Google has reached an agreement to buy navigation app maker Waze in a deal believed to be valued upwards of $1 billion, beating rivals Facebook and Apple, which were also rumored to be mulling a bid for the startup.
The much-rumored deal was confirmed by Waze chief executive Noam Bardin on a company blog.
"We are excited about the prospect of working with the Google Maps team to enhance our search capabilities and to join them in their ongoing efforts to build the best map of the world," he wrote.
Waze, which currently boasts nearly 50 million users, offers map and traffic data services using satellite signals sent from smartphones. The firm was reported to be in discussions with Facebook last month, as the social network giant looked for ways to strengthen its Home offering.
But according to Israeli website Globes, that deal foundered on Facebook's insistence that the developers moved to the U.S.
Brian McClendon, VP of Geographic Services at Google said, "The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now. We're excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google's search capabilities."
Maps have become a key battleground in the smartphone wars, not least because of the self-inflicted damage Apple unleashed with its calamitous release of its own geo-location app for iOS 6.
Waze has attracted suitors partly in recognition of how accurate its traffic updates are in areas where it has gained critical mass. The app uses a crowdsourcing approaching to traffic monitoring, providing real-time updates on routes.
If the deal goes ahead, it would be among the largest acquisitions Google has made. It paid an eye-popping $12.5 billion for handset maker Motorola Mobility in 2011, but has largely focussed on smaller deals. At the $1.3 billion price tag being widely reported, the deal is not far off what Google splashed out for YouTube in 2006.
Update: In July, Google revealed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it paid "a total cash consideration of $966 million" to acquire Waze.