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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A fun new way to navigate

For years I've been toying with the idea of buying a GPS unit that I could put in the car or take with me on hikes.  The idea of using satellites to find ones way around has become commonplace… but to me it still feels like Buck Rogers (if you don't know who that is… well never mind).

The problem is that GPS units, aside from being stupid expensive (at least the well made, feature rich ones), only do one thing; navigate.  In this day and age of devices doing multiple tasks (phone, email, web surfing, camera, etc.), it seems criminal to have to carry an extra device around that does just one thing… even if it does it really well.

The other evening I had dinner with a close friend from the old country (hi Michael!), and one of the things friends do in this day and age is share their favorite apps with each other.

It turns out that there is a fun navigation app available for Apple and Android devices called WAZE.  Even better, the app is from an Israel company (although it works pretty much everywhere in the world and speaks about 25 different languages)!

What makes this app special are the following features:

1.  It's free.  Seriously.

2.  It combines a kick-@ss navigation app (complete with spoken turn-by-turn directions in a host of languages so you don't have to take your eyes off the road) with the fun of social media.

3.  The app is constantly updating itself with traffic reports, speed trap warnings, and other alerts from fellow users of the app.

4.  Even if no users are actively inputting alerts, updates or warnings in your area, just by having the app turned on, you are updating the system with speed data so the system can determine if there is a slow-down somewhere.

5.  It works a bit like a video game in that you can choose the icon for yourself, and as you travel, you can see other WAZE users around you on the road (obviously you can adjust the privacy settings to go invisible if you want).  Since the app wants the users to drive all possible roads on any given map, it sometimes offers incentives for you to take a small detour and 'gobble up' pacman-like little prizes which award you points.  

6.  You also get points for inputting alerts and traffic updates.  And the system encourages you to double check and confirm or debunk alerts provided by others so that a speed trap from two hours ago that is no longer there doesn't remain on everyone's map.

I'm pretty new to the WAZE app, so I'm not doing it justice… but I encourage anyone with an Phone, iPad, Blackberry, Windows, Android or Nokia smart phone to download it and give it a try.  

I have nothing to gain by you signing up, other than the satisfaction of sharing a neat app… because, you know, that's what friends do.

http://www.waze.com/

Posted by David Bogner on March 6, 2012 | Permalink

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Now that it knows where you are and where you've been, what does it do with that information?

Posted by: Ron | Mar 6, 2012 10:56:39 AM

Ron... The overlords use the information to control your thoughts. Seriously, if you are worried about privacy, there is a setting to make yourself invisible. But keep in mind, as with anything... if something is free, you are the product. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 6, 2012 12:29:19 PM

Unfortunately it's too buggy on my aging Droid, but the few times I used it, it was pretty nice. I've also played with Trapster which alerts you to speed traps and other issues. But Waze tried to make it more fun.

Posted by: JDMDad | Mar 6, 2012 12:48:56 PM

I just downloaded it to my iPhone.. will keep you posted... thanks. You're SUCH a giver!

Posted by: val | Mar 6, 2012 4:50:16 PM

Waze is awesome. Whenever I am in a vehicle I have it on. Nothing like real-time, or close to real-time, traffic notifications and even automatic rerouting if using navigation at the time.

Posted by: Mark | Mar 6, 2012 6:54:33 PM

Does it access your phone's contacts db, and does it download a copy of it to waze's servers? Too many sm apps do it though totally not necessary (and thus violate the privacy of contacts, whether they consent or not...).

Posted by: a. | Mar 6, 2012 7:20:45 PM

Looks promising but buggy on my iPhone.

Posted by: Yaron | Mar 6, 2012 10:09:21 PM

Here's another feature I really like in WAZE. It will use all that data it collects to notice traffic jams forming in real time, and divert you away from them! I drive daily between Efrat and Tel Aviv, and this feature has saved me from being stuck in traffic several times.

Posted by: TzviE | Mar 7, 2012 2:11:07 AM

Waze here in ct. Can't find it's way out of a paper bag. But a fun app.

Posted by: Barbara | Mar 18, 2012 11:06:25 PM

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