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Waze vs. Google Maps: Which One Works Best for You?

a person using a gps device in a car

Who needs an old-fashioned paper map when you have stellar navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps? Indeed, these software solutions provide on-the-go navigation assistance, warn you about traffic hazards, and offer other benefits simultaneously.

But you can only use one navigation app at once, and you might wonder which is best for your upcoming automotive adventure. Today, let’s take a close look at Waze and Google Maps and explore how they are similar, how they are different, and which is ultimately better for your needs.

What Is Waze?

Waze is a popular navigational app, though it is not quite as popular as Google Maps. Waze initially launched in 2008 and was then acquired by Google for about $1 billion.

Ever since that acquisition, Waze has focused development on growing a community, targeting a primary audience of automobile drivers.

Waze is notably different from Google Maps because it is community driven. In contrast, Google Maps is data-driven.

Waze users contribute to traffic hazards, speed camera alerts, and police traps. Furthermore, since the Google acquisition, Waze has developed to include more useful features, like support for Siri.

What Is Google Maps?

Google Maps is the prime navigational app that most people use on desktops and mobile devices. Google Maps is older than Waze and, as a result, more comprehensive.

It offers navigational assistance driven by data, helping to show you the best routes to your destination depending on whether you want to walk, go by public transit, ride a bike, or drive. It’s pre-loaded on Google phones and most Android phones.

On top of that, Google Maps offers information regarding businesses, local landmarks, and other noteworthy features. At the time of this writing, Google Maps is more Android-focused.

As a result, it incorporates and integrates many major Android phone features like Google Assistant, Google Search, and Google Street View.

How Do Waze and Google Maps Compare?

As you can see, both Waze and Google Maps are navigational solutions to help you get where you need to go and keep an eye on potential traffic hazards along the way. However, there are some key differences between both apps; let’s compare them across several significant attributes.

Availability

Waze and Google Maps are both widely available apps that can be downloaded from the iOS store and Android or Google Play store.

Furthermore, they are equally compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: software solutions that let you integrate your phone apps into your vehicle's infotainment display (if your car has such a display in the first place).

Google is the parent company of both applications, and you can use Google Maps and Waze, interchangeably. The one requirement for using either app on the go is a smartphone.

Whether you use Waze or Google Maps (or a little bit of both), our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder below can help you quickly find the best phone deals on a new iPhone or Android device of your choosing.

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Navigation

Waze and Google Maps share the same primary function: getting you where you need to go. However, navigational results can vary heavily.

Google Maps is a more traditional navigation solution. You simply tell Google where you want to go, and it will route you to your destination based on how you plan to get there, such as by foot, taking the bus, or driving.

Google Maps can further alert you to obstacles or traffic that you may encounter. This way, you can choose the best route to your destination based on how quickly you need to get there.

Waze is a little different. This app is meant for motorbike and car users. Therefore, Waze uses user-collected data to determine the best route to your destination, rather than pre-programmed routes (which are used by Google).

For example, while Google Maps may flag obstacles or traffic hazards, Google will still send you to the same route even if those hazards might slow you down. In contrast, Waze will update its route based on real-time information collected by other drivers and motorcyclists.

Note that Google Maps did change how it calculates routes in the last year. As a result, Google Maps is more responsive than it was previously. For example, it includes a fuel-efficient route option, which calculates the best way to get to your destination while conserving gas.

Both apps tell you your ETA, real-time traffic info, traffic jam alerts, and speed limit data.

However, using Google Maps sometimes uses older traffic data instead of crowd-sourced data. Waze offers more alternate routes based on road conditions, making it arguably the quickest map app to show you the fastest route from A to B.

Public Transportation Routes

As far as choosing between personal or public transportation Routes, Google Maps is the only way to go.

Waze redirects you as a driver whenever it calculates a faster route around hazards or traffic obstacles. But it doesn’t support traveling by public transit at all, so you only have one option for a navigation solution if you like to take the bus or train frequently.

Interface and Design

When it comes to the interface and design, Google Maps and Waze look astoundingly different from each other. Waze features a simplified interface to help motorists and motorcyclists get from point A to point B while avoiding as many traffic hazards as possible.

Because of this, Google Maps has a more detailed and comprehensive interface. This can clutter your view, as Google Maps automatically displays things like local landmarks and businesses. All that extra information may not be handy if you are on a motorcycle, for example, and want to know whether you're going in the right direction down a busy metropolitan road.

