When you need to go somewhere, you naturally seek out the best route with the lightest traffic possible and fewest obstructions. Today’s mapping and navigation apps are there for you. The two most popular apps for both iOS and Android — Google Maps and Waze — both present a huge amount of up-to-the-minute information, real-time turn-by-turn directions, and much more. Google Maps works with its database to select the quickest route while Waze collects data from a variety of current users in real time and uses it to tailor your trip with the most efficient, obstacle-free route.
Google Maps and Waze — both owned by Google — are the most popular navigation apps, even among iPhone users, because they are easy to use and consistently deliver accurate directions. So which one should you choose? Let’s figure it out.
What is Waze?
Google purchased Waze in 2013 and developed it as a separate community-based GPS navigation app with a number of real-time, crowd-sourced social networking features. Waze users can alert fellow drivers to accidents, hazards, road closures, speed traps, police activity, and other issues that may call for changing your route — either to get to your destination more quickly or to stay out of the way — complete with an ETA based on current traffic conditions. With Waze, you can also listen to your favorite music from apps like Spotify and podcasts from within the program. The app also helps you find the cheapest gas stations along your route, and in conjunction with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, you can use Waze on your car’s display, if it has one. Choose from a variety of app audio voices to guide you while you drive and use Waze to arrange carpools in which drivers can offer rides or find companions to carpool. Waze is free and ad-supported. It even has a motorcycle mode.
What is Google Maps?
Google Maps is a standard navigation app that provides navigation for anyone, whether they are walking, biking, or using public transit, in addition to driving with detailed turn-by-turn directions and helpful lane designations. The maps also show the location of various businesses and local landmarks and points of interest, making the app useful for getting a broad overview of a region or part of town, seeing what else is near your destination, and other traditional static map functions. You can also add a stop on the way to your final destination. Google does Google with Maps by integrating other popular services like Google Assistant, Google Street View, transportation network and ride-sharing companies, and Google Search. In more recent versions, Google Maps has added Waze-like features like real-time traffic updates and augmented reality features that help with directions for walking around new neighborhoods.
Waze and Google Maps compared
While both apps offer basic turn-by-turn directions to get you to your destination, there are key distinctions between Google Maps and Waze.
|Directions and voice navigation are available for driving, walking, biking, and public transportation.||Directions are exclusively focused on driving.|
|The app takes a mostly data-based approach to local community information and directions.||The app uses live, community-driven, crowd-sourced information about real-time road conditions from drivers.|
|Google Maps can be used both online and offline with turn-by-turn directions offered in offline mode.||Waze requires a data connection.|
|Google Maps includes local businesses and landmarks, including information like menus, hours, and phone numbers.||Waze tracks road conditions without community business information.|
|Google Maps has a basic but traditional navigation interface that includes a wealth of information but can look cluttered.||Waze has a sleek, minimal interface with many customization options and 3D graphics.|
|Voice navigation choices include driving, biking, and walking, real-time location sharing, and augmented reality directions.||Waze features voice navigation options, including celebrity voices and the ability to record commands in your own voice.|
|Lane designation feature lets drivers know which lane they should be in before turns.||The app monitors your speed and lets you know when you are going too fast.|
|Integrates Google Assistant, Google Street View, transportation network and ride-sharing companies, and Google Search.||Remembers commonly used routes, frequent destinations, and commute times.|
|Drivers can find parked cars easily since the app saves parking locations and has an EV charging station locator.||The app offers one-button access to a map of parking lots near your destination.|
Which app gets you there faster?
Comparing the features of navigational apps is one thing, but the real value of their assistance is how quickly and easily they get you to your destination. For city driving, Waze excels at finding alternate routes around accidents and traffic jams and alerts drivers in advance of road-related incidents. Waze’s police reporting helps drivers monitor their speed to avoid getting a ticket. Waze sometimes leads drivers through residential neighborhoods or roundabout ways of reaching your destination, which could be ideal in some situations, such as longer trips, but which may not save a lot of time locally.
Google Maps gets you to your destination in a timely fashion and also alerts drivers about accidents and traffic jams. Google Maps’ alerts are more general than Waze’s, because Google Maps doesn’t have the same high degree of social integration. However, Google Maps does have a larger and more informative map view, which often shows routes and surrounding services more clearly.
Which app is best for you?
Waze is an excellent choice for drivers looking for police trap alerts, traffic updates, and accident reports. You have the option to customize routes, and it also offers social integration. This integration makes Waze valuable if you’re all about controlling your navigation or using the quickest path.
Waze might be perfect for drivers, but foot travel is another matter entirely. Google Maps (which is accessible on Andriod Auto) offers the same ability to retain traffic analysis and help you avoid those stop-and-go jams. But it also offers a Live View feature that uses augmented reality.
This feature can help pedestrians new to an area orient themselves more accurately. Google Maps also has a useful “Saved” tab that notes your favorite places, from that charming café in a new city or the fantastic dog park near home.
Fortunately, you aren’t limited to using one app or the other, unless you’re a hardcore app minimalist. You can keep both Waze and Google Maps installed and pull up whichever one better suits your needs at any given time.