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When Google acquired Waze back in 2013, a lot of users thought it meant lights out for the Israel-based mapping service. But that hasn’t been the case. Instead of being entirely folded in, Waze continues to exist alongside Google Maps.

And that’s great in terms of user preference and choice, but it leaves us with a tough question: Which navigation app is the best?

On the one hand, the two apps share a lot of the same behind-the-scenes mapping data How Does Google Maps Work? How Does Google Maps Work? Google Maps is used by millions of people every day and you might be one of them, but how does it actually work and how does Google maintain its accuracy so well? Read More , so they’re both more than adequate for the job. That being said, they do serve different audiences, and the one that you prefer will come down to what kind of navigation experience you’re looking for.

Navigation and Interface

Of all the navigation apps currently available, Google Maps is the cleanest and most professional Google Maps on Android: Everything You Need to Know Google Maps on Android: Everything You Need to Know Does Google Maps on your Android device feel a bit daunting? We've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about using Google Maps on Android. Read More . The interface is minimal, routes are easy to set up and navigate, and it’s quite intuitive to use. Because of this, I find it excellent for traveling to new and unknown destinations — no distractions.

This tight focus has a secondary benefit: Google Maps tends to perform better on older devices. I still experience some lag and choppiness on my weak Moto E and Galaxy S3 Mini, but it’s nowhere near as bad as what I’ve experienced on other apps.

And for city-dwellers, Google Maps is awesome because it provides routes and estimates for walking, biking, and public transportation.

Waze is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of app. Whereas Google Maps is all about being bland and serviceable for all people, Waze comes with a lot of personality and quirkiness. It’s more “fun” with unnecessary features, but that comes with a price: readability and performance.

When using Waze, you can input what kind of vehicle you’re driving (e.g. Private or Taxi), your preferred gas type (e.g. Regular, Midgrade, Premium, Diesel), and whether you want to avoid toll roads. The gas type will come into play later (see “Convenience and Special Features” below).

Waze is also a driving-only app — no estimates for walking, biking, or public transportation like Google Maps.

Routes, Alerts, and Updates

One of Waze’s biggest selling points is its real-time traffic reports and routing updates. Users, like you and me, can submit live reports of accidents, construction zones, hazards such as potholes, etc. And based on these reports, Waze will automatically update your route to avoid them.

Yes, Google Maps also does something similar, but Waze is a lot more aggressive. Whereas Google Maps will try to take the fastest path using main roads, Waze won’t hesitate to take you through back routes. As such, driving with Waze can be a bit hectic, but it often saves more time than Google Maps.

Waze updates also tend to be “more real-time” than Google because Waze uses crowdsourced submissions while Google automates based on data transmitted from active Google Maps users, and there can be a delay while Google crunches data to arrive at conclusions.

Google Maps doesn’t reroute often but does present alerts as traffic conditions change during transit. For example, when I was driving on a major highway the other day, I received a pop-up notification for an upcoming traffic jam. These notifications can be dismissed with a simple tap.

For me, the only time Google Maps automatically reroutes is when I drive off of the current route. As soon as I do, Google Maps recalculates.

One thing to note is that Google Maps does provide alternative routes as you drive. Most of the time, these routes are marked as “X minutes slower,” but if a faster route is found, you’ll get a pop-up asking if you want to switch. A manual tap is needed to make the switch.

Convenience and Special Features

One feature I love about Google Maps is the ability to add one or more pit stops between your current location and your final destination. You can also plan trips ahead of time, either by setting a “Depart By” time or an “Arrive At” time. These two features are great for complex, lengthy trips.

Other nifty features include changing the view from top-down to 3D virtual buildings (useful for city navigation), navigating buildings with an indoor view (useful for shopping malls), and sending routes from PC to phone. Learn more about these Google Maps tricks for Android 10 Google Maps for Android Tricks That'll Change How You Navigate 10 Google Maps for Android Tricks That'll Change How You Navigate If you use Google Maps for Android, you need to try these. Read More .

Waze offers a lot more than Google Maps, including its most controversial feature: avoiding police speed traps Police Officers Think Waze is Dangerous. Are They Right? Police Officers Think Waze is Dangerous. Are They Right? Waze can "be misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community", claims a letter from a police chief to Google. Read More . Users can report the locations of police, prompting other Waze users in those areas to slow down. Users can also report the locations of speed cameras and red light cameras.

Another useful feature is Planned Drives, which tells you when you need to depart in order to arrive at a destination by a certain time. It gets even better: Waze can sync with Calendar and Facebook events and automatically let you know when you need to leave.

Other notable features include integration with Spotify (control music playback directly in Waze), speed alerts when driving too fast, recommendations for parking lots near your destination, and best-price gas stations along your route. That last one is a huge boon for longer trips!

Local and Social Features

If there’s one area where Waze absolutely excels beyond Google Maps, it’s socialization. Since most of Waze’s data is crowdsourced, it’s only natural that users feel like they’re working together — but if you spot other Wazers on your map, you can beep them (sound alert) or send them messages (text).

