What Is Waze?
Waze is a community-driven navigation app created by an Israeli company and acquired by Google in 2013.
Waze uses real-time data from the app's users to provide the best route to the user's destination, taking into account accidents, traffic jams, speed traps, construction, and other obstacles that could slow down a driver. Users store a list of friends on the app so that they can keep track of each other on a trip or spot a friend in the vicinity.
Updates are submitted automatically as users drive and also can be proactively shared via the app.
Like Google Maps, Waze is free to download and makes money from advertising placed on the maps.
- Waze is a community-driven navigation map app that was acquired by Google (GOOG) in 2013. It is now a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google's parent company.
- Waze updates its users on the go to avoid traffic snarls, see where other users are on the road, and get recommendations on nearby restaurants and other amenities.
- Waze claims to "actually make commuting fun."
How to Use Waze
Waze is free to download from the Apple Store and from Google Play. Advertiser support is the money-maker for the app.
The Waze Help section warns that carrier data usage rates apply, and they can be hefty for frequent users.
The app can be used globally "anywhere there are roads" and cellular service, the Help section indicates. The quality of the service will be lower in areas that lack the user base that guarantees a flow of information from users.
Who Needs Waze?
Why would anyone need another map app? For years, Google Maps has been the go-to for mobile users looking for directions.
It still is. Google Maps continues to be the leading navigation app, with Waze in the second spot. Google Maps had about 25.5 million downloads as of 2021, compared to Waze with some 13.4 million.
Google Maps also presents its users with options for getting to their destination on foot or via public transportation as well as by car. And, it long ago incorporated some of Waze's features into Google Maps.
The Social Aspects of Waze
Other navigation apps, including Google Maps, constantly gather information from their users to offer more accurate and timely information. That's how Google Maps knows that one route will take you two minutes less than another if you leave now.
Waze takes this one step further by revealing the names and locations of Waze users to others in their circle of friends. It allows users to proactively share information with others, and to communicate one-on-one with each other if they choose.
Waze vs. Google Maps
Waze is strictly car-centric and it's all about getting its users to their destination by the fastest possible route at the moment. Unlike Google Maps, it won't offer to show you the route that uses the least fuel or plot the bus stops for you.
The social network aspects make Waze stand out from Google Maps. Waze users store a list of friends who are also on Waze. If both are on the app at the same time, they can exchange messages or just send a "beep beep." Friends can chat with you while you're on the road or track you to your destination.
Waze also picks up a wider variety of information from its user base. The maps display user recommendations for local points of interest and even current community events.
Waze is more proactive about dealing with traffic. If conditions on your original route deteriorate it will reroute you on the go, based on the information collected from fellow users. It can tell you where the nearest gas station is, flag obstacles in real-time, or notify you that the intersection you're approaching is a mess.
The app can be used to find community-recommended restaurants along a route as well as navigate you to the station with the lowest gas prices. Based on community input, it can calculate the perfect route for leaving work at 5 p.m. every day, based on current conditions.
One small point: If you're driving in a rural area, whether you're in Nevada or Djibouti, the crowdsourcing aspect of Waze is lost. You'll still have a map but no one is driving nearby to record current conditions or to go "beep-beep" to you.
And a practical note: Waze is comparatively a battery drain on your phone as well as a data-hog to your cell service.
After Waze was sold to Google, many of its features were incorporated into Google Maps.
History of Waze
Waze was the brainchild of three Israeli friends in 2008. Originally called LinQMap, the company grew to about 80 employees, with 10 of them strategically parked in Palo Alto, California and the rest in Israel.
The company got through a couple of rounds of venture capital funding and attracted about 50 million users worldwide before capturing the notice of both Facebook and Google. In June 2013, Google signed the deal to acquire Waze for $1.1 billion.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission briefly looked into the deal as a potential violation of unfair competition laws but decided in the end not to pursue the matter.
What Are the Pros of Waze?
Google has incorporated into Google Maps most of the innovations that made Waze an early hit.
One big difference is the community-based focus in Waze. If you want everyone you know virtually on board with you, not to mention given you advice, Waze is for you.
Its real-time focus on the fastest possible route to your destination also is appealing to some drivers. And it is for drivers, not people who'd get there by bus or bike if the app gave them the option.
What Are the Cons of Waze?
Some users may find Waze a distraction, and that's not a good thing on a crowded road.
Friends pop out at you from your screen, points ding as they accumulate, ads pop, drive-by incidents beg to be reported, and your route can be re-routed at any time.
The bigger and more active your Waze community is, the more distracting the app can become. The screen also becomes more crowded with icons, to a point that some users may find visually overwhelming.
In short, Waze may not contribute to a tranquil driving experience.
Is Waze Free?
Waze is free to download, with versions available on Apple Play and Google Play.
Users should be aware that carrier data rates apply, and Waze can chew through a lot of data minutes. It runs in the background when you're on the move, not just when you're actively using the app.
The Bottom Line
Waze is an app for millennials, a generation of consumers used to getting exactly what they want when they want it—preferably, through the internet and with the help of online communities.
Despite the battery drain, data consumption, and potential for distraction, the app provides irresistible to drivers determined to shave minutes off their commutes.