Lyft Is Catching Up to Uber in Total App Downloads

Uber is still in the lead—but that lead is shrinking.

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Uber is still the number-one ride-sharing app in terms of downloads, but Lyft is catching up. For the first five months of this year, Uber was downloaded 70 percent more frequently than Lyft in U.S. app stores, according to Recode, which cites data from analytics company App Annie. That may seem like a big lead—but it's down from 165 percent in 2016, and 255 percent in 2015.

Uber remains by far the larger of the two companies, but it has been plagued by scandals all year. In January, the company's botched response to protests of President Trump's proposed Muslim travel ban triggered a #DeleteUber campaign. In February, Uber was faced with allegations of sexual harassment by a female ex-employee, and a lawsuit from Waymo, which alleged that Uber had used stolen self-driving car trade secrets.

An investigation into the sexual harrassment claims uncovered a troublesome corporate culture, and helped bring down Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. The legal battle with Waymo is ongoing. In the meantime, Uber has been accused of everything from wage theft to spying on Lyft drivers.

While Lyft is catching up to Uber in downloads, it's already winning when it comes to customer satisfaction. Customer reviews have given Lyft an average of 4.4 out of 5.0 stars in the iOS app store so far this year, compared to just 1.8 stars for Uber. In addition, 35 percent of 1.0 and 2.0-star Uber reviews mentioned Lyft.

Even before the cycle of scandals began, Uber's app drew significant criticism from users. Changes made to the app in November 2016 increased its data-collection capabilities, including allowing it to track users' locations for a greater period of time. While user reviews are believed to reflect views of the company behind the app, dissatisfaction with the app itself is likely as big a factor as any in Uber's low reviews.

While Uber has been on the defensive, Lyft has been on the offensive. The smaller company is trying to match Uber's wider array of services with new offerings like Lyft Lux and Lyft Shuttle. It's also teaming up with both Uber nemesis Waymo and startup NuTonomy to develop its own self-driving cars, challenging Uber in what is expected to be a key area of development for ride sharing.