iPhone 5 (white, three-up, Maps)

As pointed out by multiple outlets and tweeted by several reporters, Apple has acquired an online navigation startup HopStop.com to improve its troubled Maps offering, Bloomberg just reported. HopStop makes a free iPhone and Android transit app that features detailed subway, bus, train, taxi, walking and even biking directions.

This is exactly the kind of data Apple’s Maps need in order to become a viable alternative to Google Maps. The HopStop software also features real-time transit information via the HopStop Live service, the official transit maps, nearby station search and station-to-station schedules in over 600 cities throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, including 140 major metropolitan areas…

According to Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. agreed to buy online transit-navigation service HopStop.com Inc., people with knowledge of the deal said, seeking to improve mapping tools after a rocky debut for its directions software last year.

The people asked not to be identified because the deal isn’t public. AllThingsD reported earlier today that Cupertino, California-based Apple is purchasing Locationary Inc., a Toronto-based company focused on business-location maps.

Apple has confirmed the deal to AllThingsD using its standard boilerplate text:

Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.

The iPhone maker in years past acquired mapping startups Placebase, C3, Poly9 to help make the awesome iOS 6 Maps a reality. Since the release of iOS 6, multiple outlets have named HopStop one of the top transit apps to use in place of Apple Maps.

Business Insider, for example, wrote last August that HopStop users “can take advantage of schedules for hundreds of regional rails, subways, buses, ferries and more”

Here’s HopStop CEO Joe Meyer revealing back in 2011 that nearly three out of each four HopStop users fired up the app at least 25 times per month, almost amounting to an average of one run per day.

HopStop is the seventh most popular free navigation app in the App Store.

Check out HopStop for iPad.

hopstop_ipad

According to the official website, with HopStop you can:

• Get directions or find nearby subway stations and bus stops with our free mobile apps
• Send directions by email directly from our website
• Plan a trip with multiple destinations
• Estimate travel time and cost for a taxi
• Get estimates for calories burned and carbon emissions savings for your route
• Find wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly routes
• Check out Real-Time Alerts and Planned Service Changes
• See Transit Maps and Schedules
• Do Nearby Station searches

Public transit option, or the lack of, remains the Achille’s heel of Apple Maps for the time being. Although the company allows for some level of limited third-party integration with iOS Maps, asking for transit directions in iOS 6 yanks you out of Apple Maps and into whatever supported third-party transit app you may have installed.

The band-aid solution has always been far from perfect and many have hoped Apple will someday fold high-quality transit data into its Maps. With this acquit-hire in place, the next major iteration of Apple Maps could enable built-in public transit routes to travel by foot, bike, subway and car across hundreds of cities.

This – and earlier today the acquisition of Toronto-based business-location maps provider Locationary – should be enough to silence the critics who happen to forget how Google has spent more than sever years iterating and perfecting its mapping service.