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How do I love thee? Let me count the Waze

I am so late to the Waze party and I deeply regret it. I’d known about Waze for the longest time, but I mistakenly thought I was doing just fine with just the MMDA + Google Maps combo. Or maybe it was a growing dislike for Facebook and its constant barrage of updates that made me think the Waze experience would be similarly annoying.

But one day I was headed to a unfamiliar part of Metro Manila and Allan encourage me to use Waze to find my way there. What a revelation it was.

What a traffic app should be

If you haven’t used Waze (iOS and Android versions available; Windows Phone 8 version to be available in June), think of it as a Google Maps and Facebook mashup. Or a souped up MMDA app. Google Maps is just fine for finding your way around the metro, but it doesn’t give you any idea what the traffic is like along the way. The MMDA app does that, but it’s limited to major roads. Waze, on the other hand, gives you crowd-sourced traffic updates on every street of the metro.

And that’s both the blessing and the curse of Waze. You can get traffic updates on any street, assuming that a Waze user has recently passed through and posted an update of the traffic situation. Happily, you’ll likely be getting traffic and other reports on at least major streets. In my two weeks of using the app, I usually see anywhere from two to five other Waze users on the nearby roads within a kilometer of my position. Assuming about 200 cars in the vicinity, that puts Waze users at (very) roughly 1% of drivers in the metro, which is actually an impressive number. I can only hope that it grows, and grows fast.

The more users that hop onto the Waze bandwagon, the more useful it will be to everyone. In fact, you don’t have to be a driver to use Waze. If you’re a car passenger, a bus or MRT passenger, or even a pedestrian, you can fire up Waze and contribute information for other users to benefit from.

Getting around

Waze offers you a map and tracks your location in real time. While driving, you can report traffic jams, police presence, accidents, hazards, speed traps, traffic cameras, construction work, and that report gets pushed out to other Waze users in real time. You can view the map in daytime mode or night time mode, and choose to switch manually or automatically. And you can also choose to view other Waze users nearby.

Waze maps

You can choose to get directions navigating from point A to point B (although I’ve never tried this feature yet), search for points of interest (gas stations with low prices, for example, although I haven’t tried this yet, either), or view different kinds of reports — something really useful to check before heading out the door.

Waze menus

What I think is a really big feature is the ability to chat up other nearby Waze users. This could be really useful when stuck in traffic and you want to ask for feedback about the situation along alternative routes.

Of course, you need an active, and fast (it only works when there’s a 3G connection, at least on my iPhone 4S, while driving through SLEX), data connection, for you to push out and receive the reports and for the map to be updated.

A few annoyances

The game aspect of the app can be distracting. When you’re driving, you only really want to know (a) directions, and (b) the traffic situation. I don’t really want to be egged on in order to get the “candy” incentive 200 meters away and earn more points. I think the fact that Waze is so useful that a lot of people will really want to use it and contribute as much information as they can to help other drivers.

There’s also a slight lag when changing map orientation: I’m usually 10 or 15 meters into a sreet before the map changes orientation. That’s something that doesn’t happen in Google Maps,for example. It’s a minor issue, though.

Another minor but annoying issue is the apps’s tendency to swing the map 180 degrees when standing still in traffic, such that it seems like you are headed in the opposite direction.

The bottom line

Waze won the Best Overall Mobile App at the Mobile World Congress in barcelona just last February, and deservedly so. It’s a great app, and should only get better the more people use it. If you aren’t using it yet, you should.

Watch the guided tour to learn more.



Jason de Villa is teacher by day and a geek at all other times of the day. When he’s not teaching, he’s reading and writing about technology, looking for ways technology can help in education. His favorite noodles: Pancit Malabon Express.

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    • Mica|

      Thanks for this. I’ve been looking for something that would let me escape the heavy roads from work to home! :)

    • Jason,

      All that… and you STILL haven’t even tried the Navigate function yet! The Navigate function to me is its killer application! If you’ve been longing for a voice guidance system (which Google Maps doesn’t give us locally), then this is it! It is impressively accurate, and even knows where the U-turn slots are in thoroughfares. Your mind will be blown.

      Whenever I have to go someplace that I’m not familiar with, I always make it a point to fire up Waze Navigate. And then I can set my brain to neutral and just let it guide me there by voice.

    • @MICA: Hope you find it useful

    • @Art: Nope, I’ve never longed for a voice guidance system. I’m old-school that way (I still get a thrill when driving a stick shift). Or maybe it’s partly from the habit of running (scouting and reviewing routes before actually running). But one of these days I’ll probably need it, and it’s good to know that it works well.


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