Waze is a popular app that is supplanting the big names in navigation with its unique features. Here’s why now is the time to check it out.
Waze is a Google/Android /Alphabet smartphone application that has been around a while, but recently Apple added it to its CarPlay menu, expanding its fully-integrated in-vehicle use from about 40% of the new car world to 90%. Now that it is compatible with both Android Auto and also Apple CarPlay, anyone in any vehicle with either system can now use this app as part of the in-dash infotainment in the vehicle. Waze is primarily a navigation app, but it has unique features. For example, it can tell you if you are approaching a police vehicle. Waze can also warn you of road hazards such as debris on the road ahead and offer many of the other points of interest information you may already be using.
We’ve been testing Waze this week in a Honda Clarity. Our Honda offered both Apple and Android compatibility and we used it via Android Auto. If you have not used these smart-phone vehicle systems, you should if your vehicle has the capability. They allow you to integrate important apps like Google Maps and your music directly via the vehicle’s infotainment screen and audio system. Once you connect, you can still use your SiriusXM radio, or your car’s native navigation if you have these, or toggle to your phone’s options. This may sound a bit complicated, but once you have tried it or have had someone show you how to make it all work (a three-minute process), you will find it is all very seamless. Don’t just take our word for it. AAA recently completed a study comparing Apple CarPlay and Android auto against automakers’ native systems and found Android Auto and Apple CarPlay LESS distracting, not more.
In our test, Google Maps and Waze both appeared under the Nav icon (left of the bottom row of options). Tap Waze once and then the system will default to that each time you re-enter the vehicle. Waze is dead simple to operate. It is just like all Nav systems. Use voice controls to input your destination and then hear and view turn by turn instructions. The fun difference is the heads-up you will get from the vehicle’s audio system when your route will take you past something you will want to know about. Like that police office up ahead. Now, you may be thinking that an app that tells you where the police are may be less than legal or somehow cheats the system, but you should not feel that way. Our state of Massachusetts recently joined most states in passing a law that requires motorists (at the threat of a ticket) to move away from any first responder vehicle at either side of the road ahead. Waze gives you a heads up that is longer than line-of-sight to enable you to merge safely. You can also look at Waze as a way to know about speed traps. Your choice.
Real-time traffic flow is there of course, but so too are icons for things like road debris, and new accidents. That information is crowd-sourced from other Waze users just like you. When they see something, they simply tap one of the four the on-screen icons for that scenario. See a police officer or a tire that just fell off of a truck? Tap the corresponding icon. Simple. You just did your civic duty and are now helping motorists behind you.
The on-screen icons are size-appropriate to your screen’s view and when you see one of interest, you or a passenger can tap it to open up more info, like when it was last seen. You can also help update the info by tapping “Not there” if you pass an icon that is no longer accurate.
Consumer Reports recently tested Waze via Apple CarPlay and found it worked quite well. Their observations included, “Moving the app to the built-in screen in a car (via Apple CarPlay) lessens the distraction by limiting the possible interactions. The four choices that appear on screen noting police locations, accidents, traffic, or hazards are easy to select.” They also said, “In using Waze through CarPlay, we found that this fun and functional nav app is neatly integrated into the car’s built-in infotainment screen. That reduces the temptation for some drivers to use the app on their smartphone, which can be more distracting. ”
Waze has been rated by seven million users (you read that right) on Google Play and has earned a 4.5-star rating out of 5. One reviewer summed up his experience by saying, “Extremely useful app. I use it virtually every day. The eta on my commute is usually very accurate. It’s also good for finding out what’s causing a jam. Enabling you to avoid trouble. Worth paying money for but it’s free! I especially like the idea of helping others by providing your own info.”
Over at camp Apple, iTunes users rank Waze #2 in Navigation behind only Google Maps (note that neither of those is Apple’s own product). Apple users actually rate Waze higher than Android users with a 5-star rating.
Waze is a free app and does have limited adverts. During our time with the app, we didn’t notice any. Based on one week of use, our rating would be 5 out of 5 stars.