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Waze, GPS application for the iPhone

Waze, GPS application for the iPhone

Platform: iPhone/iPod
Category: iPhone, iPod


Waze is a GPS application for the iPhone. Unlike any other GPS software I've used, Waze gathers data from its users, improving its routing abilities. There is also an aspect of a game to Waze due to the fact that it rewards users with points for traveling down new roads.

At first glance, Waze seems like most other map or GPS applications. It shows the roads around you and marks your location. You can look up an address and get directions to that location. When you do, your route will be highlighted on the map. As you travel along the route, it will tell you when to make turns, both on screen and verbally. If you make a mistake and go off the route, it will automatically recalculate directions from where you are to get you back on track. This can come in quite handy if you ever get in a situation in which you're repeatedly making U-turns, trying to get back to the route that you know.

What makes Waze extra interesting is that it can detect traffic based on the speed other Waze users are travelling. It factors in traffic when plotting your route. Because of this, the more Waze users there are in your area, the better Waze will work for you. You can report map problems from within the application and suggest new roads. You can also submit various hazards such as collisions or police, even submitting a photograph if you choose. Of course, not everybody would want to take the time to do that, but you don't have to submit to enjoy the benefits from others submitting.

Now, what about the game aspect? Some roads on the map are unconfirmed by Waze, and the only way Waze can confirm them is for a Waze user to drive the road. These roads are indicated by icons on the map located on the road that needs confirmation. When you drive along the road at which the icon is located, you are rewarded points for confirming that road. At any time you can check the number of points you earned that day, the number of points you've earned ever, and your rank. I never thought I'd see a high score in a GPS application! Including rank is great because if gives a better idea of how much you've contributed than an abstract score. If you're driving alone, I wouldn't recommend hunting for points too much. You're bound to get some while driving without focusing on it, but more importantly, scrolling around on your map while driving could be dangerous. However, if you plan ahead of time, checking your map before you leave, or if you have someone looking at the map while you drive, it could be a lot of fun to contribute to Waze and have your actions rewarded with points. If you decide to try Waze (it's free by the way!), I suggest you get a friend to start too. A little friendly competition of Waze points could be fun!

There are a few minor problems with Waze. It did not work very well with my original iPhone, but it works fantastic on my iPhone 3GS. This isn't surprising; the original iPhone doesn't have GPS hardware. What is surprising is that Waze still attempts to work with the regular cell phone tower triangulation that the original iPhone does support. Even with this, I really only recommend Waze with a 3G or 3GS. When listing hazards, it lists some that aren't close to me at all. It would probably be better to only show hazards near to my location. When getting directions, Waze can display the directions in a list. I usually like to look over directions before leaving. I want to get a quick idea of where I'm going. Waze lists the directions, such as turning left or right, but doesn't list where to make the turns. Knowing that I'm going to need to make a few lefts and a few rights, with the distance between each turn, doesn't give me much of an overview. It did crash a couple of times as well, but only at the beginning while I was getting a route, never after I started driving. Waze asks to submit error logs after the program crashes, which is good. It's nice that Waze cares about software errors. Just like the maps themselves, the software will be improved as more people use Waze.

If you need to use a GPS, why not use one that rewards you for helping and can track traffic speed and hazards? As more people use Waze around you, your directions will get better as Waze takes into consideration the speed traffic is moving near you. Even the routing improves with more use! The more you drive in an area, the better Waze's routing will be. The first time you drive to a particular place, the route might not be optimal. If you know a better route and take it, Waze can learn that the route you took is faster. While already very nice, Waze is only getting better. Anyone who has an iPhone 3G or 3GS and needs a GPS should try Waze!


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