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What is Waze? Everything you need to know about the popular navigation app
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 they launched. Users act as the eyes and ears on the road to provide up-to-the-minute traffic conditions. Here’s everything you need to know about Waze and why you should consider using it.
THE SHORT ANSWER
What is Waze, and how does it work?
Waze 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, the app 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, the app 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, and provide directions for turn-by-turn navigation. Therefore, drivers share real-time information that translates into traffic conditions and road structure.
The app primarily targets car and motorcycle drivers and offers limited functionality for pedestrians and cyclists. It also doesn’t have up-to-date information on public transportation, so it is best for route planning if you have a personal motorized vehicle.
You can actively report traffic conditions, 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.
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.
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.
Some features may vary between Apple CarPlay and Android Auto due to the differences in how they handle third-party apps.
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 the few competitors in the mobile mapping sector to Google Maps. The FTC re-examined Google’s acquisition of the company in 2020, but no changes in ownership have been effected since then.
Under Google, Waze has largely remained independent as a separate brand. Although, its 500 employees have been integrated into part of Google’s Geo organization, which oversees Google Maps alongside Earth and Street View.
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 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 in the middle of nowhere. But if you need a quick way out of the congested five o’clock rush hour, the app 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 or cycling 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 for speed cameras and hazards displayed on its map to see what to expect and where.
What is Waze Carpool?
Waze Carpool was a separate mobile app for riders to match fellow commuters heading in the same direction. After six years of activity, the carpooling service was shut down in April 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it was in operation, riders could schedule their weekly rides and stay on track with in-app reminders. The commute cost was split between riders and was often cheaper than ride-sharing services such as Uber. The company says it will focus on finding new ways to support drivers on the road and help cities address mobility problems and congestion.
Waze generates revenue from hyperlocal advertising to an estimated 150 million monthly users. Location-based advertising lets local restaurants and gas stations pay a fee to advertise to nearby drivers using the app.
No, Waze is free to download and use. However, it does use data, so charges may apply depending on your mobile data plan.
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.
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.
Waze does not allow drivers to identify sobriety checkpoints specifically. However, people who use the app’s police reporting feature can leave detailed comments under police presence reports.
Yes, Google acquired the company in 2013 for $966 million.
Waze is a navigation app used primarily for providing turn-by-turn directions. It incorporates real-time, crowd-sourced data to provide information about current traffic conditions, hazards, speed traps, and other obstacles on the road.
Disadvantages of Waze include high battery and data usage due to its real-time nature. It relies heavily on user activity, so its effectiveness may diminish in less populated areas. Privacy can also be a concern, as the app tracks and shares location data to function correctly.
Yes, Waze remains a popular navigation app with over 150 million active users worldwide.
Yes, you can use Waze without an account for basic navigation. However, an account is required to access certain features, such as reporting traffic incidents or editing maps.