Fire up the iPhone's inferior Maps app today for subway or bus directions and you'll be shuttled off to the App Store for a listing of apps that offer that functionality. One of those options is Embark, which Apple just acquired to hopefully avoid the above scenario like a 20-car pileup.
Apple confirmed to tech reporter Jessica Lessin that it scooped up the Silicon Valley startup, founded in 2011, providing its usual scripted response: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." However, it's pretty likely that Apple will integrate Embark's functionality into its Maps app.
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The iPhone used to offer transit directions when Google was the maps provider, but Apple made the risky decision to jettison that functionality when the company rolled out its own solution along with iOS 6. Despite offering free turn-by-turn directions and fancy 3D flyover animations, the Maps app was widely panned for inaccurate data and missing features like transit directions.
Today, Embark offers iOS apps for various cities, including New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C, Chicago and Boston. The company's apps for Android devices have apparently been pulled.
This is the second Apple acquisition in the location space in a little over a month. In late July, Bloomberg reported that Apple scooped up HopStop.com, which offers mass transit directions, as well as walking, taxi and bicycle routes.
Google isn't exactly sitting still in the maps wars. The company recently purchased Waze, which provides real-time traffic reports posted by a large community of users. At least Apple is finally heading in the right direction.