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Waze Review: All Features and Benefits

Navigation apps are increasing in popularity due to advances in GPS mapping and multiple features. Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze are all considered top players in this field.  In this review, we will try to discover the best features of this popular app to find out exactly what makes it stand out from its competitors.

 

Overview of Waze

Waze Logo
Photo by Waze Inc.

 

History

Waze is a free, community-driven GPS navigation and mapping app. Waze is notable for real-time traffic information to drivers and turn-by-turn voice navigation guidance.

The Israeli company Waze Mobile developed a Project called FreeMap Israel in 2008. Their intention then was to create a simple community-based mapping using crowdsourced information. Later in 2013, Google acquired the company and developed it further to become what we know today as Waze. Since then, the scope and reach of the application have increased. This coincides with its rise in popularity and reputability in the field of navigation apps.

 

Crowdsourcing

The reach of Waze has expanded to almost every part of the world. Its features have improved to the extent that it now accommodates other modes of transportation. New features like Waze carpool make it extremely easy to find your coworkers and friends. It also lets you communicate with fellow Wazers using the app. The app also provides real-time GPS mapping guidance that not only directs you to any place you’d like to go to. It also shows you the best routes to avoid traffic.

Waze is reliant on crowdsourced information from its users, which means that it continuously collects data each time you use it. It includes data on travel times and real-time traffic updates. This includes data on car accidents, traffic jams, and road closures, etc. It also requests for mapping information from its users. Anyone can add places or correct mistakes on the existing maps. Waze relies on real-time crowdsourced information. Thus the majority of the major features of the app require GPS support and an internet connection. This also makes Waze one of the largest crowd-sourcing navigation applications in the market.

The Waze app is available for free in the Google App store. It works on Android devices with higher memory capacity with a minimum configuration of Android 2.2 or higher. It also works on iOS devices with a configuration of 5.1 or higher.

 

Review of Waze Basic Functions

Multiple Features
Photo by Lakexyde

 

Map Views

Waze was primarily designed for city driving, so the majority of the details are poured into populated city areas. GPS navigation only works with an internet connection, but most of the maps are also downloadable offline. Unfortunately, offline maps do not include real-time traffic information. Users can add “pins” on the map to mark their favorite places and bookmark these. There’s also a special function that lets you send your current location to your friends and family.

Offline maps are also limited to being used as maps. There’s also dirt road and off-country maps for enthusiasts who require a reference for offline use.

 

GPS Navigation

When GPS enabled, Waze can keep up with your real-time location. This means the buttons on your screen adjust to your current location and provide real-time visual instructions. There’s also a hands-free guide that involves the app giving you directions through voice-prompts. There’s also turn-by-turn guidance so that you won’t need to hold on to your phone while driving. The app primarily gives traffic information. The voice navigation function will warn you about roadblocks, road closures, and speed cameras. You can choose among templated Android voices or even record your voice and use that as your template. You can also send your recorded files to your friends.

You’ll see pop-up notifications for traffic alerts while on navigation mode. You can also filter the options to show related establishments in the area. You’ll also be alerted about the presence of other Wazers who might want to chat with you. These pop-ups are customizable so you can choose to limit them or remove them completely.

Waze keeps up with your moving location on GPS mode, and it’s able to do so with great reliability and accuracy. It’s also fully compatible with the Android devices in your car. In particular, you can set Waze as the default navigation app for your car or simply run the app through your Apple CarPlay or Android Auto through a Bluetooth connection.

Waze is a great tool for navigation, but it’s not always able to deliver the correct search results. The strength of its GPS functions is also reliant on the stability and strength of your device’s internet speed.

 

Additional Location Features

The app allows you to plan a route towards any inputted direction. It shows you multiple routes and chooses the best route for you. The app chooses the fastest route by default. But you can change its route recommendations to the shortest route. If you don’t agree with its recommendations, you can override its recommendations and select your own. It also allows you to add more than stop in your planned routes to accommodate multiple meetings and personal errands within the day.

A speedometer function that lets you see the speed limit in the area you are driving at. It also alerts you if ever you exceed the speed limit in that particular area. Unfortunately, this feature only works in particular areas.

The app has a Gas station locator feature that provides you with the locations of gas stations nearby. You can filter the search results depending on your gas type and preferred price range. By keying in any category (i.e. food, books, paint, etc.) that you want to look for, the app also lists down a list of establishments that offer the same. Unfortunately, Waze is limited to listing and locating establishments as it does not yet show user reviews and rankings. If you’ve parked in an unfamiliar location, it’s also possible to mark your parking spot on the map and refer to it when you get back.

