Mobile map use on the rise, smartphone apps drive growth

The latest comScore report finds that the use of mobile maps is on the rise, driven largely by the use of mobile apps on smartphones.

The number of people using mobile maps is on the rise, up 44 percent from a year ago, to reach 33.5 million users. In the month of April, 14 percent of all mobile users in the U.S. accessed maps on their mobile devices, according to a comScore report. In addition, more mobile users are accessing maps via an application, instead of the browser, indicating that smartphone adoption is helping to drive the growth.

The interesting thing about the jump in mobile map usage is that it's also tied to mobile search. Sure, there are those who simply use maps to chart out directions to their destinations. But there are others - like myself - who use the search feature within the maps app to find specific types of businesses, such as a bank, restaurant, coffee house or gas station. Just this week, Apple made headlines when Washington lawmakers raised some questions about its privacy policy and the use of location-based services within its mobile devices. The bigger issue there is Apple allowing users to opt-in or opt-out from these types of services. With that said, it's these types of location-based technologies that enhance the mapping and location-based search experiences on a mobile device. After all, how can my phone tell me where the nearest ATM is if I don't allow my device to know where I am? In a statement, Mark Donovan, comScore's senior VP of Mobile, said:

People are increasingly turning to their mobile phone for maps and directions when on the go. With summer travel season upon us, we expect even more mobile users to access both maps and location-based local search to help them navigate and find geographically relevant information.

The research firm also looked at frequency of usage of mobile maps. For the three month period ending April 2010, 33.5 million mobile users accessed maps at least once during a month, a 44 percent jump from a year ago. The number of people accessing maps 1-3 times per month rose 47 percent to 17.1 million users, while those accessing once a week increased 60 percent to 11.6 million users. The most frequent users, those accessing maps on a near daily basis, climbed 9 percent to reach 4.8 million users.