How Google Maps may have actually helped Apple

Apple may be “seething” over the joyous reaction to Google Maps'(s GOOG) return to iOS, but there also may be reason for Apple(s AAPL) to be grudgingly thankful. According to one ad exchange, the number of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users upgrading their software to the latest version of iOS has risen noticeably since Google’s navigation app appeared last week.

Across the 12,000 apps and 12 ad networks it tracks,┬áMoPub saw impressions from devices using iOS 6 rise 29 percent between last Tuesday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 15, it told Techcrunch. MoPub believes that change is caused by people finally upgrading to iOS 6, after holding out for Google’s alternative to Apple Maps. As in, they wanted to stay with an earlier version of iOS in which the old version of Google Maps was the default navigation app, instead of upgrading and having Apple Maps as the default service.

That’s not a bad hypothesis. Anecdotally, I’ve observed this trend of waiting to upgrade among my friends and family. MoPub’s report differs from what Chitika had reported last week — that the rate of devices running iOS 6 (at least in the U.S. and Canada) grew just 0.2 percent between Wednesday and Friday last week. Taken together with MoPub’s data, it could be that many waited until Saturday to upgrade.

Apple already enjoys an incredibly quick adoption rate of its latest mobile OS whenever it releases one — for iOS 6, north of 60 percent just one month after release in September. Google’s latest version of Android, by way of comparison, is at just 2.7 percent adoption as of November.

Either way, while the entire Maps episode doesn’t improve Apple’s reputation with online services, it does show that users continue to stick with Apple devices anyway.