What is Waze?
Originally a small, indie company, Waze was bought out by Google in 2013. However, it still retains its individual personality and many of the special features that set it apart in the first place.
Its focus is wholeheartedly on drivers. If you’re looking to walk, cycle, or use public transport, we can say with absolute certainty that Waze is not the app for you.
However, if you drive a car or motorcycle, it could be a great addition to your commute.
The number one purpose of the Waze app is to get you where you’re going as fast as possible. To do this, it calculates your route live and avoids events like roadworks, accidents, and traffic as they occur.
It’s also crowdsourced rather than relying as heavily on data as Google Maps, meaning other drivers can help improve your journey as you go.
What is Google Maps?
As we’ve said, Google Maps is the quintessential maps app that practically everyone knows.
It’s clean and simple and tries to do everything at once. This includes giving you bus timetables, marking traffic, analyzing routes, and listing local businesses and their opening times.
The aim of Google Maps is to give you as much as possible, all in one place! As such, the app is great if you’re walking, cycling, bussing, taxiing or driving.
However, because of this highly generalized skillset, it does miss some of the specialized features of Waze. It’s also got a lot less personality, instead opting to be clean and unobtrusive while you drive.
The biggest strength of Google Maps is its data; it has a huge database stretching back years which it uses to calculate routes on the fly.
A Deep Dive into Waze vs. Google Maps
|Fun, cartoony style, customizable avatars, various car icons
|Clean and corporate design, focuses on efficiency, offers terrain, satellite, and 3D maps
|Local Business Info
|Limited business info, no contact details or reviews
|Extensive business info including contact details, reviews, menus, and images
|Intrusive pop-up ads when stationary
|Less intrusive sponsored icons on the map
|Crowdsourced reports on speed cameras, police, traffic
|Less reliant on crowd-sourced data, may miss some real-time updates
|Data Usage & Offline Use
|Can use offline but loses real-time updates
|Allows downloading maps for offline use with more functionality
|Integration with Other Services
|Connects to Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora
|Strong public transport integration; guides pedestrians; no music integration
|Voice commands with Siri/Alexa, hands-free
|Focused on fast route changes, may lead to unconventional routes
One of the most unique parts of Waze is its style.
Unlike Google Maps, which is clean and corporate in all areas, Waze is fun and cartoony – even allowing you to set a little avatar that other Waze users (Wazers) can see on their map.
You can even change your car icon to a number of stylish models, including a Formula One Racer and a motorbike. The bright colors and simplified graphics make Waze a joy to look at!
On the other hand, Google Maps is a lot more simple and mature, aiming to give you a streamlined experience without doing much else. It’s less concerned with personality and more with efficiency.
A major boon of using Google Maps is its inclusion of terrain, satellite, and 3D maps. These help flesh out the map more and provide you with extra information that can help in your journey.
Google has more information about local businesses than Waze.
Both apps tell you what time the business is open, and give an overview of businesses near you. However, Google will also give you contact information, menus, reviews and images of food people have eaten there.
It should also be noted that Waze has much more intrusive advertisements than Google Maps.
Rather than being little sponsored icons on the map, advertisers can place large, pop-up images on your Waze app (which can get pretty annoying). They only appear when you’re completely stationary, but it’s still a bother at times!
This is Waze’s biggest selling point.
As you drive, you can hit the big “report” button on the app to warn other users about things like speed cameras, police stakeouts, accidents, traffic, and roadworks. You’ll also see reports from other users on your map.
Because these are crowd-sourced rather than purely based on data, Waze tends to be far more accurate and up-to-date about these events. This is especially true with speed cameras, which Google Maps will tend to miss.
Seeing other users on the road around you in Waze gives a feeling of community as you drive, especially since each one has their own little cartoon avatar. You can even “beep” them by tapping their icon, which is like a greeting between users.
However, crowdsourced information also has its weaknesses.
If you’re using Waze in an area without many other users, most of its special features will be relatively useless. On the other hand, Google Maps is happy to direct you no matter where you end up – so long as it’s known to Google!
Data Usage and Offline Capabilities
This is a major strength of Google Maps. You can use the Waze app offline as long as you start your journey while you have an internet connection. However, you’ll lose all the real-time updates that make the app special. You also aren’t able to download areas of the map for offline use.
In contrast, Google Maps lets you do this freely – meaning you can navigate without WiFi as long as you have some foresight and download the local area first!
You’ll lose the real-time traffic and accident tracking, but for the most part, Google Maps is unaffected by the absence of an internet connection.
Integration with Other Apps and Services
When it comes to public transport integration, Google Maps is king!
It can show you timetables, warn you if a bus is late, and guide you on foot between transfers. In contrast, Waze is entirely for drivers – not pedestrians or public transport users. It really isn’t any use to you if you’re not in control of the vehicle.
What Waze can do is link up to your Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora account so you can manually control your tunes as you drive.
Safety Features and Concerns
Both apps allow you to control them using voice commands, including with Siri or Alexa.
This means you can use them completely hands-free, which really improves safety on the road if you don’t have a human co-pilot.
If you don’t want to use a virtual assistant, you can also tap the microphone button in either app to start giving a voice command.
A major safety consideration is what each app prioritizes as it guides you. Waze is completely focused on getting you to your destination as fast as possible.
It will change your route on the fly, trying to shave off any minutes it can along the way. As other users report obstacles, you’ll be redirected instantly to avoid them.
Many users have noted that Waze can take you to some strange places while it does this!
In contrast, Google bases its routes on a mix of speed, traffic, safety, and eco-friendliness. It does its best to avoid high-risk zones and make your ride as stress-free as it can, even if you arrive a few minutes later.
Waze vs. Google Maps: What’s Better?
Ultimately, the best app for you really depends on your needs and priorities.
Are you exclusively a driver and don’t plan on using your navigation app for walking, riding a bike, or public transport? Then, you’ll probably prefer Waze over Google Maps.
In contrast, if you regularly use any other kind of transport, Google will serve you well.
Are you looking to express yourself through your navigation app? Do you love quirky features, fun gimmicks, and happy, cartoon characters? Waze has some great personality in its design and really lets you have fun.
On the other hand, Google is simple and corporate, but it gets the job done with minimal distractions.
This is the general theme of this debate. Google Maps is the mature, serious, and put-together older sibling who’ll get you to your destination safely, efficiently, and calmly. Waze is the fun wildcard who’ll get you there fast, and help you have fun all the while!
Hopefully, this article has cleared up any confusion around the two apps. We hope you find the best app for you, whether it’s the smart and serious Google Maps or the bold and adventurous Waze.
Wherever you end up, enjoy the journey!
The sources we reviewed to write this article.