Maps and navigation  have come to be one of our smartphones most essential uses but there are several possible systems that you could use.  Google Maps, Nokia and Microsoft’s Here, Apple Maps and Waze.  Of these Waze was the only system to succeed without an ecosystem behind it and despite being acquired by Google it is still the most cross platform solution.  It describes itself as a ‘a fun, community based mapping, traffic & navigation app’.


Good to Know

Cost and Adverts

Waze is a free app on all platforms.  It also has no in app adverts of any sort.  If you are concerned by this you should be aware that as they are owned by Google your data (meaning location and travel) is covered by Google’s global privacy policy.  This means for example if you used Waze to navigate you to a DIY store you could get DIY adverts in your Gmail the next time you log in.


Waze is available on Android and iOS (specifically iPhone) and Windows 8.  Older versions are also available for Blackberry 10, Windows Mobile and Sybian although they are not being actively developed and so may be lacking some features.

Target Audience

Waze is marketed as a community based traffic and navigation app.  Unlike other services such as Google Maps you can see other drivers and use the information they submit (automatically and manually) to improve your driving experience.  This means for example rerouting on the fly around accidents or seeing and passing on locations of speed camera.  This does mean that the driver needs to be somewhat flexible as particularly at busy times there can be a lot of last minute changes.

Annoyance Factor

Low.  The app is customisable to a large degree and the voice or screen can be turned off if you prefer just spoken or visual cues.

Features and Accessibility

Design & Visual Accessibility

Visually Waze is very distinct from what you would expect a map to look like.  It style could be described as slightly simple and cartoon like, but this has the advantage of stripping away unnecessary information.  By default it holds an angle of around 45 degrees above the road as opposed to the top down view that is more normal (although the head down is available) which may cause some motion sickness problems.

All important text is relatively large and has a simple font.  In day time mode it is presented in white with a dark background and the opposite at night.  There are options for voice over and voice control if the text is not clear.

The colours used throughout the app are bright and distinct but if they are not to your liking there are around 20 different colour schemes that can be used, or you can create your own scheme.

By default there are a number of icons which show road information displayed, such as speed cameras, petrol stations and traffic jams, but they can all be switched individually on and off if the information is overwhelming.

Audio & Accessibility
The voice over voice is by default female with a British accent.  Her voice is clear and easy to understand but there are a number of other choices, including multiple male and female British voices, US voices, celebrity voices and foreign accented voices.  They are all free and downloaded as requested.   The only issue is that there is not an easy way to demonstrate the voices so selecting one is case of hit and miss until you find the one that suits you.
Everything which is spoken is reproduced in text on the screen and often with graphics such as arrows to illustrate the point.

Input and Touch

Input is via on screen buttons which are usually labelled or voice commands.

The on screen buttons are generally large, the only exceptions being in the settings which should not be adjusted whilst driving.

Voice is available to control all driving functions with a microphone button needing to be hit before you begin talking.  Waze uses Google’s voice recognition services which are very good, but have the disadvantage of being on the Google servers.  This means that if you have poor or no connectivity the voice commands will not work.

Ease of Use

Waze is very easy to get up and running at the basic level.   It recommends that you create an account both to share information and commuting with friends and to allow you to get badges for reporting problems but there is no actual need to create the account.  It also allows connection to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

To start navigation in app you hit the Waze icon then the map icon.  From there you can select from a list of favourite destinations, search for a specific destination or see local petrol stations (including prices).  Once you have selected your destination you get a countdown until navigation starts then instructions and directions.



Waze can be treated as a very simple navigation app but also has a lot of possible customisation options hidden under the hood.  It has a active community and its traffic re-routing features are surprisingly impressive.  If you drive in city traffic or want to navigate Waze has a lot going for it in a very accessible package.

Product: Waze | Developer: Google | Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Symbian, Blackberry

Waze is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Symbian and Blackberry. The review is based on the Android version of the app.

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