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wnylibrarian's picture

A Waze Away

Hello Interwebs,


Several years ago a co-worker introduced me to Waze. The navigation app with a social spin. If you're not familiar with Waze you can read more about it here.


What you need to know is I became hooked on Waze immediately. It made a lot of sense to me. Crowd sourced traffic. Power in numbers. What is the best way to obtain the best directions in a navigation app and avoid crashes, construction zones, and other hazards of the highways that can cause delays? Have the collective brain tell you by reporting to other users, or Wazers, what dangers lay on the road ahead. A sort of commuters pay it forward system.


The Google thought this too. If it wasn't good then The Google would never have purchased them (according to Forbes for an approximate $1.3 billion in 2013). When that happened I like many figured that eventually Waze would get absorbed by Google Maps. It hasn't happened yet -- but I still think it will. There are two options: 1) melding Google Maps and Waze into a single app or 2) creating an entirely fresh new app with a name not yet created. Personally I think this is the way The Google will go, but back to the main story.


2013 was a long time ago -- an epoch in the technology world -- but in recent months Google has finally ported over some of the features Waze has into GMaps. Specifically, being able to report a crash, radar, and congestion. Frankly that's enough. Waze is a bit too cluttered with a smörgåsbord of options that complicate the menu. Admittedly it would be nice if The Google would add a general hazard to that list to bring the total up to four, but I can live with the current menu.


Now when these features started appearing in Google Maps I slowly started migrating myself off of Waze to GMaps, and the reason I've decided to make the switch after so many years is twofold: accuracy and assistant.


I'll admit it. Right or wrong doesn't play into it, but Google Assistant runs my life. The older I'm getting the less I'm committing to memory, and the ability to say, "Hey Google, create reminder to call John Doe" when I think of it has become a necessity. Unfortunately, sometimes, that happens on my commute into the office. Therefore, having that as an option whilst using GMaps. Alternatively Waze has the "Hey Waze" option, but it is meant to send a hands free report while driving. "Hey Waze, report car on shoulder" or "Hey Waze, report construction." All of which are great ...but... they are not Google Assistant.


The second part of why I've been migrating off Waze is simple accuracy. All things being equal, with no traffic jams, accidents, and whatnot, I had been encountering too many instances where the directions provided by Waze didn't make a whole lot of sense. In incidents where there were empty roads Waze calculated, what I would call, "going the long way around" and it just quite frankly started to annoy me. When I would drive over the same stretch of road using GMaps for comparison it selected the route that I had already calculated in myself in the mind's eye. Now, to be fair, I've caught errors in navigation in both apps. Both have missed accidents, both have missed road construction, but over a period of time the net sum became quite apparent to me that GMaps was the more reliable of the two. I found it disappointing because I really did like Waze, but there was no avoiding the truth. Then you have to assess other contributing factors. Waze appears to be (at least on my phone) a memory hog, a battery drain; perhaps more importantly you cannot download maps temporarily for use if you drop off-line. There are still plenty of valleys out there where you cannot get cell service. Trust me on this. I also discovered the little things in GMaps I had forgotten. Specifically not just turn left, right, voice directions, but the additional information of what lane I should be in. "Use the left lane then exit at Main street." On a commute to work not necessary, but when you're an out of town visitor unfamiliar with the area it is of tremendous value.


I continued to use Waze over GMaps though because those small integrations, reporting crashes, reporting radar, reporting congestion, were not in GMaps. Now that they are it was by my estimation time to make the shift. I'm still of the belief a new app is coming in the next few years. Apple has acknowledged the problems with their own map system and are rebuilding it from the ground up (see also What's New In Apple Maps in iOS13). I can see The Google doing the same.


What do you think? Are you currently a Waze or Google Maps user? Do you have a preference? Please leave your comments below.