Rumors are circulating today that Apple is considering buying social mapping startup Waze to help boost its beleaguered Maps app and team. This isn’t the first time we’ve had rumors of Apple buying an established maps company, with rumors of TomTom being in Apple’s sights circulating in December.
Today’s rumor via TechCrunch also makes sense, though I think TomTom might have a better data set than Waze:
By contrast, Waze’s international use has been growing because it is genuinely useful, especially in places where Maps remain a problem, such as in Asia and the Middle East. Because Waze maps are built on the location of moving cars, it’s far more accurate than check-in apps. Outside of Google’s project to map cities with Streetview cars – something which has taken years to complete – and the real-world mapping undertaken by volunteers on the Open Streetmaps open source project, there has been little to match Waze’s approach. Waze turned mapping into not only a game, but also a way for drivers to be social, reporting road obstacles, traffic and police traps. It is properly useful.
Unlike rumors of pulling in (or outright buying) Foursquare, TechCrunch makes the point that Waze has the data chops outside of the U.S., whereas Foursquare hasn’t quite caught on beyond North America and could be considered to be on its way out.
Having used Waze in the past to navigate, I think while the app might not help Apple too much, the data and team at Waze is certainly the more valuable asset (as is often the case). Rene Ritchie of iMore just tweeted this (presumedly) tongue-in-cheek response to the news:
So Waze would fix Maps the way Chomp fixed the App Store?
— Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie) January 2, 2013
Maps is certainly getting better and I’ve found that I prefer it over Google Maps for many things, so adding in social features and data via Waze could be a good step in the right direction.
TechCrunch is saying now that there isn’t a deal in the works, and probably never was really to begin with.