Ads

Both of these apps, unfortunately, feature in-app advertisements. However, Google Maps is much less in-your-face about it. You don't see the ads for the most part. They appear as distinguishable square icons on the map, indicating that the business or icon in question has paid to be displayed on your Google Maps screen.

Waze, in contrast, is very in-your-face when it comes to distracting, flashing banner ads every time you stop moving. While the advertisements vanish when you start moving again, it’s an unnecessary distraction that detracts from the navigational experience.

Data Usage

Google Maps relies heavily on data, but Waze relies even more on user-generated data. While most of this data is automatically collected from Waze users (who drive around with the app open), users can also submit individual reports about hazards or obstacles that may impede other drivers' navigation.

Google Maps collects all of its data automatically. While it pulls in real-time information from Google Maps users and traffic sensors, it primarily uses historical data to determine what traffic conditions will be like on any specific day.

Because of this, Waze actively redirects user journeys based on new data it receives. Google Maps doesn’t typically change your route as rapidly or responsively.

Discover Features

Google Maps prioritizes the discovery of landmarks, businesses, and other points of interest as you navigate. Waze is much more focused on simply getting you to your destination. Because of this, Google Maps is a much better choice if you want to see everything an area offers or if you are interested in detours along the way.

If you want a hands-free navigation system that just tells you the best route to your destination and that updates frequently based on user-submitted reports, Waze is the way to go.

Traffic and Hazard Alerts

As noted earlier, both Waze and Google Maps offer traffic hazard alerts. Both apps are about the same at this point, although Waze was once far superior.

Google Maps and Waze alike both let you report traffic hazards that you come across. However, Waze is better for displaying traffic cameras or speed traps.

Of course, even Apple Maps now displays some road hazards for iPhone users, and it’s far from the best navigation app. Between the Waze app and Google Maps, Waze has the edge in helpful notifications about things like speed cameras. Still, both are going to deliver hazard alerts.

Hands-Free Controls

Notably, both apps allow a hands-free operation to some degree. You can use Google Assistant to control Google Maps without using your hands.

Android phones come with Google Assistant already installed, making this even easier to take advantage of. Alternatively, you can use Siri if you have an iPhone device.

Both apps allow you to change your route, close the app, or start navigation completely hands-free.

Customization Options

Google doesn’t provide nearly as many customization options as Waze, as it only offers a single voice option per region or country. Waze lets you choose between many different celebrity voices, especially if you use Waze in English.

What Are Key Differences Between Waze and Google Maps?

Still not sure whether you should use Waze for Google Maps? Here’s a breakdown of their key differences so you can understand the target audiences for both apps.

Waze:

  • It is community-based rather than data-based. It is a driver-focused navigational app.
  • Features a minimalist interface that emphasizes traditional navigation.
  • You can’t use it offline.
  • It offers much more real-time information derived from users, like accident alerts, traffic alerts, and road closure alerts.
  • It offers a high level of customization.
  • It does not offer extra information about landmarks or local businesses.
  • It is more intrusive and flashy in terms of its in-app advertising.

Google Maps:

  • It is data-focused as opposed to community-based. It supports people using public transit, walkers, bicyclists, and drivers.
  • It has a traditional navigational interface that incorporates more information compared to Waze.
  • It does not require a data connection, so you can use it offline.
  • It uses historical data and real-time data for the most accurate results.
  • It is not as customizable as Waze.
  • Has a comprehensive database of local landmarks and local business information.
  • It is more subtle when it comes to in-app advertisements.

To summarize, Waze might be better if you prioritize real-time, frequently updated information from a consistent user community. However, Google Maps is a better pick if you want information on the best route to your destination and local businesses, like where you might stop to eat on the way to your final stop.

Wrap-Up: Which Is Right for You?

Ultimately, both Waze and Google Maps are excellent navigational apps that you can use.

However, you might prefer one or the other. If you want a straightforward navigational app that uses data to derive the best route to your destination, Google Maps is probably for you. If you’re looking for a community-focused app that may provide more real-time updates regarding traffic stops or hazards, Waze is the way to go.

Either way, you’ll need an excellent phone that can display critical information and run these apps capably.

That’s where Navi can help. Our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder compares the latest offers from top retailers to help you find the best deal on the right smartphone for your needs.

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