Waze Navigation vs Google Maps

Find the app that will get you to your destination quickly

Waze and Google Maps have been two of the best traffic apps for many years, with many thousands of users each. In 2013, Google purchased Waze with the intent of getting into the social navigation business. Instead of integrating Waze features into Google Maps, the company continued operating Waze as a separate app.

But which of the two is the best traffic app for you? Find out in this comparison of Waze vs. Google Maps.

Overall Findings

  • Loaded with social features.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • More alternative route options.

  • More user report features.

Google Maps
  • More intuitive interface.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • Routes for biking, walking, and transit.

At a glance, Waze and Google Maps appear to do exactly the same thing. But once you start using each it quickly becomes apparent that they are two very different apps.

Google Maps is a dependable, reliable navigation tool. The search works with either specific addresses or business names. Navigation is precise and always provides the shortest route taking traffic into account. It's easy in Google Maps to search for pit stops along the route, like gas stations or restaurants. However, beyond its strength as a navigation tool, Google Maps doesn't provide a whole lot of extra features beyond that.

Waze, on the other hand, is almost as good as Google Maps when it comes to navigation. The search tool is just as thorough, and the routes are just as accurate and reliable. However the app is a little less intuitive than Google Maps. It's strength is in its social features, the ability to chat with other users, and the much larger set of reporting tools that are available for things like hazards, road closures, and even gas prices.

The one that you choose really boils down to what's more important for you, an easy-to-use, reliable navigation tool, or a mapping app that includes fun social features to make your drive more interesting (and potentially more helpful).

Availability and Memory 

  • iOS and Android.

  • Auto-updates.

  • Smaller memory footprint.

Google Maps
  • iOS and Android.

  • Auto-updates.

You'll find that both Waze and Google Maps are available for either Android or iPhone. Once you install the app on your phone, Google Play or the App Store will keep the applications updated to the latest version.

When running in the background, Waze seems to use roughly half the memory footprint that Google Maps does. So if device memory usage is a concern, keep this in mind.

Navigation: Waze Provides Destination Information

  • Quick destination search.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • More advanced tools.

Google Maps
  • Quick destination search.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • Multiple transportation options.

Both Waze and Google Maps provide a very intuitive interface for searching for your destination, and one-tap to start navigation mode.

The directions provided in each app are equally accurate, but the route results information you'll see are slightly different. Google Maps lets you switch the route instructions between car, bus or subway, walking, or biking.

Screenshot of Google Maps search results

You can also view the directions in a text-based step-by-step list.

On the other hand, Waze shows you more detailed information about the destination, including the address, phone number (with a clickable link to call it), and the URL for the business website.

Screenshot of Waze route information

Waze also offers additional advanced features that Google Maps lacks, like a tool to find the best time to leave based on traffic, and in-app music launching.

Alternative Navigation: Waze Offers More Options

  • Avoid tolls or freeways.

  • Avoid ferries.

  • Avoid dirt roads.

  • Avoid difficult intersections.

Google Maps
  • Avoid tolls or highways.

  • Avoid ferries.

Once you choose a navigation route, it's nice to be able to alter your course depending on the circumstances.

While you're driving, Wave offers more intuitive control over the route you're taking. You just tap the route travel time at the bottom of the screen to open the route information page. Tap Routes to see alternative routes.

Screenshot of alternative routes

If you don't like these routes, you can pick alternative routing uptions by tapping Settings and and selecting whether to avoid toll routes, ferries, freeways, dirt roads, and even difficult intersections.

Screenshot of routing options in Waze

Google Maps offers similar but fewer options. It's also not as intuitive to find these route settings.

In navigation mode, you need to tap the up arrow at the lower right of the screen and select select Settings. Scroll down settings to find a few route options, including avoiding highways, tolls, and ferries.

Screenshot of Google Maps route options

The ability to quickly choose alternative routes may seem minor, but when you're stuck in a traffic jam, it can mean the difference between being on time for work or several hours late.

Intuitive Interface: Google Maps Is Easier to Use

  • Difficult to leave navigation mode.

  • Main map lacks useful menu.

  • Settings is buried on search page.

Google Maps
  • Quick navigation mode exit.

  • Full menu available on main page.

  • Every page features a Back icon.

While getting alternative routes is easy with Waze, the intuitiveness of the interface ends there. While searching for a destination and getting into navigation mode is relatively easy, getting out of navigation mode isn't straightforward.

There's no exit icon, and if you press the back key (on Android), the app asks if you want to exit the app itself.

Screenshot of exiting navigation on Waze

Google Maps, on the other hand, is simple to use from the moment you open the app.

From navigatoin mode it's simple to quickly search for stops along your route, change to satellite view, show traffic, or even share your location with others. Each of these is listed when you tap the single up arrow during navigation.

And exiting navigation mode is a single tap on the "X" at the lower left corner of the screen.

Screenshot of Google Maps in navigation mode

When it comes to ease of use and a short learning curve, Google Maps comes out on top.

Fun to Use: Waze is More Social

  • In-navigation social interactions.

  • Visible icons show other Waze drivers.

Google Maps
  • Lacks any social features.

What it lacks in intuitiveness, Waze more than makes up for in social value. Driving with Waze is a very social experience. You can see other Waze drivers on the road when you pass them. In fact, if you zoom out on the map, you'll see them everywhere!

Screenshot of Wazer social interactions

You can even tap another Wazer on the screen and send them a quick message or a "Beep" to say hi (if you're a passenger and not driving of course).

Google Maps has no similar social features to compare this to. It's also what adds a significant element of fun to driving with Wazer.

Final Verdict: Waze Has More

In 2019, Google only just added the ability for users of Google Maps to report a police speed trap. Waze has had the feature for years.

In fact, in addition to speed traps, Google Maps only offers users the ability to report (and see reports) for crashes and slowdowns.

Screenshot of Google Maps user reports

Waze, on the other hand, has always been one of the best apps when it comes to user reporting.

When you tap the report icon during navigation in Waze, you can issue or see reports of traffic slowdowns, crashes, road closures, speed traps, hazards, and speed cameras.

Screenshot of Waze user reports

In addition to traffic related reports, users can also send in low gas price alerts, issue a call for roadside help, save a place, or report issues with the map to Waze.

When it comes to user reports, and the sheer number of users who are issuing reports, Waze wins by a landslide.

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