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The Subtle Marketing in GPS Apps
Which GPS mapping app is the best?
That depends on your definition of “best.”
Want to get there as quickly as possible? Go with Google Maps. Looking for an accurate ETA? Apple Maps has better predictions. Looking for creative routes that avoid traffic jams and alert you to changes in driving conditions? Tap Waze.
Those are the conclusions from data guru Artur Grabowski. A few years ago, Grabowski set out to compare Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze (which is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet).
He tracked hundreds of drives comparing the estimates and actual arrivals.
While Google Maps emerged as the clear winner in serving up the fastest route, the data prompted a few other interesting findings. Apple consistently overestimates how long a trip will take, while Waze consistently underestimates trip time.
Recalculating Customer Experience
That has meaningful implications for drivers looking to shave a few minutes off their rides – and for how different revenue models impact product design and customer experience.
Apple, Grabowski reasoned, has a different goal for its Apple Maps product than Waze. Apple Maps comes pre-installed on Apple products. It’s an important part of the broader Apple product set, yet few seek out iPhones specifically for Apple Maps. Because it’s not a major source of revenue, Apple’s less concerned with how many users choose Apple Maps. The company is very concerned with providing a good experience for those users who do opt to use it.
What better way to provide a positive experience than to get you to your destination ahead of schedule?
Waze, on the other hand, is heavily focused on finding and keeping users. More users means the app can charge more for the hyperlocal advertising at the heart of its business model. Grabowski says that gives Waze an incentive to underestimate how long a trip will take, with the knowledge that users will pick the quickest ETA at the start of the trip without comparing times at the end of it.
The differences in estimates and arrival times may be based partly in the tech behind the apps, but they’re also heavily informed by the business and revenue strategies behind each offering.