NEW YORK: Facebook has the most popular app in the US, but Google retains a "strong leadership position" in this space, according to comScore.

A report by the research firm revealed that the app for Facebook, the social network, boasted 85.6m users in December 2012, up from around 70m in June. Google Maps saw growth from 71m to 74.6m in the same period.

The study added that Apple's ill-fated decision to replace Google Maps on the iPhone with its own equivalent service in October 2012 was "largely responsible for the position swap".

"Google Maps has been clawing its way back the past few months after getting reinstated on iOS 6, so look for the competition for the number one spot to heat up as we head into 2013," Andrew Lipsman, comScore's vice president, industry analysis, said.

Moreover, Google's broader strength was shown by the fact five of its apps were in the top six such tools used on smartphones powered by its own Android operating system or the iOS.

Google Play, the firm's digital storefront, claimed third position with 61.5m users in the closing month of last year, ahead of its search engine on 60.6m and Gmail, an email platform, on 52.6m.

"Given the ubiquity of various Google services in addition to many being native apps on both iOS and Android, its strength should perhaps not come as a surprise," said Lipsman.

YouTube, the company's video site, also racked up 52.6m visitors via this route in December. Nikesh Arora, Google's chief business officer, said last week that it had a simple formula for success.

"If you focus on the user and produce a great experience, it doesn't matter what platform it is," he argued. "People will adopt it and adapt it and take to it."

In terms of usage time, however, Facebook held a large advantage, with a share of 23%, comScore said. Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, posted 3% here, the same total as Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps.

"These two leading web companies combine for more than one out of every three minutes spent on mobile apps," Lipsman said.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, said late last year that its app users were particularly important, as they had a 70% likelihood of logging on every day, versus 40% for desktop-only users.

"People use our mobile app to visit Facebook more frequently," he asserted. "Facebook is the most widely downloaded app on basically every smartphone platform, so we're well positioned to reach the growing smartphone population."

Data sourced from comScore, Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff