Waze and Google Maps have been the top two traffic apps over the years, each with thousands of users. In 2013, Google acquired Waze with the intention of going into the social navigation business. Instead of integrating Waze features into Google Maps, the company has continued to use Waze as a standalone app.

But which of the two apps is best for you? Find out in this comparison of Waze and Google Maps.

General conclusions

  • Loaded with social features.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • More alternative route options.

  • Additional user reporting features.

Google Maps
  • More intuitive interface.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • Routes for cycling, walking and transit.

At first glance, Waze and Google Maps seem to do the same. But once you start using each of them, it quickly becomes apparent that they are two completely different applications.

Google Maps is a solid and reliable navigation tool. Search works with specific addresses or company names. Navigation is accurate and always provides the shortest route given traffic. Google Maps makes it easy to find pit stops along your route, such as gas stations or restaurants. However, apart from being a navigation tool, Google Maps doesn’t provide many additional features.

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 slightly less intuitive than Google Maps. Its strength lies in its social features, the ability to communicate 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 you choose really comes down to what’s more important to you, an easy-to-use, reliable navigation tool or mapping app that includes fun social features that make your drive more interesting (and potentially more rewarding).

Current Versions and Prerequisites

  • iOS and Android.

  • Automatic update.

  • Less memory.

Google Maps
  • iOS and Android.

  • Automatic update.

You’ll find that both Waze and Google Maps are available for Android or iPhone. Once the app is installed on your phone, Google Play or the App Store will update the apps to the latest version.

When running in the background, Waze appears to be using about half the amount of memory that Google Maps uses. So if device memory usage is an issue, keep that in mind.

Navigation: Waze provides destination information

  • Fast destination search.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • More advanced tools.

Google Maps
  • Fast destination search.

  • Accurate navigation.

  • Several transportation options.

Both Waze and Google Maps provide an intuitive interface for finding your destination and just one tap to launch navigation mode.

The directions provided in each app are equally accurate, but the route result information you see is slightly different. Google Maps allows you to switch route instructions between car, bus or subway, walking or biking.

Screenshot of Google Maps search results

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

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

Screenshot of Waze route information

Waze also offers additional advanced features not found in Google Maps, such as a tool to find the best time to leave based on traffic and in-app music playback.

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’ve chosen your navigation route, it’s nice to be able to change course depending on the circumstances.

While you’re driving, the Wave offers more intuitive control over the route you choose. You simply click on the route time at the bottom of the screen to open the route information page. Click routes, to see alternative routes.

Screenshot of alternative routes

If you don’t like these routes, you can choose alternative routes by clicking » Settings» and choosing whether to avoid toll routes, ferries, freeways, dirt roads, and even difficult intersections.

Screenshot of routing options in Waze

Google Maps offers a similar but lesser experience. It’s also not that intuitive to find those route settings.

In navigation mode, you need to press the up arrow in the lower right corner of the screen and select » Settings» . Scroll down the settings to find several route options, including avoiding highways, tolls, and ferries.

Screenshot of Google Maps route options

Being able to quickly choose alternative routes may seem like a small thing, but when you’re stuck in traffic, it can mean the difference between being late for work or being a few hours late.

Intuitive interface: Google Maps is easier to use

  • Difficult to get out of navigation mode.

  • There is no useful menu on the main map.

  • The settings are hidden on the search page.

Google Maps
  • Quick navigation in exit mode.

  • The full menu is available on the main page.

  • Each page has a Back icon.

While it’s easy to get alternate routes with Waze, the interface’s intuitiveness ends there. Although finding a destination and entering navigation mode is relatively easy, exiting navigation mode is not easy.

There is no exit icon and if you press the back key (on Android) the app will ask if you want to exit the app itself.

Screenshot of outgoing Waze navigation

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

In navigation mode, you can quickly find stops on your route, switch to satellite view, show traffic, or even share your location with others. Each of them appears in the list when you press one up arrow while navigating.

And the exit from the navigation mode is carried out with a single click on the «X» in 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.

Interesting use: Waze is more social

  • Social interactions in navigation.

  • Visible icons show other Waze drivers.

Google Maps
  • There are no 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 as 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 «Beep» to say hello (unless you’re a passenger and you’re not driving, of course).

Google Maps doesn’t have similar social features to compare. It also adds to the fun of driving with Wazer.

Final verdict: Waze has more

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

In fact, aside from speed traps, Google Maps only offers users the ability to report (and view reports of) crashes and slowdowns.

Screenshot of Google Maps user reports

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

When you tap the report icon while navigating in Waze, you can generate or view reports for slowdowns, crashes, road closures, speed traps, hazards, and speed cameras.

Screenshot of Waze Custom Reports

In addition to traffic reports, users can also send low gas price alerts, call for roadside assistance, save locations, or report map issues to Waze.

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

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