Apple has purchased public transport app start-up Embark in a bid to bolster its mapping credentials and keep pace with Google Maps, following the tumultuous first year for its Maps product.
The firm, which was founded in 2011, had apps on both Apple's iOS App Store and also on Google's Android Play Store. However, the Android iterations of the apps are no longer available at the time of writing.
Apple confirmed the purchase to Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin, saying, "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."
V3 contacted Apple for further insight on the deal but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Its intentions seem relatively transparent, however, as Apple Maps does not yet have any tools for public transport systems such as the London Underground or New York subway system. It instead advises users to download alternatives like Embark. Google Maps, meanwhile, has a full set of public transport features and became the dominant alternative on iOS while Apple's service was being improved following its disastrous launch last autumn.
The launch of Apple Maps posed a serious PR problem for Apple, with CEO Tim Cook having publicly apologised for the quality of the app that launched with iOS6. Soon after, the executive responsible for iOS software, Scott Forstall, was ousted from Apple.
German carmaker BMW invested in Embark last year, with its BMW i group joining forces with the firm in order to allow it to "expand geographically". Embark offers features including offline journey planning as well as live train departure and arrival times and transport service disruption notifications.
Google and Apple have been competing over mapping for some time, with each firm realising the value of navigation services to both businesses and consumers. Google made a high-profile purchase of traffic reporting service Waze earlier this year, while Apple has absorbed three other mapping technologies this year alone, buying Locationary, HopStop and WifiSlam.
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