Google has purchased Israeli mapping startup Waze to the tune of $1.03 billion, in a strategic move to maintain its lead in mapping, one of the most vital smartphone features.
Waze is a social map app with real-time traffic information, allowing users to flag bad road or weather conditions to warn other drivers.
Waze owes much of its success to the failure of Apple Maps. Tim Cook recommended the app—as well as MapQuest, Bing and Google Maps—after last year's inauspicious Maps launch. Since then, in addition to Google, Waze has been courted by Facebook and Apple.
If nothing else, Google has prevented competitors from snagging the app.
The ubiquity of map apps on mobile devices allows advertisers to insert location-based ads and deals. More importantly, as TechCrunch pointed out, Google is interested in the data provided by Waze's 50 million users. Google will incorporate Waze's real-time traffic data into Google Maps.
The Waze acquisition coincides with a planned Google Maps makeover. Google will add data from Google+ into its maps, such as restaurant recommendations along your route.
Google plans to "work closely with the vibrant Waze community, who are the DNA of this app, to ensure they have what’s needed to grow and prosper," Brian McClendon, the company's vp, geographic products, said in a blog.