Apple to Acquire Navigation Specialist Waze: Report

In an effort to improve its much maligned iPhone mapping app, Apple may be purchasing navigation specialist Waze.

Despite the success of Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPad mini launches last year, the company got some major negative press for its in-house mapping application, which was derided as inaccurate and lacking the polish Apple is so well known for.

Company CEO Tim Cook said Apple was fully invested in fixing the application, and the rumored acquisition of Waze, which produces a free mobile navigation application for the iPhone or Google Android devices that allows drivers to build and use live maps, real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation, suggests Apple is moving forward on that promise.

The rumor was first reported on Jan. 2 by the IT tech blog TechCrunch. While Apple declined to comment, unnamed sources said acquisition negotiations are in an advanced stage, although Waze wants $750 million and Apple is countering with $400 million and another $100 million in incentives. A second report from Israeli tech site NewsGeek also picked up on the rumor, saying the acquisition offer was around half a billion dollars.

After typing in their destination address, Waze users just drive with the app open on their phone to passively contribute traffic and other road data, but they can also take a more active role by sharing road reports on accidents, police traps or any other hazards along the way, helping to give other users in the area a head's up about what's to come. While most of the editing work is done on the Waze Website, some parts, such as the naming of streets, can be done through the application directly.

In addition to the local communities of drivers using the app, Waze is also home to a community of online map editors who work to ensure that the data in their areas is as up-to-date as possible. The company counts a community of 28 million drivers and released the latest version of the application, Waze 3.5, in October.

Along with new social features are built-in privacy protections throughout, letting users control which features to interact with on Waze, and letting them "go invisible" to hide from the map anytime. Waze 3.5 also offers newly designed maps, moods and interface, giving the app a graphic overhaul throughout.

On the social side, users can create or join local driving groups, check in to locations on Foursquare, use Twitter to tweet driving activities on Waze to their followers and connect to Facebook to see all of their Waze-using Facebook friends around them on the map.

A December report from the New Cities Foundation (NCF) in San Jose, Calif., on connected commuting found that connected car commuters using Waze, Roadify or other apps to share traffic info are happier than unconnected drivers. Moreover, these same driver are “very open to sharing (and receiving) information with people,” while unconnected drivers are more skeptical of crowdsourcing their commute info.