Finding My Waze

If you’re a Rush junkie like me, you may have noticed what I did there. Or else you may have noticed, but also thought, “Waze?” Either way (or if you’re not a Rush junkie, now’s a good time to start), Waze is something I’ve been playing with for the last week or so. Aside from being a writer, I’m something of a GPS nerd. I’m not a level 10 by any stretch, but I do enjoy a good GPS, or as is the case here, a good GPS app. Waze, however, is not just a GPS app, but a social one.

Before I get to Waze, I picked up MotionX-GPS some time back because Google Maps is, quite frankly, unreliable for navigation. While it’s certainly useful, and can quite often lead you exactly to where you wish to go, I’ve lost count of the number of times it has led myself or someone else astray. After a particularly vexing experience with it about a month ago, I figured I should go ahead and spring for a “real” GPS app for my phone. Thus, MotionX. I have to admit: I haven’t used it yet.

By all accounts, MotionX-GPS is quite solid, and I think the nominal charge for turn-by-turn directions (something the iPhone isn’t natively capable of) is fair, especially if it works. But why pay when you can use something that does it for free? Thus enters Waze.

I’d seen Waze a couple of times when looking at the app store (Apple is going to be mad I didn’t capitalize those two words since they’re trying to trademark the name), but as is wont to happen, I skimmed right by it. After enough times, I finally looked at it because I was curious what the funny looking whale with a bunch of 5 star reviews was. Holy cow, I wasn’t prepared!

If you remember the short-lived Dash GPS, it was a social GPS. Dash users contributed their driving information (location, speed) to a central system that in turn crunched numbers and spit the data back out to other drivers. The advantage is obvious: up-to-the-minute (second?) traffic information that originated from actual drivers. Unfortunately, Dash didn’t succeed in the rough GPS market, and it’s long since gone.

Well, Waze essentially does the same thing, but because it’s a smartphone app, it does a lot more. One could be helpful and indicate on the map that the police (or highway patrol if you prefer) are hiding nearby; you can report traffic, accidents, or even just say hi to other Waze users. It’s all pretty damn neat, and very game like. (The addition of Foursquare integration furthers the gamification, though I’m not a Foursquare user).

It of course does the usual GPS stuff you’d expect: navigation, maps (2d and 3d), re-routing, turn-by-turn, etc. and all for free. As a bonus, it doesn’t use Google Maps for its database, so you’re not relying on Google’s inconsistent data.

I’m still yet to give it anything that would qualify as a real workout, but in just goofing around with it while driving around town, it’s been pretty good. Of course I deviate from its route, but I’m pretty sure I know the habits of some lights and streets better than it does. The real test will be in areas I don’t know, and I’m sure that’ll come up sooner or later.

Consider this something along the lines of me gushing about the app. I’m about the least social person there is, but I have been enjoying Waze. I’m not sure it’ll last, but for now, it’s fun.

At the very least, it’s interesting to see if I can beat its estimate for when I’ll arrive at my destination (without breaking the law, of course).


P.S. If I vanish for the next month, it’s because I’m writing and/or playing Skyrim. Yeah, I’m that person, too.

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