Apple, Waze, and the expectation of rumors

There are some rumors going around that Apple is considering the purchase of crowd-sourced mapping app Waze. Apple has a ton of cash, and can certainly buy Waze if that's what both parties want, the way Apple bought Chomp, Color, Polar Rose, Siri, and other companies over the years. Mike Butcher of TechCrunch writes:

So it comes as almost no surprise to us that there are rumours flying around that Apple is sniffing around Waze with a view to a possible acquisition. After all, Waze is already a data partner for Apple’s Maps app and was the only app to gain meaningful marketshare after the Apple Maps fail. We have reached out to both. An apple spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.” We got a “we never comment on rumors” from Waze.

Location is incredibly important. If Apple feels there's talent and/or technology at Waze that can help them with maps, then it makes sense they'd be exploring the possibility.

That's part of what makes this such a compelling rumor. Apple Maps have suffered in the media and in public perception since launch, and this taps into the general desire for a "quick fix" to the problem. However. Apple replacing iOS 6 Maps with a rebranded Waze app, is a non-starter. Even integrating specific features people like about Waze, such as super-fast crowd-sourced updates, would be non-trivial. Likewise, pumping raw Waze data into Apple's backend location services. Apple already has TomTom and Waze, and other data sources there. Turning all that data into a clean, verified, using facing maps product has been a problem. Would more data help or only exacerbate it?

After Apple bought Chomp, there were huge expectations that search and discovery in the iOS App Store would be instantly, magically improved. Instead, we've had slow, iterative, often painful changes that are still in progress. Waze likely wouldn't fix Maps any quicker or more easily than Chomp fixed the App Store.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple, Waze, and the expectation of rumors


Waze is my favorite navigation app on ios. I would hate for them to buy it and then ruin it, close it down or in anyways make it worse.

Waze is an awesome navigation app and Apple would do good to purchase it. Why? It's very popular among iPhone users, it's accurate, easy to use & aesthetically pleasing.

Screw Waze... Apple should buy Nokia - and with that would come Navteq and all its mapping expertise. :)

Not sure if that makes good business sense. Buying Nokia comes with all the expenses that Nokia. It's like buying all of Sears cause you just like the Tire Center or Best Buy cause you like the Geek Squad service. Yeah you get Geek Squad but you also get the added cost of running a ton of declining Stores. I don't know about Tom Tom or Tele Atlas. Personally i'd have bought wave rather then making an ios map app. they could always add their programming might to updating the look to apple glossy standards. That said, being that i'm not fond of apple's navigation that much, knowing what i know now i'm glad they didn't buy it.

Apple has money to spare. If they wanted it, they would buy Nokia, keep Tele Atlas and shut down or sell the rest.

What they *should* have done is bought Navigon before Garmin got it. :-) They could still buy Garmin, of course, and shut down or sell the hardware division, or maybe just buy the Navigon division which seems to be run separately from the rest of Garmin.

I don't know. "spare money?" Having cash and wanting to spending it on something costly are two different things. They don't typically waste money. And Nokia's market cap is like $19billion. So that's like 20%-25% of Apple's cash on something that is going to be costly to support since they'd still have to make Nokia phones to stay a float: a product that competes with iphones. So in order to succeed they'd have to have a product successful at competing with their core product. That's not logical. It's bad business. But worse, nokia has been on an downturn so they'd be buying something that's not a good business. Even Warren Buffet doesn't buy bad businesses. He buys good businesses with steady growth. Even consider app properties apple buys. Do they typically buy app or app companies or web properties that are on the decline or on the way up? Typically its something that's on it's way up. Now they ruin it after that but that's Apple's fault. And you don't spend over $19 billion to shut down the business. that's fantasy talk. No board would ok that because teleatlas isn't going to bring in enough to make it profitable. It's not like owing just the maps part of nokia would bring in millions of new Apple customers. People bought iphones regardless of the maps. So you'd be paying over $19billion for something that doesn't add anywhere near $19billion in added revenue and that's just to break even let alone make the purchase profitable. They'd be better off finding another more affordable company, or hiring more people to drive around in streetview cars and also add more up to date map data.

TomTom is my go-to for critical navigation. It would be nice if Apple were to somehow buy TomTom but I think we all know that's not a realistic scenario.

I love waze! It would be great if they could work it out so people can still map streets like waze allows you to and edit the map when there are errors. More than likely if this were to happen it would be shutdown and the developers used to improve the apple maps.

WAZE is awesome & I know peeps with TomTom GPS devices that complain of poor accuracy, so I've wondered why Apple just didn't buy WAZE to replace Google Maps with in the first place.
I hope that if any merger were to happen it would be to trash the Apple Maps app & replace it with WAZE, yes calling it Apple Maps. I just don't want Apple ruining WAZE by just buying expertise or picking pieces from the app.

Rene, do you get some sort of commission for saying things like non-trivial and non-starter?? I would suggest a drinking game for the podcast based around this, but I would be scared for people's lives.

Indeed, Apple should go for Tele Atlas or Nokia.

Actually, Waze is rather pathetic for navigation. For those not used to or familiar with stand-alone GPS navigation you will disagree. Waze is really good for crowd-sourcing information and people warning others of an incident, but that's where Waze's reliability and true functionality ends.

There are so many errors with Waze right now its ridiculous. While some may argue it is fantastic, I disagree. Idiots creating false red light camera locations that can't be removed, an app that is missing many key features like being able to edit map, cameras and what not. You can do most of these, to some extend if the feature is not locked only through their main website. There is no quality or reliability checks at all with Waze. People can post whatever they want. It may or may not be accurate. As long as you have a certain minimum amount of points, you can create a fictitious item like a radar camera location, lock-it and it will remain. Nobody but the original person who locked it can make changes to it. You can see how this easily abused. In contrast, Google has a fantastic method through Google Mapmaker. Any changes you do must be verified by your peers.

Sadly, it seems that whatever Apple suggests something like when (Cook) suggested Waze back with iOS 6 flop launch, some of the followers merely jump on the Waze wagon.

What features is it missing in terms of Navigation that makes in inferior to other Nav apps? Yes I have used stand alone Navs along with several Nav apps. It isn't perfect, none of them are. But the data you get in Waze makes it superior in my eyes. I really don't get that many false alarms that you refer to. Maybe it depends on where you live. It has saved me from traffic accidents and speed traps many times. You say the App is no good because you can't edit maps from the phone... what App does let you edit maps from the phone? Personally a cellphone isn't a very good tool for editing maps. You make it sound like children jump on the website and start moving roads around. Not sure if you know this but you can't simply make a map update. You put in the request and it has to be verified before the change goes into effect. I have made several updates myself and they have taken between one month to one day to approve. To me it sounds like you haven't really spent that much time with Waze.

My fear is that Apple will buy Waze and then strip it of the data that makes it better then the rest (police).

Waze is an amazing and well-loved app in the tech community. There are many aspects—such as crowdsourced information—that could be beneficial to Apple.

But I hope they would not use the UI. To put it bluntly, Waze is about showing off neat-o features and not about navigation. It bombards the user with irrelevant data: dozens of icons for nearby “Wazers”, unprompted traffic reports for freeways on the opposite side of town, chat requests from total strangers at red lights, non-existent traffic jams on side streets, and detours to collect “candy”.

A smart nav app should show me *relevant* information and not gamified distractions, in a product category where distractions are dangerous.