With Hopstop Acquisition, Apple Plans to Beef Up Public Transit Directions

Hopstops iPhone app provides transit directions.

Apple is beefing up its mapping prowess with the purchase of Hopstop, a popular city transit application.

Apple confirmed the acquisition to ABC News this afternoon.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement provided to ABC News.

Hopstop, which has iPhone, Android and Web applications, provides detailed subway, bus and taxi directions in 600 cities, including New York City, Philadelphia, Moscow and Paris.

Transit directions have been one of the major missing components from Apple's Maps app, which was released last year to replace Google Maps in iOS 6 and on the iPhone 5.

Apple's Maps app was immediately recognized as not being as robust as Google's solution. Apple CEO Tim Cook even apologized to consumers for the sub-par experience last September and recommended other apps in the App Store at the time, including Google's option.

In June, Apple detailed some new features and fixes coming to the maps app in its forthcoming iOS 7 software. However, public transit information was still missing.

Apple's Working On It, But Google Just Updated Its iPhone Maps App

"Apple buying Hopstop would help fill in one of the most frequently cited deficiencies of its maps -- the lack of public transit information," Ross Rubin, principal analyst for Reticle Research, told ABC News. "Integrating this into Apple Maps will help it close the gap with Google and bring back a feature that was taken away when Apple switched from Google's maps in iOS."

While Apple surely plans to incorporate the Hopstop data into its apps, it's unclear what will happen to the existing standalone iPhone, Android and Web apps. Apple would not comment on its plans for the app when asked by ABC News. The company also confirmed that it also recently acquired a smaller crowd-sourced location data company called Locationary.

Google has also been hard at work improving its maps applications. Earlier this week, the company released new version of its app for the iPhone and iPad, which included a new "explore" feature for finding points of interest, as well as new traffic warnings.

In June, Google bought social-traffic app Waze. Google Maps has already incorporated transit data for hundreds of cities around the world.

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