machine, or Chrome comes on an Android device. Do you propose that we lobby Apple to make a Safari for Android? Remember Safari for Windows? How long did that last….I don’t think it’s been updated in over a year. And how many Browser alternatives are there on Android? Or Windows Phone?

    Maps. Again, there are PLENTY of free Map apps, including Google Maps. There are plenty of developers who provide hooks to use other browsers and map applications if they are installed.

    But then, think of what you consider what you are calling “superior”. Google. How many Apple users really want Google tracking and trying to sell Ads to us on our mobile devices? Have you used the Gmail app lately? There are ads in that. Or as they call it “Promotions”. I imagine Google Maps will be doing something similar if they haven’t yet.

    So, what do we have then? Apple’s “inferior” products, or the Ad-ladened Google Apps? I suppose you want Google to make a better Video iOS app as well, complete with Ads like the YouTube App has?

    I’ll stick with Apple’s products, or good third party alternatives, thanks. I don’t want my habits being sold by a shady company like Google. And I hate Ads, especially when it’s using my mobile data.

    1. It’s not that there aren’t other browsers, calendar apps, etc, it’s that when you click a link only Apple’s are launched, you’re locked into their defaults with no flexibility or control.

  2. I am assuming no more iOS devices for you, since it is against your principles? Next time, I want to see Windows Phone or maybe Android as your default phone 😉

    1. Also I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting the product you use every day and have significant investment in to be better. I use an iPhone despite this failing, but every time my non-preferred app launches it frustrates me, or every time I have to copy and paste an address into Google Maps instead of just clicking it (which would launch Apple Maps).

      There are already alternative apps in the App Store — why not take the logical next step from a user experience point of view and allow those to be what’s launched by default? I can’t think of any reason that’s good for users why not, and I haven’t seen any proposed.

  3. If you want NSA inflicted software and services as a matter of choice, that is your prerogative. Go get an Android phone and stop harping on Apple. A lot of folks including me want the security and safety of a slightly “walled-off garden” as a matter of choice. Go do your cluelesslyindignant and meritless crusade elsewhere.

    1. “Go do your cluelesslyindignant and meritless crusade elsewhere.”
      Dude, this is his blog, you can’t really send someone away from his own site 🙂

      Oh, and good luck believing in the safety of your garden 😉

    2. “A lot of folks including me want the security and safety of a slightly “walled-off garden” as a matter of choice.”

      No one is suggesting you lose your choice. Stay in the garden, it’s beautiful and probably safe. Others want the choice to step outside the garden without having to climb a ladder.

    1. So, instead of being able to pick the app who’s creator you trust most, you prefer a fixed default? That makes no sense to me.

      1. Do you really expect someone who’s not a technerd to :
        1) understand that the “new” app does not work in the way that the previous
        2) that what is sent is not text but ‘hangout messages’ that the recipient will only read when they open G+
        3) that they can look up the store for and install another SMS app?

        It’s a frickin’ phone. People rightfully expect that the “phone” features just WORK.

    1. 1) The “new” app does not work the same way as the previous. This is true, it has a different UI, and is only enforced on users as the default on brand new KitKat phones. I.e. the Nexus 5. In older phones, it’ll ask you which to use (i believe), with SMS still the default.

      2) SMS are in fact sent through Google Hangouts. People who send you SMS will show up with an [SMS] tag, which when replying to is still an SMS message. When selecting a contact you can choose to send it over Google Hangouts or SMS; which can be a source of confusion, but it does not mean that SMS messages aren’t sent through hangouts.

      3) Maybe not. But as the only time Hangouts is forced on them is a brand new phone with a brand new operating system, well.. it’s to be expected really that their apps will change.

  4. I understand your frustration.
    To highlight the difference between Microsoft and Apple though, if Microsoft were to do this, it would (at least back in the day) have affected multiple manufacturers hardware. Apple can do this because it affects only there systems and does not restrict anyone else’s.
    What makes the issue more visible is that Apple’s devices, in general, occupy the higher end of consumer purchasing which seems to correlate with increased usage of services.

