Navigation app Waze announced a new software release for Android today with updates to the overall UI, and new social network integrations. If you’re a Waze follower, you know the platform is based largely on user-generated data, and that the result is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of both features and performance. However, Waze has a lot going for it, and the company is clearly showing a commitment to Android now in addition to iOS.
First the good stuff in the 3.0 release. Waze has added a new menu icon for easy access to navigation functions, user reports, settings and more. The UI is clean and mostly user-friendly, letting you wander maps by touch and scan traffic conditions with the help of little symbols indicating driver speeds, hazards, police patrols and more. In its previous iteration, Waze apparently included a number of pop-ups and unnecessary clutter. That’s not the case now. Waze has also integrated with Foursquare in the latest update, so if you’re the check-in type, you can link directly to your Foursquare account in addition to Facebook and Twitter. The company says it’s integrated with Yelp as well, but for the life of me I couldn’t find Yelp options listed under any menu or sub-menu. Perhaps Yelp data will start showing up as users submit relevant links?
On the not so good front, the routing on Waze makes me distinctly nervous. The app says it learns quickly and that navigation improves the more you use it, but I can’t think of a time when I’d be willing to meander around for a while just to help Waze improve its mapping. Case in point: when I first downloaded Waze I got the last software release, and, plugging in a destination, found a route that was supposed to take about 36 minutes. When I updated the app, I plugged in the same destination and got a route timing out at 44 minutes. Worrying. Also, Waze doesn’t let you create routes that avoid tolls. If you’re a real road warrior, that could be a deal-breaker, or a lot of lost cash.
The real benefit to Waze is not its navigation, but its reports on real-time environmental conditions. I can see pulling up Waze to scout out speed traps or construction work before skipping over to Inrix or Google Maps. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of extra work. What we need is an app that combines the community-powered nature of Waze with the greater reliability of some of the more traditional (and often more expensive) navigation apps. The first company that manages that will have a killer mobile platform on its hands.