Google Maps Navigation is my Old Faithful. It’s polished and given its popularity my guess is that it has better and fresher traffic and road information than anything. Also the voice is pleasant. It’s just polished, you know? Got the top notch voice recognition, layers, street view, screen diming, it’s damn good. Also Google does a super job caching for offline use, but I can live without that capability for most of my days. Waze is crude, but it’s utilitarian. But Waze gives you more information, namely obstacles, cops and now gas prices. And when driving by a marked speed trap and it turns out there is indeed a cop there, you can take your eyes off the road and sort of jam your thigh into the wheel so that you can type the guy who originally marked it a thank you.
Waze may not have as much crowdsourced traffic information to go on, yet it seems, much more so than Google Maps, to make aggressively liberal routing and rerouting decisions which in my experience seem to work out. Yesterday with Google, for some reason Google aimed me down from Connecticut to NYC down a two hour path. I hit the thing that gives you alternate routes and it produced an alternative that would have, according to Google, taken half the time. Why it didn’t give it to me in the first place I don’t know, not to mention why it might not have changed course later on. In contrast, Waze took the road not taken and I got there on time. And I get a speedometer. They both do a decent job guessing my intended destination when starting, though Google a little better in my experience. Furthermore, Waze’s ETAs seem more accurate than Google’s. I don’t know why, perhaps because Google feels it has to go by speed limits whereas Waze either goes by average flow-of-traffic speeds or maybe it builds a profile on how fast you tend to drive – I don’t know, but they tend to be on point more than Google.

But in Waze, traffic indication in its UI is not so intuitive. Sometimes it’s red, sometimes you just see a stack of little traffic icons Wazers recently made, it’s kind of amateurish. Sometimes it puts in live-looking speed indicators of various points in a traffic jam, but those tend to be pretty inaccurate. But Google produces a nice clean line from green to black that anyone could understand without explanation and again because of the relatively greater volume of users it has and whatever other means it uses to aggregate traffic patterns that data tends to be impressively precise. Also, Waze’s voice ain’t pretty. Muted..

So what’s a fella to do? Run both is what I do, Google generally in the background, unzoomed a bit so I can see traffic down a good distance, then flipped to Waze up front, sound off. When Waze aims me toward an unorthodox turn, I can hear whether or not Google disagrees, then make my own judgment call. When I’m running into a traffic jam, I can flip over to Google to see how bad it is. When I’m not in traffic, Waze gives me an edge with the law enforcement information which is surprisingly more accurate than you might think, at least on trafficked routes. And when I’m stopped, Waze gives me helpful information on hot deals at a nearby Taco Bell. Waze works on Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian and it may be coming to Windows Phone. Perhaps this tandem strategy would be better on BBOS10 with that split screen thing? Ehh.
So I’m hearing that Google and Facebook may be in some sort of bidding war to buy Waze. This makes me nervous as Google has a pesky habit of buying operations I like apparently to just shut them down or put them on ice for good. In this case, maybe Google has no interest in Waze in its separate form but somehow blending in whatever it offers that Google Maps doesn’t that Google wants into Google Maps. That’s bad for me because there’s no way Google Maps would, like Apple Maps (which has a deal with Waze) doesn’t, give me tips like the speed traps. They would get rid of the clutter. What interest could Google have in Waze, any interest that’s in my interests? I can’t think of any. Facebook maybe, but Google? It just makes me nervous.

Doug Simmons

3 COMMENTS

  1. Try Apple Maps ;-). the other day we were using Apple maps, Nokia Here and Google Maps. Nokia Here and Google Maps are close, but Apple maps took us to Orchard Ave., residential area, instead of Orchard Shopping Center, which is actually few blocks away from this total Orchard Ave. ;-)

  2. Really, they still haven’t patched up Apple Maps? Guess that goes to show you it doesn’t matter how big your excessively-large cash reserve problem is, making a map thing sort of from scratch, even with the help of a few dozen companies, is tricky.

    I wonder what things would be like for consumers if, without succumbing to the dark temptations you’d get with a super-monopoly, the companies we tend to discuss would cooperate as if they were on the same team, though with some intramural competition preserved somehow. If they’d at least just lower their weapons a little..

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