Apple is rumored to be looking into buying the Israeli satellite navigation application Waze, which has become a worldwide hit thanks to its melding of crowd sourcing and traffic mapping.
A possible offer stands at about $400-$500 million, industry insiders speculated — but the successful startup, which offers maps, driving directions and real-time traffic reports to mobile users, is estimated to be worth closer to $1 billion, according to the Calcalist financial newspaper.
US-based tech blog TechCrunch reported that Waze is seeking $750 million, and negotiations could take time.
Waze, founded in 2009, uses satellite signals and reports of members to generate maps and real-time traffic data that it then offers to smartphone users around the world. Waze’s image data improves as more users — the number now hovers around 30 million, according to the firm — join the network. The app displays users’ information anonymously (unless they choose to identify themselves), and suggests quicker, alternative routes to drivers, as well as warning of potential hazards like traffic accidents and police activity.
Neither company has confirmed the reports of a takeover.
Waze has raised a total of $67 million so far from a series of investors. Its revenues in 2012 were $1 million, mostly from location-based ads, which integrate mobile advertising and the ability to pinpoint consumers.
Waze also caught the eye of other technology giants, like Facebook, which was reportedly considering acquiring the app.
In September, Apple dropped its contract with Google, which had previously supplied the data for the iPhone’s own map app. However, customers complained about Apple’s proprietary map software, claiming it was an inferior version of Google’s, causing Google Maps to be reinstated as a downloadable, external app in December. Within 48 hours of its release as a free app in December, Google Maps for iPhone was downloaded over 10 million times, according to The Telegraph.
According to YNet News, Waze said there was a spike in the download of its app after Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an unusual move after the launch of iPhone 5, suggested that customers download rival mapping services, like Waze, until Apple had a chance to improve its own maps.