How Apple Maps Can Beat Google: Acquisitions + Personalized Services

Before 2012 ended, Google gave iOS users a great Christmas present when they launched the Google Maps app for the iPhone.  This may not seem like a big deal, since Apple CEO Tim Cook even suggested iPhone users look to Google as part of an apology for the Maps kerfuffle, but Cook’s also very unlikely to be happy with Google’s ongoing popularity in this space.

But even before Google Maps came out, we made our recommendations for Apple Maps alternatives, and one of them was Waze Social GPS, a crowd-sourced app that gives users community generated real-time traffic and road alerts including accidents, hazards, police traps, and comes with complete voice-guided navigation, and automatic re-routing as conditions on the road change.

The Apple of Apple’s Eye?

Rumor has it, Apple is eyeing Waze for an acquisition to enhance their mapping service.  As TechCrunch puts it, Waze would be a better acquisition than Foursquare since “it is genuinely useful, especially in places where Maps remain a problem, such as in Asia and the Middle East,” and the only app to gain significant marketshare because of the Apple Maps kerfuffle.

Besides, Waze would have a lower price tag than Foursquare.  Not that price really matters for Apple, but they’d get better value for whatever amount paid.  Foursquare is about checking into places, whereas Waze is all about mapping, and while both factor in user-generated data to help build the information Apple needs to compete with Google Maps, Waze looks to be the smart pick.

Since we’re already talking acquisitions, there’s a number of other apps providing location-based services that could help Apple leapfrog Google.  Wifarer is one company that provides a software only, high-accuracy indoor positioning solution to venues such as airports, shopping centers, museums, convention centers, hospitals, and universities.  This type of technology could really help Apple layer more personalized services to its mapping technology, an initiative Google’s already developing.

Personalizing the Leading Edge

But in order to beat Google, Apple still has to compete with a number of other features like Street View, and to make matters worse, Google is already conquering the seas with their ocean floor Street View. Privacy is one way Apple could position themselves against Google in this arena, as Google faces international concerns over the ways in which Street View is being used for public search purposes.  Combined with personalization, the right angle on privacy could give Apple a leading edge over Google when it comes to location services.

Then there’s bookmarking places.  A lot of people go on trips, visit a certain place and they rave about the service or food in that place, but when you ask where you can find it, they give you a very vague description of how to find it.  Apple can add this capability to their Maps, make it more social by letting people write reviews or other notes. It’s a crowd-sourced way to contextualize location-based data, empowering it far beyond its physicality.  This is another service-driven feature Google’s been working on for some time, and part of the reason Foursquare seems like a good acquisition target for Apple.