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What is Waze? Everything you need to know about the popular navigation app

Keep on winning with the fastest Waze out of traffic — this is the way.
By
March 15, 2022

Most of us use Google Maps for getting directions, but is it the best option? Other navigation apps, such as Waze, are more community-focused and have accumulated over 140 million users since it launched. Users act as the eyes and ears on the road to provide up-to-the-minute traffic conditions. It even has a carpool variant to cut the cost of gas in half. Here’s everything you need to know about Waze and why you should consider using it.

Read more: Ten best driving apps for Android

SHORT ANSWER

Waze is a free, interactive navigation app for both Android and iOS. It uses crowd-sourced data to deliver real-time traffic reports to users.


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What is Waze, and how does it work?

Waze first launched in 2009 as a free, crowd-sourced navigation app to get users to their destinations faster. It relies on its community of users, map editors, beta testers, and partners to provide real-time traffic data on accidents, congestion, speed cameras, obstacles, and more. In other words, Waze is structured in a way where the more users it gains and the larger it scales, the more accurate its information becomes.

In 2013, Google bought Waze for $966 million. It has since developed all kinds of social and geo-gaming elements that make commuting engaging and rewarding. For example, everyone starts as a “baby Wazer.” The more you travel and report incidents along your route, the more points you accumulate towards leveling up to a “Waze knight,” or even being among the few anointed to “Waze royalty.”

In 2017, Waze opened up to motorcycle users and added specialized routes for those eligible to drive in carpool lanes. It also lets users choose their navigation voice. Some featured voices include Morgan Freeman, T-Pain, DJ Khaled, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cookie Monster, Colonel Sanders, Kevin Hart, Shaq, and other celebrities.

How does Waze work?

Waze collects crowd-sourced information to calculate average speeds, check for errors, directions for turn-by-turn navigation. Therefore, drivers share real-time information that translates into traffic conditions and road structure.

Waze Map
Adam Birney / Android Authority

You can also actively report on traffic, accidents, police traps, blocked roads, weather conditions, and more. Waze then cross-references these reports to deliver the most optimal route. In short, drivers are incentivized to work together to improve each other’s driving experience.

The service requires an active internet or mobile data connection to operate correctly. Without an internet connection, you can’t locate or navigate a route.

Read more: How to use Waze

Does Waze work with Android Auto and Apple Carplay?

Yes, the app works with Android Auto and Apple Carplay for real-time traffic updates while driving. To connect to Android Auto, you will need to connect your mobile device to your vehicle with a USB cable. On the other hand, you can connect to Apple Carplay with a USB cable or wirelessly.

Android Auto Apps
Adam Birney / Android Authority

While driving, you can navigate through search or voice commands to find pitstops and gas prices along the way. You can also pair Waze with your favorite music services to stream tunes within the app. However, you cannot update settings or use social features, such as chit-chats while driving to minimize distracting notifications and the potential for accidents.

Is Waze free?

Yes, the app is 100% free to download and use for everyone. Supported versions and devices include iOS 13 and above and Android OS 6 and above. Your device must have GPS and GSM/3G/4G/5G connectivity for the app to work correctly.

Remember that service relies on your mobile data plan to function while on the go. Continuous usage could use a lot of data, so make sure to monitor its data consumption to prevent high bills. On that note, if you’re planning to navigate abroad, be sure to ask your provider about data packages when traveling.

Who owns Waze?

Google currently owns Waze. In June 2013, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) questioned whether Google’s acquisition of the company might violate competition law, given that Waze was one of very few competitors in the mobile mapping sector to Google Maps. Therefore, the FTC announced in 2020 that it would re-examine Google’s acquisition of the company.

Is Waze better than Google Maps?

What makes one app better than another depends on how you want to use it, so it’s hard to say one is objectively better than another. While Google Maps is perhaps more powerful and provides offline navigation, Waze offers more accurate, active traffic conditions than any other navigation service.

While both apps will get you to where you want to go, Waze arguably does it faster by analyzing road conditions 24/7 and updating routes instantly with the quickest path to your destination. The only catch is it relies on other active users, so it’s not as beneficial to use out in the country or the middle of nowhere. But if you need a quick way out of the congested 5 pm rush hour, Waze has you covered.

Additionally, you’ll only want to use Waze if you’re traveling by car or motorcycle, as the app doesn’t provide public transportation or walking routes like Google Maps.

The user interface of both apps is similar, but Waze is more simplified and easier to navigate. Plus, it contains many fun social features, such as customizing your persona and vehicle icons. You’ll also find tiny graphics displayed on its map for speed cameras and hazards to see what to expect and where.

What is Waze Carpool?

Waze Carpool is a separate mobile app for riders to match fellow commuters heading in the same direction. Riders can schedule their rides for the week and stay on track with in-app reminders. The cost of a commute is split between riders and is often way cheaper than other ride-sharing services such as Uber.

If you’re a driver wanting to offer rides to your neighborhood commuters, you can do so from the original app by tapping the carpooling icon to get started.


Read more: Ten best road trip apps for Android

FAQs

How does Waze make money?

Waze generates revenue from hyperlocal advertising to an estimated 130 million monthly users. Location-based advertising lets local restaurants and gas stations pay a fee to advertise to nearby drivers using the app.

How much data does Waze use?

The amount of data used depends on the device you are using, the route taken and its length, maps downloaded, time of the day, day of the week, number of reports and traffic, number of active drivers, and other factors.

Does Waze show the police?

Yes, users can mark the presence of an officer with a small icon and indicate if the officer is visible or hidden. Google states that knowing the whereabouts of an officer promotes safer driving.

Does Google own Waze?

Yes, Google acquired the company in 2013 for $966 million.