Waze is a community-driven map app designed by an Israeli company in 2013. It uses data from app users to provide quicker navigation routes. Data is submitted both automatically as users drive around (using speeds determined by GPS signals) and can be manually entered on the app. Users can report speed traps, accidents, traffic jams, and other things that could slow down drivers. Waze was sold to Google (GOOG) in 2013 and many features have since been incorporated into Google Maps.
The Pros of Waze
Why would anyone need another map app? For years, Google Maps has been the go-to for mobile users looking for directions or ETAs. While Google Maps is still the king of maps, for many of the 50 million Waze users, it’s Waze or nothing.
Waze’s strongest feature is its community user-base. Because the app is constantly collecting information, it can adapt quickly to ensure the fastest route possible. Users are able to “level up” and get different characters based on their interaction with game-like app.
Keeping with the community theme, Waze lets users add their friends so that groups of friends can keep track of each other on a trip, or facilitate chance encounters if a friend appears in a Waze user’s vicinity. The app also allows users to connect to Facebook (FB) and Google Calendar to easily find event addresses and create directions.
What else can Waze do? For starters, the app can be used to find community-recommended restaurants along the route as well as navigate to the station with the lowest gas prices. In addition, the app learns from users and can calculate the perfect route for leaving work at 5 p.m. each day.
Cons of Waze
One of the largest complaints about Waze is the ugly and cluttered layout of the maps. In an area with little activity or users, the app loses its community advantage over Google Maps. But, in areas with a large community, the number of icons on the screen can be overwhelming. Waze displays maps with other users, hazards, traffics jams, police traps, accidents, and much more; a tiny mobile screen can quickly become filled and make it difficult for users to find their routes.
Furthermore, the app can be distracting. Friends appear, accumulating points ding, ads pop, routes are re-routed, and drive-by incidents beg to be reported. Laws against distracted driving should encourage users to put their phones down when driving, but we all know how difficult it is to ignore a beeping phone.
Lately, police offices across the country have begun to take issue with Waze’s police reporting feature. Police argue that alerting other drivers to police traps and police presence are making targets of police officers. Waze disagrees, arguing that the police reporting feature of the app increases driver safety because users drive more carefully when in the presence of police.
Another complaint that users have against Waze is the amount of battery power and data resources it consumes. While battery drain is comparable to battery drain while using Google Maps, remember, the app is still reporting data to Waze even when it’s not navigating. This means that Waze’s battery drain, while the app is running in the background, is much higher than Google Maps’. For Waze users, having a car charger is essential.
The Bottom Line
Waze is an app for Millennials, a generation of people that are used to getting exactly what they want when they want it, preferably, through the internet. Despite the battery drain, data consumption, and cluttered screen, the app provides irresistible time-saving (and sanity-saving!) measures that make it a must-have for every driver.