Apple Reportedly Looking to Buy Israeli Navigation App Waze

Technology blog Newsgeek reports that Apple offered nearly half a billion dollars to buy the navigation start-up.

Apple has offered nearly half a billion dollars to buy Waze, Israel's free navigation app for mobile phones, according to the Israeli technology blog Newsgeek.

The offer was reportedly made earlier this week.

Representatives from Waze Ltd. were not available for comment.

This is not the first report of negotiations to sell the company, which was founded in 2008 by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine, though to date none of those talks have panned out.

A senior source in the Israeli venture-capital field said yesterday that about six months ago Waze turned down a buyout offer of $200 million to $300 million from a potential buyer, apparently Facebook.

The source said the company refused to sell for less than a billion dollars.

Commenting on the Newsgeek report, the source said that if Apple is feeling pressured by Google's dominance in the field of mapping applications for mobile phones, it might be willing to shell out a few hundred million dollars for Waze.

Waze more than tripled its number of users during 2012, with 30 million users reported at the end of October. The app's popularity first picked up in Israel and then spread to other countries as well.

The tech media had been reporting for several months that Apple was planning to eliminate Google Maps as the preloaded, default app on its iPhone and iPad, and that it would be releasing a new mapping program in its place. But when Apple finally released Apple Maps for iOS 6 in September, it proved to have numerous technical problems.

Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology and directed iPhone users to alternative GPS apps, including Waze. Waze consequently increased its market share among iPhone users in the United States from 7 percent to 10 percent within a few days, reporting a 40 percent increase in the number of daily downloads during that period.

In November, Waze launched a new business model based on ad revenue. The app now includes a business listing in which companies can purchase various advertising packages. For example, they can now advertise discounts and sales to users in their immediate area.

The CEO of Waze, Noam Bardin, now lives in the United States. To date, the company has raised $67 million.

Daniel Tchetchik