You can add friends, too. Doing so let’s you see each other’s locations and estimated arrival times when going to the same destination. Friends can be imported from Facebook or your contacts. Want some privacy? Use Invisible Mode to appear offline, although you can’t submit reports while invisible.

Other social features include a Scoreboard (the more active you are, the more influence you have with reports) and Teams (tap into local stations to receive live updates and reports).

The biggest difference between Google Maps and Waze is that Google Maps doesn’t have any of the social features. No chatting, no beeping, no friending, no scoreboards. It’s just you, Google, and the road ahead of you.

However, Google does offer something that Waze doesn’t: excellent local business information. Google Maps search results are more accurate and more comprehensive. You get ratings, reviews, hours of operation, hours of activity, contact information, photos, ability to reserve a table, and more.

The Bottom Line: What Do You Need?

For daily commutes, use Waze. If you like social features, use Waze. If you trust user reports and want real-time updates, use Waze. If you’re going somewhere new or if you can’t handle Waze’s cluttered interface, use Google Maps. When researching local businesses, use Google Maps. Otherwise, go with the one that has more intriguing convenience features.

Or maybe you’ve gotten this far and you don’t like either one! In that case, I’d point you to our collection of the best maps and navigation apps What's the Best Maps and Navigation App for Android? What's the Best Maps and Navigation App for Android? Using the rights maps and navigation app can mean the difference between making it to your appointment on time or being late -- so we examine the best of them for you! Read More and recommend that you try one of those alternatives.

Which way do you lean: Waze or Google Maps? Which features do you consider essential and which are unnecessary? Let us know in a comment below!

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  1. Paul Braga
    July 2, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Waze has something Google Maps doesn't: you can choose the language for spoken directions.

  2. Johannes
    May 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    living in a densly populated western part of the Netherlands, waze is the only option if you want to avoid traffic jams. I can't understand the remarks of a difficult interface. For me it is all very clear and to the point but I agree it is packing a lot. Besides the real-time traffic, danger reports ( if for instance cars (and people) are on the shoulder), accidents, police speedtraps etc it also has things like sending an ETA to my SO that she can see where I am and knows when to expect me. All these things I have grown to expect in a nav app and miss them in any other nav app, especially google maps which seems to be made for people who can only manage the bare minimum of functionality. I use it for all my short trips but also for my trips deep in Europe.

  3. Jackson Chung
    May 10, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I thought I'd give Waze a try while driving in Sydney a few weeks ago. Wasn't impressed with the fact that geofencing is enabled by default unless I switched to Sleep mode. And if I forgot, my battery goes flat.

  4. Nirmalaraj
    May 9, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Little bit of a different story for us UK drivers. I have an older car which doesn't have built in GPS and have to rely on my phone for navigation. We UK drivers are now strictly not allowed to even touch our mobile phones while driving. This poses a bit of a problem when popups popup or the map app gives you the choice to make a decision in the middle of a journey.

  5. Robert Largent
    May 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    I thought Waze would be integrated into Google Maps by now. I like Waze best, but sometimes will run both at the same time to see what they do. I've experienced Waze being a little late telling me where to turn in some cities. And Google seems more detailed in explaining a turn or exit.

    I would like to see an "Easiest drive" route, as well as of fastest or shortest.

  6. David
    May 7, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    With Waze, it often has me turning left on a busy street, when I could go a block over and turn left using a light. I have heard others complain about this.

    • Robert Largent
      May 8, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      I don't know when it was added, but if you go into Navigation there is now a toggle to "Reduce difficult intersections". Not sure why it is not automatically checked, but it is now.

      • David
        May 12, 2017 at 12:18 pm

        Thanks!

  7. Khm
    May 6, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    I choose Waze for daily commute because it considers even the tiniest of side streets as well as large main roads. But still use Google maps for driving to and picking up family.

  8. Deputy sheriff Jesse Ramirez
    May 6, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    I use Google maps more often as a deputy sheriff because it gets me there and on time. Waze is more confusing to me. Too much information is not necessary. I use both but Google maps more. And I travel a lot. @

  9. Gil
    May 6, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    I live near toll roads that I never use. Waze allows you to avoid them at all times, while Google Maps forces you to click the AVOID TOLLS button every single time. (Often, Google will suggest a $2 toll route to save 1 minute). If they'd make the avoid option sticky, I'd use Google more often.

    • Will
      May 26, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      Google Maps now allow you to avoid tolls permanently in their latest update on Android.

  10. Kaido
    May 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    It may be different in major US cities, but in my area Waze is infinitely better as an everyday tool since it has near instant (literally same day) information of temporary roadworks, reroutings and closures included. Part of the reason is that Waze maps are edited by local power users, while Google maps relies more on official sources, which introduces a lag.

  11. Ed
    May 5, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Is there a data usage difference?

    I know Maps data can be downloaded before hand, what about Waze

    • Anonymous
      May 6, 2017 at 11:17 am

      You're able to use Waze offline but you won't have any traffic information and as a result no rerouting

    • David
      May 6, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      I took a 6 hour road trip recently. Going I used Google Maps and it used 24 megs of data. Coming back I used Waze and it used 10 megs.