Waze: A Social GPS For Your Daily Commute [iOS]

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social gps wazeOut of all the navigation apps that are currently on the market, Waze may very well have the best concept. The only catch is that it doesn’t have a “big name” backing it (like Google or Apple Maps). Regardless, it’s on our list of Best Apps For The iPhone, and there’s a reason for that.

The app blends elements from both crowdsourcing and mapping to create something truly useful. Of course, it operates like any other navigation app – just pop in your desired location, follow the directions, and bam, you’re there. However, Waze possesses a few extra features that other similar apps simply don’t have yet.

How It Works

The app turns your phone into a messenger of sorts. As you drive, you become a reporter that sends information out to other drivers so they can know what traffic is like in your area. Waze does this in two ways. The first method is automated, collecting your speed data and combining it with other drivers in the area to come up with a general traffic report.

The second is voluntary, allowing you to publicly report police sightings, traffic quality, lane closures, traffic light cams, accidents, hazards, and general “chat” posts.

social gps waze

All of these reports are compiled into a list and then posted on the map itself using icons. In theory, the app is designed to develop a dynamic map that adapts to your travel habits. Rather than estimating ETA’s based on average speeds and distances, the app works in current potential obstacles. This allows for a much more realistic travel time estimation.

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social gps app

Do you know how truckers use CB radios? It kind of works like that, but everything is much more visual and fluid.

How It Looks

Waze offers two color settings – day and night. As you can tell, most of the images in this post are from the nighttime setting, and besides capturing these images at night, my reasoning for including them was just because they look cooler. Everything is very easy to read, and the app’s design elements are very fluid, working in conjunction with each other. Menu bubbles “pop” up, and graphics fade in and out as you move about the area.

social gps app

Regarding the icon design package, everything – and this is the best way to describe it – is “cute”. I’m not even kidding. It’s like Waze started out as a children’s gaming app, and then the developers decided the map market would be more profitable. I’m not complaining, though. The app is much more personal this way, and elements on the map are actually much easier to distinguish because of it.

social gps app

How It Functions

During the time that I used Waze, I found it all to be very user-friendly. Reports were easy to scroll through, the map was easy to follow, and the app found my destination after I typed it in. At one point, the app did crash on me, and I’ve found that other people have had similar troubles. However, it was an isolated event, and the app worked for the remainder of the time that I was using it.

social gps

Seeing that this is a crowdsourcing app, it’s not functional unless other people are using it. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised to find that several people in my area use Waze. Granted, there weren’t too many, but even if there are just a few, that’s a good sign. With that said, you might find a few Wazers in your area.

A cool feature that comes along with this is the ability to create groups. Theoretically, you could form a group related to a common commuter’s route, allowing multiple drivers to help each other out every single day.

social gps waze

Generally speaking, I have to say that Waze works quite efficiently. Granted, its effectiveness comes with numbers. If more users have the app, there are more reports of current road conditions, and it works well. On the other hand, if only one or two people in an area have the app, it’s not very useful at all.

Conclusion

If you have an iPhone, get Waze – plain and simple. While Google Maps is great for planning your big trip to Kalamazoo, Waze is perfect for the commute to work. Google can’t help you with potholes, speed traps, or police cars in the bushes, can it?

Do you use Waze? Is it effective in your area? How has Waze helped you?

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