 

User Interface

Waze has a clean and playful interface with a pure white background and colorful icons. simple enough to understand. Waze also gives the user the option to change the colors and symbols that pop-up on the map. This way, the user can herself or himself assign the icons and immediately understand what they stand for. If we were to compare Google Maps and Waze, Google Maps has multiple overlays for its maps whereas Waze only has one. It doesn’t have satellite or street views like the apps we just mentioned.

Some users also commented that the buttons on Waze are too small,  but most of these buttons can be adjusted. The other common problem with the user interface of this app is that many pop-ups can clog your screen. These include traffic notifications, the presence of other Wazers, and nearby establishments. There’s also the product ads that show up once you’re near the area. The ads have been ingrained in the app but the user should be able to control the pop-ups through Settings.

The app also turned GPS navigation into a game, granting users points for driving around while using the app. The latest version added, “road goodies” that give you points for driving over certain spots on the map. The goodies are strategically placed in areas on the map that lack detail. To fill them up you’ll need to drive over the spot or edit the map so Waze can get the information.

 

Alternative Modes

Waze Banner
Photo from Waze.com

 

Waze has corresponding GPS navigation settings for other vehicle types other than cars. There’s a mode for taxi drivers, motorcycle riders, and car drivers. Real-time traffic information is included as normal. This means all users still get the same notifications except that the other Wazers that pop-up will be of the same vehicle type. Motorcyclists will be able to see other motorcyclists, etc.

Route recommendations and ETAs will also differ according to vehicle type. based on the vehicle type. There are also route options for narrower roads. There are also customizable motorcycle moods for motorcycle riders. By accommodating alternative driving options, Waze has also succeeded in attracting more drivers.

 

App Integration

Waze has gone from being a basic navigation app to a lifestyle app. It’s integrated with social connectivity functions and artificial intelligence. These make it more dynamic and creative.

The app is integrated with the music streaming app Spotify. This gives you the option to play your favorite music the way you normally would right through the Waze interface. And yes, music can be played even on GPS navigation mode. Music playing will only be interrupted momentarily when the voice command speaks up.

Waze is also fully compatible with Google Assistant, a form of artificial intelligence that responds to basic questions and carries out simple tasks on your Android device. Google Assistant similarly responds to you as your voice commands. The exception is that it’s more intuitive and responsive. It can carry out a conversation with you and carry out tasks based on verbal commands.  Google Assistant can connect to the internet and key in your queries and feedback the answer to you. It can set your schedule, or even get you a hotel by booking the room for you online. It also knows basic conversations so you can communicate with it as you would a friend.

 

Social Connection

Waze is also considered an online community platform as it allows its users to connect via the app and other apps integrated into it. When connected to Waze, you’ll get a request to connect to your Facebook account. Other social media apps like Instagram and Twitter are also connected. The apps also make it super easy to hail a ride as it’s integrated with ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber. This means you can hail a ride or share a ride without ever having to leave the main interface of the app.

Waze lets you integrate your contacts list to the app, and you can add in your friends’ addresses and the app keeps it there as marked pins. There’s also a map chat feature that lets you leave photos and messages for others to browse through.

 

Scheduling

The Arrive At Feature takes note of your planned drives. This includes your route and exact destination. The app will suggest the best time to leave as it considers traffic reports. Waze is also great for streamlining your appointments by setting planned drives and syncing it with your calendar. This should sync your planned locations to your calendar so you always know where you have to be at any time. While on GPS, you’ll also be able to send your ETA and current location to friends and family.

 

Customization Options

Waze has a unique feature that lets you choose the items that appear on your map. You can choose to have your map point north regardless of your driving direction in lock-up north mode or have it auto-zoom in one tap. You can also choose the color scheme and car icons. Other map settings to choose from include: night or day mode, 2D or 3D view. You can also customize the color schemes of the maps by selecting preset color schemes or making your own. There’s also a  recorder for when you want to record your voice for the voice command function. You can even send your recordings to other people.

If you don’t want your location and search activity to be tracked, Waze has an incognito mode. This lets you use GPS functions normally without the app tracking any of your activities. The app also lets you choose a username so you don’t have to use your real name. You can also delete your Waze account at any time. Just scroll over to the “Go invisible” button under Settings. And if you want to make sure that your location is anonymous while surfing the web, it’s now possible to fake your GPS location.

