Public-transit apps bolstered by missing iOS 6 feature

While users have criticized Apple's new Maps application, some third-party developers are loving the influx of new users.

Transit app listings in Apple's new maps app.
Transit app listings in Apple's new Maps app. CNET

Apple is well known for making roadkill out of third-party applications with features it's added to iOS over the years. Though in taking out one key feature from its new Maps application, the company has also given smaller developers a chance at big exposure.

For proof of that, look no further than Embark, a Bay Area company that has a dozen localized transit apps for cities like New York, San Francisco, and London. Since iOS 6 launched last week, the company says it's seen its biggest spike of downloads and activity yet, including 1.3 million trips planned through its various apps.

"When we planned our first million trips, it took eight months," Embark co-founder and Chief Executive Officer David Hodge told CNET in an interview.

All told, the company has served up about 40 million trips since launching in 2008. Hodge says the most activity has been coming out of New York, which accounts for half the company's app use.

Embark is not alone. Sam Vermette, the creator of Transit, saw both downloads and revenues from those paying for transit subscriptions spike sharply following the release of the software. The majority of those are from users on the iPhone 4 and 4S.

"It's been quite a crazy week for us," Vermette said.

Apple's iOS 6, which was released as a free download last week , brought with it a new version of maps that does not include public transit directions. The feature, which Apple has made no mention of adding in future software updates, is currently being outsourced to third-party apps, which are listed from within the Maps app.

For app makers, time could be of the essence. Multiple reports yesterday claim that Google is racing to re-introduce a new standalone maps application to iOS through the App Store, which could offer the same feature set as the one Apple replaced.

In the near term, however, developers like Hodge look at Apple's entry into the space as a blessing.

"We're excited about the competition, and all the users in the space," Hodge said. "I think it will work out for everyone."

 

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