Why use a GPS when you can use your smart phone? With no more subscription fees and always up to date, Waze is the best travel companion for the car.
I remember my parents buying a new GPS (Global Positioning System) last Christmas and paying for a subscription to keep their GPS device up-to-date. I never saw a need to buy a GPS device because it always felt like it didn't offer enough. Fortunately, I found something that is one step above GPS devices.
Waze is an Android/iPhone app that replaces your GPS device for your car. The by-line for this app is "Outsmarting traffic. Together." The idea is to make other drivers aware of existing hazards and obstacles that could detour you from your destination.
There are a number of things that I love about this app. First off, it learns the more you use it. For example, say you are leaving home and heading to work this morning. When you run the app, it will immediately connect using the built-in GPS in your phone and locate where you are on the roadmap. Then, it will know that it's sometime in the morning and suggest "Are you driving to work?" When you select "Go," Waze will display the quickest route to work, provide an estimated time when you reach your destination, your current speed, and tell you the amount of time it will take to get there. As you go faster, the time adjusts as to when you will reach your destination.
I know what you're thinking. How does it know the best route to take? Well, you tell it. That's the second thing I love about this app. Not only will it provide multiple routes to your destination, it will also display accidents, road hazards, and moderate-to-heavy traffic flow based on which route you select.
Another thing I love about this app is the size of the buttons. I'm sure that people who play with their phones while driving will appreciate this particular feature. Even though there is a lot of functionality in this app, they placed two "action" buttons on the main map screen. One is for a list of menu actions ("Menu") and the other is for reporting an incident while on the road ("Report").
The Menu screen is for planning your road trip, locating a nearby gas station, setting up a "meet up", view reports on the road, and change settings in the app.
The Report screen is probably the most used while you are on the road. While I don't advise spending too much time using this app while driving (it's dangerous enough as it is out there), the report menu is a quick and easy way to report an accident or traffic issues on the road. I'm sure that the Waze team tested their app while driving themselves (at least I hope so). As I mentioned above, the large buttons do help in this particular situation.
With so many advantages to having this app running on your smartphone, the one thing I have a problem with is the small close button. On certain dialog boxes, the close button is tiny and located near the other buttons where my fat fingers push the button located below it.
One other sidenote I would recommend is to get a car mount for your car. Even though the interface is well-designed, I would definitely not recommend holding it while driving (duh!). If you are looking for something a little cheaper, but still functional, check out Lifehacker's quick and easy car mount using office supplies.
One other place you could look for a car mount is on Indiegogo or Kickstarter. I recently purchased a Radmo (aff. link) car mount on Indiegogo which looks pretty snazzy as opposed to an office clip on your vents (I'm currently waiting for it).
Overall, I feel Waze is an excellent app for car travelers. I can definitely overlook the one short-coming when I weigh the entire value of this smart phone app. If you decide to go on a trip where your estimated travel time is at least 30 minutes by car, I would definitely recommend Waze as a helpful co-pilot for your smartphone.
- Cost: Free
Waze is certainly a helpful co-pilot while traveling in the car either back and forth to work or while planning a road trip many miles away.
- Large buttons on User Interface
- Notification on low battery
- Intuitive and minimal design
- On certain dialog boxes, the close button is hard to press while driving.