Here’s Why China Actually Likes Apple’s New Maps

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Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) special efforts to woo users in China have continued with its new maps app, which has a special version built specifically for use in that country. While iOS 6 users around the world have complained about the lack of details in the replacement software the iPhone maker has created for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps, the Chinese version of the Apple program actually appears to include additional details.

That is mainly because data for that country has been provided by AutoNavi (NASDAQ:AMAP), a Chinese mapping firm that is one of only 11 companies with a license to engage in comprehensive mapping of the country. China is extremely strict about allowing mapping services due to sensitivities over government and military installations. AutoNavi also makes auto navigation systems and captures satellite images, and has 45 percent of China’s mapping app market share.

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Apple has not integrated information from AutoNavi with that from its mapping data partner for the rest of the world, TomTom, instead relying entirely on the former. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, if customers in China try to view satellite imagery, they are only able to see that country, with the rest of the world appearing completely in black. Apparently, integrating data from the two programs will involve complex problems related to map search databases and coding.

Though the Chinese maps software also does not include Apple’s special functions such as spoken driving directions or 3-D flyover technology, it does provide textual turn-by-turn driving directions, WSJ said.

And while searches for businesses and landmarks are also still turning up errors, Apple maps may prove to be a lot more popular in China because of AutoNavi’s navigation specialization, which is also used by Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) and Google, among others. According to Macquarie Group analyst Jake Lynch, AutoNavi provides the best overall data compared with its Chinese rivals and invests twice as much capital in its products when compared to nearest competitor, NavInfo.

China, Apple’s quickest growing market, has been on the iPhone maker’s mind lately. The company’s latest mobile software not only provides support for Chinese languages, but also offers deep integration with social networks such as Sina Weibo (NASDAQ:SINA) that are specific to the country. Apple’s iPhone sales in China doubled in the third quarter, but growth has slowed somewhat as competition from rivals like Samsung, HTC, Huawei Technologies, and ZTE grows.

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