    The reason why the DoJ, or indeed other services in, what Americans generally forget is, the majority of the world have not taken action is that there’s no monopoly activity here. Apple’s actions affects it’s own vertical product categories, however big they become. They don’t impinge on others products or prevent them offering competing options.

    For myself, I am divided in opinion. I would often like for a better app or service to be linkable into the system defaults in place of the provided ones. Actually Maps isn’t one of them but Notes, Calendar, Mail and Camera are.
    However being a developer i can in some ways understand the issues here. Apple’s own apps, whether they are well implemented or not, are at the least deeply integrated.
    Allowing developers to connect to that integration means:
    1. Ensuring the developers fully implement all the required connections
    2. Having a way of monitoring the apps behaviour on those connections to prevent malicious code execution.
    3. Reassuring the majority of users that this isn’t the security hell that it plainly could be.

    To use Android as a comparison, Google allows a lot of swapping out of tools for defaults, but, defend it as you will, Android does not have the record of protesting against malicious code execution and security breaches that iOS does.

    So once again we are in the world where allowing more accessibility to the system innards compromises security and reducing that access compromises choice.
    Google feels answerable to the developer community from the casual up to the Stallman-ites.
    Apple feels answerable to it’s customers at least for security issues if not for transparency.

    Your preference can dictate your purchasing choice as it should.
    Personally, I find Android inconsistent and bit amateur still and Win 8 Phone too shallow. And yes I have owned and sincerely tried to like both.

  5. “If Microsoft did this a decade ago we’d call for the DoJ to reopen their investigation. ”

    Well difference is, Apple does not have a 90% market share on smartphones 🙂

  6. In many important ways, Apple represents the opposite of what Open Source and WordPress are all about. That famous ‘1984’ commercial has gone from ‘iconic’ to ‘ironic’ imho.

  7. @julien51 – the story is similar to Microsoft policy like Matt has mentioned it. Each time when company decides and doesn’t let the consumer decide, its value decreases. Especially on the market of new devices. Who uses (among aware, tech-savvy customers) Internet Explorer? Companies such as Apple or Google will have to understand it one day or they’ll be fated to loss the market share.

  8. An idiotic post which of course makes it to Hacker News because of all the Android kids there. Anything anti-Apple does.
    First Apple is not remotely a monopoly which is the only time anti-trust comes into play. This is basic grade school level knowledge btw.
    Second you are flat out wrong that many of these apps cannot be replaced by 3rd party apps which others have already pointed out to you.
    Third there is data from multiple sources that Apple Maps has destroyed Google Maps on iOS. Google that.

    1. I’m super pro-Apple, that’s why I don’t want to switch to Android just to have my preferred browser come up when I click a link.

  9. 100% agree. Obviously email is a big one but I would adore being able to set Chrome as my default browser to see if I’d prefer it. How could I possibly truly know whether or not I want to use Chrome instead of Safari without being able to set it as my default?

  10. I agree in principle that Apple should allow changing the default apps. I use Chrome all the time, and quite frankly I have not warmed up to Safari (although it is much better in iOS 7). Having said that, if Apple allowed changing the maps default to Google maps, Apple maps would have a very tough time becoming an equally-strong alternative. How it would otherwise collect the data necessary to improve and become a better maps service? The same argument applies to opening up the voice interface (say, allowing Google Search/Now to be used instead of Siri, or something along those lines). Google just has too much of a head start with its search and maps service. Apple needs any “unfair” advantage it can get to get ahead of the game. Is that criminal? Given the “unfair” advantage that Google has now, I am inclined to say no. If at some point Apple services (big if) becomes a serious contender for Google services, then my answer might be different.

  11. Indeed, and so the big question is why Microsoft got a lot of hell (from both users and lawyers!) for making IE the default browser in Windows, and Apple doesn’t get that for doing the exact same with Safari and iOS.

  12. From some recent articles, Google is doing something similarly self-interested in tying preferred status to OEMs that do things its way by giving them their coveted Apps. All companies, especially these behemoths, tilt things their way, sometimes in hard to understand ways nowadays – even WordPress/Automattic.

    I think as a creative/developer, there must be constant pressure to keep things as open and integrated as possible to fight back against the forces on the other side.

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