This was a long awaited release for those of us on the Android side of the fence and overlooking a few early teething problems it would appear to have been taken well.
The app has had a fairly large overhaul this time around with a completely redesigned interface but it’s not just cutesy characters and idyllic icons; virtually every aspect has been streamlined with a view to maximising screen real estate and giving the user easy access to the functions and information they’re looking for. Settings and Reporting can be triggered by tapping one of the two on-screen buttons and swiping those same buttons will give quick access to Navigate and Traffic reporting functions.
The interface is slick and whilst the swipe gestures might not be immediately obvious to the new user the rest of the app is intuitive with easy to follow menus and little need for instructions.
One of the biggest revamps though is the addition of much enhanced POI searching. An oft criticised weakness, previous versions of the app relied heavily on volunteer editors to manually add locations that may or may not be found when searching. Well now Wazers across the globe can utilise the APIs of some of the best in the business with links to Google, Bing, Yelp and Foursquare.
The search is quick, allows you to easily slide between the different sources and even view a preview of the location if the address and distance weren’t enough to convince you you’d found the right burger joint. I would go as far at this point to list this feature as a differentiator in an increasingly busy app category.
Once you’ve selected that destination or if, as in the image to the left, waze guesses where you’re heading to, the new route summary will notify you if there are any existing traffic build-ups or incidents along the way. You’ll also get the chance at this point to try for an alternative route should the traffic forecast just be too much to brave!
If you’re really lucky after you’ve set off you might get this guy on the right pop up. Waze continually monitors the road conditions to your destination, keen to get you there quicker!
As a special treat for those in North America (and we hope soon in the rest of the world) is the addition of TTS (Text-To-Speech) which will append those “Turn right”, “Exit left” instructions with the name or number of the next road so now you need never take your eyes off the road just to see which of those several oncoming rights the app was referring to!
We also hope to soon see the reverse and the ability to talk to waze via ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition). Michael Knight, eat your heart out!
I’ve tried many SatNav apps over the years, from the early days of Tom Tom on my Palm; Garmin, Tom Tom and Nokia Maps on the N Series devices; Skobbler, CoPilot, Google and several others on Android. In my opinion this latest version of Waze comes closest to bringing the best bits of all of them together whilst adding a a sensible (and safe) level of fun to the mix too.
Is it perfect? No, there are some features that users of paid, dedicated apps will miss, notably lane assist or toll road avoidance and obviously being crowd-sourced it requires a critical mass before users see the true benefit. But the community is growing, fast! Every week there are more areas reaching the required numbers and the active community drives the developers hard! If you drive, anywhere, you should definitely give it a whirl and if you see me on the map, be sure to say Hi!
Tell us what you think in the comments below to go into a draw for a Waze/Android T-Shirt!!
RATING: 4½ droids (out of 5)
“Waze is a social traffic & navigation app based on the world’s largest community of drivers sharing real time road info and contributing to the “common good” out there on the road. By simply driving around with Waze open users passively contribute traffic and other road data. Users can take a more active role by sharing road reports on accidents, police traps, or any other hazards along the way, helping to give other users in the area a ‘heads-up’ about what’s to come– and because it’s 100% user-generated, the more people who use Waze, the better (and more fun) it gets!”