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Apple eyeing Waze traffic app? What that could mean for Apple Maps

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The rumor mill is abuzz with the suggestion that Apple may be looking to buy the crowd-sourced mapping application Waze. TechCrunch reported Wednesday that the two companies were “advanced” in talks but were having trouble settling on a price.

A Waze spokesperson declined to comment on the reports Thursday, saying, “We never comment on rumors.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Waze is one of the mobile mapping applications that Apple highlighted in its apology for its error-prone Apple Maps, so it’s clear that the tech titan is a fan of the service. Getting the nod from Apple certainly raised the company’s profile — the Waze app had a 40 percent spike in downloads, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Acquiring the service would not only give Apple access to prime data but also, as Search Engine Land noted, would complement Apple in other ways.

Waze comes with its own “social community,” the site’s Greg Sterling pointed out, giving Apple something that it’s lacked in the past — social network credentials. (Remember Ping? Yeah, no one else does, either.) Waze also comes with a more global community, Sterling noted. The Israeli-based company also has strong communities in Asia and the Middle East.

The real-time data that sets Waze apart could be a big help to Apple Maps. Since Waze users submit the traffic they’re seeing on the ground, the app can give instant recommendations for alternate routes and more accurate time estimates — two key attributes that appeal to commuters.

Apple has made no secret of the fact that it’s working hard to improve its much-panned Maps app, which launched with several inaccuracies and kicked Google’s more popular mapping service off the iPhone. Google Maps returned as an app to Apple’s platform last month, quickly climbing the charts as one of the App Store’s most-downloaded programs.

While Apple, as several bloggers including Time’s Harry McCracken have noted, may ultimately benefit from having strong apps — even strong Google apps — on its platform, it certainly isn’t throwing in the towel when it comes to navigation. TechCrunch reported that the company is willing to offer up to $500 million for Waze — $400 million in cash and an additional $100 million in incentives. Waze, however, is reportedly asking for $750 million.

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