How to use Waze: A simple guide

Waze is a free, ad-supported interactive navigation app owned by Google and available for both iOS and Android. It uses your smartphone’s GPS service to calculate routes between destinations and gathers information via social media-based crowdsourcing to alert you to road conditions while you drive. Drivers on the Waze platform act as the road’s eyes and ears to alert other drivers about traffic, police, accidents, detours, speed traps, construction, and anything happening nearby or on your route.

The more people contribute to Waze, the more accurate it becomes as events get verified and updated. The app automatically alters your route to avoid traffic jams. It not only helps you avoid congestion in real time, but can also estimate your arrival time so you can communicate to friends or colleagues who may be waiting for you. Waze also guides you turn-by-turn to your location, lets you find the cheapest gas along the way, and even lets you pipe in your favorite tunes and podcasts directly within the app, integrating with Apple’s CarPlay or Android Auto on your car’s display. It can also link to your contacts or Facebook so you can see where your buddies are, too.

Here’s how to get around using Waze for iOS or Android.

Get started

When you want to go somewhere, you can rely on Waze to map your route. First, punch an address into the search box reached via the magnifying glass on the bottom of the screen, or tap on the microphone icon at the top of the window to speak your destination. You can list your frequently used addresses, like home or work, into the program so thereafter, you can just need to say Home or Work or the Vet, for example.

Plot your route

Waze analyzes information that it pulls in from other drivers in the general area and immediately suggests the fastest route based on up-to-the-minute driving conditions. You can access plenty of other information as well, including the best time to leave to avoid traffic. Tapping Routes & HOV at the bottom left of the window gives you alternate routes and their estimated times. You can also plan drives in advance and associate them with your calendar or Facebook events. The gear icon at the top of the pane leads you to an abundant menu of settings and preferences where you can customize the app even more.

See only the info you need

You can set up the app’s preferences to convey only the information you need and in the way that’s convenient for you by tapping on each setting, and in some cases, toggling controls on or off. Use the settings to set driving preferences, notifications, and account information, if you sign in to the app. These controls let you define how your map is displayed, how your car is displayed, specify which icons you prefer, control the information you see on your map, pick the kinds of roads you prefer to travel on, and much more.

Get real-time info

Even though Waze is owned by Google, maker of Google Maps, the app has a totally different look and feel, emphasizing different aspects of your journey. Google Maps is great for finding your way around places big and small — and it has become especially useful when walking and using public transportation. Waze is specifically targeted to drivers and road conditions that may impede a trip or commute. While Waze provides some of the same traffic information that you find on Google Maps, additional data is derived from other drivers who are using the app in real time. Waze crowdsourcing provides a realistic view of road conditions at any given time.

Report incidents

Waze lets drivers alert each other to accidents, police issues, detours, road closures, or anything else that will slow down traffic. To report an incident, tap the orange speech bubble icon at the bottom right of the screen and then tap the alert type: Traffic, police, crash, hazard, a map issue or road closure, and tap Send. As you do this, other drivers can confirm and update your report and you’ll receive points and unlock achievements within the app’s scoreboard. New users are called Baby Wazers, but can ascend in rank as they use the app to drive numerous miles, file reports, or connect with friends. You can add favorite stores to your maps or choose a mood like Cat, LOL, Zombie, and many more after 100 miles. Do not file reports as you drive because that would be hazardous and distracting — either have a passenger do it or pull over. You cannot file a report if your Invisible toggle is on.

Integrations

If you listen to tunes, podcasts, or a playlist while you drive, you can access them from within Waze. You can start, pause, and skip through your selections without switching apps. Tap the Spotify icon on the home screen, for example, and Waze will launch the app on your phone. Operating Spotify within Waze only lets you change playlists and skip or stop a song or podcast. For full controls, like searching for songs, you’ll still have to launch Spotify. You can also use Waze to calculate and share your travel time. Allowing Waze to access your contacts also lets you send your ETA to friends, family, or colleagues.

Protect your privacy

There are lots of different options for connecting with others in Waze. You can connect via Facebook when your friends are active on the app as well as with fellow Wazers while sharing their status and mood on the road as part of the app’s community. You don’t have to go there if you’d prefer to remain anonymous in Waze. Go to Settings > Privacy to adjust the controls to make yourself appear invisible on the map. That means no one, including contacts, will be able to see you.  You may also want to delete addresses stored in the app if you no longer need them or if you don’t want to leave a trail of where you’ve been. You can also use your phone’s privacy settings to disable the background location when you close the app. With iOS 14, you can now specify that Waze needs permission to specify your location each time you use it and to access your precise location — or not.

Bottom Line

Waze is a deep, full-featured app that goes beyond street-level navigation to let you master your driving environment on multiple levels. Its integration with CarPlay and Android Auto, combined with the ability to integrate calendars, social media, and entertainment in a single app, augments its utility on the road. Its crowdsourced functionality, which delivers up-to-the-minute traffic information and road conditions in real-time, and the ability to let people file reports on their immediate experiences, enhances the app’s value for everyone.

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