Waze lets you customize reports, allowing you to choose the icons that pop up on your screen. If you’re not interested in being alerted about other Wazers, simply access Notifications under Menu Settings and toggle off the icon.

 

System Performance

Waze is not the most efficient navigation app, mostly because it was designed to work on full-speed internet. According to the study by App Performance Monitor,  the consumption rate of Waze is estimated to be at 115 kb/minute whereas Google Maps only uses around 46 kb/min. It also has a comparatively higher battery drainage rate which is 10.5% higher than that of Google Maps. Battery drainage and mobile data consumption is slightly higher overall for Waze. Source: App Monitor

If left unchecked, it could potentially drain both your battery and your mobile data. The upside? It has a slightly lower CPU consumption rate compared to Google Maps which means that Waze can run faster on Android. The best thing to do given these details is to close the app when not in use and to keep a car mobile charger handy.

 

Best Features of Waze

Thumbs Up
Photo by Mediamodifier

The main purpose of Waze is to get you from one place to another. Waze has certainly exceeded expectations with its current list of multiple features.

The best and perhaps most popular feature of Waze is its ability to generate accurate traffic and incident data. It has one of the best algorithms for traffic conditions that we know of in terms of advising on the best routes. It’s also able to update its maps on an instantaneous basis and keeps up with your movements by the second. Pop-ups of real-time traffic information are also particularly helpful.

The fully-functional Google Assistant is also some of the best features we’ve seen in any app. Having voice prompts to guide you along the way is already a great feature. But integration with Google Assistant makes for a more interactive and informative experience. Google Assistant also works on other types of transportation and this is great.

Waze relies on information from millions of its users to keep its maps updated. Online community members spend hours reviewing and editing geographic information on the maps. Waze is a community-based app. Ownership of the information is also claimed by the community members. Google Maps and Apple maps get their information from internal sources. Meanwhile, Waze relies on information that comes from other users.  This makes us inclined to believe in the accuracy of traffic information.

 

Waze Features Needing Improvement

white iPad
Photo by coffeebeanworks

 

Map Details

We’ve already sung praises for the GPS features and interactive intelligence features of the app. Other users would consider  Waze to lacking in detail in terms of mapping features. Notably, it only has one basic overlay while its competitors are particularly proud of the variety of overlays they offer. The most familiar and popular of these are the satellite and 3D views. We know that Google Maps and Apple maps use internal, corporate resources to update their maps. We only hope that the crowd-sourced Waze can have the same accuracy and detail as its corporate counterparts.

 

Limited Search

Several users have also commented on inaccuracies when it comes to the search bar of the app. There are cases when it generates the wrong locations. It’s also unable to recognize typographical errors. Several users have also noted map errors along the preferred routes.

There are also instances when less popular locations are not available on the map, and some locations don’t even show up on the map at all. The search function also generates minimal information concerning commercial searches. Unlike Google Maps and Apple Maps, it doesn’t show establishment photos, ratings, user reviews, or menus.

 

Limited Off-Road data

Waze can be extremely useful for driving around the city but is less so for back-country or off-road navigation. Because it relies on active and passive user information, Waze can be extremely detailed and accurate for areas with a lot of input. However, it may have limited function in less-populated areas because of less input from users.

 

No pedestrian settings

There are no settings for walking or pedestrian directions. This would have been very useful for millions of commuters who take the bus, train, and alternative modes of transportation. It would be nice to see train stops, bus stops and special lanes on a pedestrian setting in Waze.

 

Pop-ups and Ads

There’s also a problem with the number of pop-up ads that seem to show up while on GPS Navigation. There’s an option to personalize the ads, but no option to turn it off completely.  Understandably, Waze is a free app and ads are an important revenue stream. But since this is a community-based app, having too many pop-ups and ads seem counter-intuitive.

 

Final Thoughts on the Waze App

animated computer
Photo by 200Degrees

In the future, we hope to see Waze evolve into a fully-featured app integrated into the Internet of Things. But for now, we are perfectly content with this current version as it already gives us a complete set of features and functions that you could want in an app. It has the best real-time traffic information for avoiding rush hour traffic. It might not have as many features as Google Maps, but we still think it’s great. If you want to stay informed and entertained as you drive, Waze is the perfect app for you.

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