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Thursday, December 13, 2012

How Google\'s Maps App for iPhone Hurts Nokia

Apple isn't the only company that should feel nervous about Google's release of a new maps app for the iPhone. Nokia may have lost whatever chance it had to get iPhone owners hooked on its mapping service.

Just hours after the Google Maps app was released Wednesday night, it skyrocketed to the No. 1 spot on Apple's list of most downloaded free apps, with thousands of five-star reviews. Nokia's maps app, Here, got a lot of buzz when it came out in November, but a majority of users rated it one star.

A chart on AppData, an analytics service that tracks the rankings of apps, shows that do wnloads of Nokia's Here app took a nosedive in late November. Now Nokia's maps don't appear to be gaining any traction in the App Store.

This could put Nokia at a competitive disadvantage in the mobile industry over all. In November, Stephen Elop, Nokia's chief executive, said the company made its maps available to iPhone owners so that it could improve its location database. The more people who look up directions or search for locations on its maps, the smarter its system gets. And if Nokia's maps get better, the company could build more powerful location-based features just for its Lumia smartphones.

Now that iPhone owners are gravitating toward using Google or Apple maps, Nokia will have to rely on people using its Lumia phones to improve its location database. But the Lumia phones haven't sold very well. Tony Costa, a Forrester analyst, said the overnight success of Google's app complicated Nokia's goals of selling handsets and bolstering its maps.

“T heir core business has to succeed for Here to succeed,” Mr. Costa said. “That's one of the challenges for them. They have to compete on the handset side, and the Here stuff will come along with that to some extent.”

Mr. Costa said that Nokia still had an opportunity to get people to use its maps through third-party apps. Nokia offers a toolkit for software developers to integrate its maps into their apps across multiple platforms, including Windows phones, iPhones, Android phones and the Web.

Nokia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.