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Handling different user database sizes

The definitive Map API buying guide

More users generate more API requests, and because the majority of APIs are charged per request, the number of users directly correlates with the final price. This section covers suggestions for selecting the right vendor.

After the price, the second challenge is the burst rate - the number of served APIs per unit of time. To support an extensive user database, the API vendor should offer several burst rates to choose from.

Small user database size

Choose any, but have a plan B

Applications with up to 10,000 to 20,000 monthly active users can practically choose any of the available solutions. Namely, almost every Map API on the market provides generous free tiers, as well as a cloud service. Cloud-based solutions take a lot of responsibility off from developers, making them extremely easy to use and, most importantly, free for small-sized user databases.

Available options:

Google Maps

In this case, the ubiquitous Google Maps imposes itself as a natural choice. However, if the long-term goal is to increase the number of active users, it's worth having a plan B - both in terms of financial stability and quality of service.

Plan B

If you want to think ahead, we'd suggest considering starting with something more flexible. If you require just data visualization on maps, consider choosing an open-source map rendering SDK (mapping software). This will enable you to easily switch between Map API vendors without a need to make time and money-consuming software adjustments when your business starts to grow.

Switch easily

Having an open-source map rendering software allows you to choose between practically any Tile API service available on the market, thus providing financial freedom.

Think about Terms & Conditions

For example, Google Maps APIs cannot be used outside their proprietary SDK, meaning switching to another vendor inevitably means replacing the client-side SDK and additional costs.

Leaflet JS SDK and Mapbox SDK are excellent options to start with, Mapbox being our favorite since it offers cross-platform, native SDKs. Mapbox SDK versions below 2.0, come with a permissive BSD-3 license, making it an ideal choice for commercial applications (editable and free for professional use cases). Most importantly, the documentation and the developer community support are fantastic.

The biggest advantage of TomTom API is affordable and transparent list pricing. Mapbox API, on the other hand, relies on OpenStreetMap data, but it's inexpensive, and the pricing is transparent.

Medium user database size

When available options begin to narrow

Google Maps' 14x price increase in 2018 practically left a lot of mid-sized solutions in an unfavorable position.

With the 2019 price increase, the Mapbox solution became approximately twice as expensive as mid-sized businesses.

Available options:

At this point, TomTom, Graphopper, MapQuest (USA and Canada), JawgMaps, LocationIQ, and Mireo prove to be reasonably priced solutions.

Only TomTom and Mireo provide an option to use professional map data, while others use OpenStreetMap data (MapQuest provides partially licensed map data).

Microsoft's Bing and Azure Maps provide professional map data but with a complex pricing structure and not at an affordable price.

Large user database size


At this point, you're probably in a position to negotiate a custom quota, services, and support level with any Map vendor on the market.

The most important is to select the right vendor, check its support plan, SLA, and especially the responsiveness to custom feature requests, especially if your use case and requirements are even remotely specific.

Example: Uber - $58 Million for Google Maps

Although Google Maps usage for navigation purposes is strictly prohibited, in 2015, Uber made a $58 million worth agreement with Google Maps to use mapping (and related) services (Jan 2016 - Dec 2018).

Albeit a seemingly high price, with the at-the-time amount of 3.2 million drivers and about 1.5 billion trips quarterly, it translated into cents.

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