comScore m:metrics has reported that the use of mobile maps is increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, with 8 percent of American mobile subscribers and 3 percent of European subscribers accessing maps from the mobile phone in the three-month period ending May 2008. This represents a growth rate of 82 percent and 49 percent in the number of users, respectively and, according to the comScore M:Metrics Benchmark Study, the iPhone is the leading device used to access maps in the United States, although in Europe, the device trails the Nokia N95 and N70.
"The mobile phone as a personal navigation device makes tremendous sense," observed Mark Donovan, senior analyst, comScore. "With the influx of devices, such as the iPhone with GPS, entering the market, Nokia's purchase of NAVTEQ and the growing popularity of downloadable navigation applications, you don't need a map to see where this sector is going."
According to comScore, 73 percent of mobile subscribers accessing maps are doing so via the browser in the U.S., and in Europe, 57 percent. Less than a third of Americans and Europeans are using a downloaded application, which allows even feature phones, with less computing power and often smaller screens, to better render graphic-rich maps and directions. Despite the ubiquity of SMS usage in Europe, the penetration of consumers accessing maps and directions via SMS is 24 percent; only one percentage point higher than it is in the United States.
The vast majority of mobile map users are seeking driving directions, even in Europe, where public transportation and non-vehicular options are more popular.
While mobile access to maps has surged, online access to maps using the PC shows more modest gains in the United States and Western Europe. In the UK, which posted the highest growth in mobile access to maps at 72 percent, online access via the PC dipped from 45 percent penetration in May 2007 to 41 percent in May 2008. In the U.S., the increase in the number of users accessing maps from a mobile device far outpaced the increase in the number of people who accessed maps via the PC.