Navigation apps have become so commonplace at this point that it's hard to think of a life without them. For most people, their GPS app is one of the most crucial functions on their phone, so finding your Holy Grail app can do wonders for stressful commutes.
Google Maps and Waze are by far the two most popular navigation apps on the market and both are available for iOS and Android for free download. Though they're both owned by Google (Waze was acquired by Google in 2013), they take two very different approaches to navigation. Google Maps is more standard and streamlined whereas Waze offers a more crowdsourced way of navigating. We weigh the pros and cons of each app to see which one is right for you.
In terms of design, Google Maps is much more intuitive. Waze's design is more "fun" with quirkier icons, but it's a bit harder at first to understand what all of the icons stand for. I've also found myself accidentally pressing a couple of the Waze buttons, which can slow you down while navigating. Overall, Google Maps has a cleaner interface and it's map is easier to read.
Waze is hands down better for real-time traffic updates. Waze crowdsources its information from other users on the road so it constantly updates you with notifications about traffic jams and accidents that could slow you down. Waze is also better at rerouting drivers to avoid congestion. Google Maps is starting to implement some of these features as well, but Waze still does a better job of redirecting you on the fly.
One of the great things about Google Maps is that it gives you options for public transportation, walking and biking that are just as easy to navigate and follow as the standard driving route. Waze, on the other hand, is more focused on users who are driving. Google Maps also has an arsenal of nearby venues, restaurants and grocery stores, which can be easily searched through the map's search bar.
An add-on that many Waze users love is the police tracking alerts feature. The app lets users pinpoint where they've seen police officers so that other drivers can avoid driving around areas with police, although lately there have been some reported instances where the police have been filling the app with false cop sightings as a way to overrule the system. But in general, if you want to avoid a speeding ticket, Waze is the way to go. Waze also integrates a host of social media features, like Facebook and FourSquare. Users can see which of their friends have checked-in to locations nearby. The app also introduced an Amber alerts feature this week. The new feature informs drivers of Amber alerts if they are driving through areas where children have been abducted. The alerts will only be available when drivers have been stopped for more than 10 seconds so as to not interfere with drivers' navigation
If you mainly want an app for driving, Waze is the way to go. But if you frequently switch back-and-forth between driving, public transportation and walking, Google Maps will probably prove to be more useful. Many users also state that they prefer Waze when they are going about their daily commutes because of the way it easily pinpoints traffic and offers alternative and less-known routes. On the other hand, when users are traveling to a place they're unfamiliar with, many of them prefer Google Maps because of how reader-friendly the map is.
Kyle May | Flickr