Time may be on the side of the Rolling Stones, but for the rest of us, maximizing the number of hours in a day has turned into a daily struggle. Mere minutes and seconds are treated as a valuable commodity, which is why we aim to get to our destinations as quickly as possible. Finding the best route and avoiding traffic, however, can be tough.
Thankfully, our smartphones can provide us with turn-by-turn directions that allow us to navigate with relative ease, so we never have to use physical maps again. Yet, despite the ease of use, time is still the deciding factor for many when choosing which navigation app to use, which is why Google Maps and Waze are the crème de la crème of mapping apps.
Google Maps and Waze are perhaps most popular because they both consistently deliver accurate directions and are straightforward to use. They’re also both owned by Google. Personal preference often dictates whether you choose Google Maps or Waze but it does bring up the question: Which one is actually better?
Let’s break it down.
What are they?
As the world’s largest community-based GPS navigation app, Waze functions like a crowdsourced social network, one that provides direction in tandem with community feedback. With Waze, users can alert others to accidents, alternative routes, road closures, police officer sightings, and other such impediments. Users can also use Waze to arrange carpools. Drivers can use the basic Waze app to offer rides, while riders are directed to the Waze Carpool app to find people to carpool with. Google bought Waze in 2013, yet it remains distinct, largely because of the aforementioned social features.
Google’s apt-titled offering is more of a standard navigation app, albeit one that provides navigation for those walking, biking, or using public transit, in addition to driving. The maps also show the location of various businesses and points of interest, making it useful for getting an overview of a region or part of town, seeing what else is near your destination, and other traditional static map functions.
What are the differences?
- Live traffic reporting provided by users
- A plethora of voice navigation options, including celebrity voices and the ability to record commands in your own voice
- Monitors your current speed and lets you know when you are going too fast
- Remembers commonly used routes, frequent destinations, and commute times
- One-button access to a map of parking lots near your destination
- Aggressive rerouting saves time
- Motorcycle mode
- Traffic jam time countdown
- Police notifications
- Spotify integration
- Advertisement supported
- Offers directions for driving, biking, walking, and using public transportation
- Voice navigation choices for driving, biking, and walking
- Transportation network (“ride-sharing”) company integration
- Google Street View integration
- Turn-by-turn directions still offered during offline mode
- Google Assistant integration
- Built-in Google search provides information on businesses
- EV charging station locator
- Lane designation lets drivers know which lane they should be in before turns
- Add another stop on your way to the final destination
- Drivers can find their parked cars easily since the app saves parking locations
- Navigation backlit change based on day/nighttime
- Real-time location sharing
- Spotify integration
- Offline functionality
Which app will get you there faster?
The answer to this question, unfortunately, isn’t that simple.
For city driving, Waze excels at finding alternate routes around accidents and traffic jams, especially since it alerts drivers way in advance if an incident is near. Waze’s police reporting is also quite advantageous, as it helps drivers monitor their speed and avoid getting a ticket. To save time, however, Waze also tends to shuttle drivers through residential neighborhoods, which is often a roundabout way of getting to your destination. This could be ideal for long drives but is somewhat annoying — it’s also not really that significant of a timesaver for shorter trips.
Google Maps, on the other hand, will still get you to your destination in a timely fashion and alerts drivers about accidents and traffics jams. The alerts aren’t as informative as Waze, though, mainly because Google Maps doesn’t have social integration. Google Maps does have a larger and more informative map view, however, which allows drivers to see routes more clearly.
So, which app is better?
Like the last question, the answer isn’t that cut and dry. If it’s just about driving, Waze’s clean maps, live traffic reports, and parking notifications give it an advantage. But for all-around features, Google Maps takes the cake. Last year, it incorporated incident reporting and voice-control functionality via Google Assistant, and will soon add a host of augmented-reality features. The For You tab also provides information about local restaurants and events, as well as nearby charging stations, if you happen to own an electric vehicle. The ability to pull up biking and walking directions — as well as those for using public transit — also gives it a notable edge over Waze, even if they can clutter the display at times.