Google may own Waze, but that doesn’t mean its own Maps product and Waze are the same. In fact, the two still fight for dominance over your navigation needs. So which one is better? Turns out, it depends.
To keep things simple, we’re going to break this down into three categories: navigation, finding stuff, and other features. Any navigation app should be simple and just work, because the last think you need to worry about when getting around in unfamiliar territory is fiddling with the app that’s supposed to be taking you to where you’re going.
Navigation: Getting From A to B
Obviously, navigation is the most important part of any navigation app. They need to take you where you actually need to go.
When it comes down to it, both Google Maps and Waze do the job! And that’s not surprising, given that Waze and Google share a lot of maps and traffic data. That said, there are some big differences.
Waze allows people to create and submit maps. It also lets people easily report problems with existing maps. And those reports tend to get blended into the maps pretty quickly. In rural and remote areas, you’ll often find user-created maps in Waze where there are simply no decent maps available in Google Maps.
That said, Google Maps also comes with one significant advantage over Waze. While Waze only offers driving navigation, Google Maps also offers navigation if you’re walking, biking, or using public transit. In those situations, Google Maps is the much better choice.
For just driving directions, I’ve personally used both Waze and Maps pretty extensively, both in rural and urban, heavily-populated areas. For me, however, I’ve had Waze take me on more questionable routes than Google Maps has. I’ve found this especially true in congested areas.
Here’s an example. In Dallas, Waze took me pretty far out of the way, only to put me right back on easily the most congested interstate in the entire town (I-35). And that’s exactly what I was trying to avoid. Using both Maps and Waze to go to the same destination in downtown Dallas multiple times, Maps didn’t use this (or even a similar) route even one time. Yet Waze insisted on it.
I’m not sure if it’s because it was the most direct route or what, but it was increasingly annoying—to the point I had to stop using Waze when driving to that particular location. And it’s not the only time I’ve had those kinds of troubles with Waze.
Now, to be fair, most of the time Waze and Maps used very similar routes in all my other tests. But I have to give Google Maps the edge in the navigation category. This is because it reliably gives me better routes, but also because it offers additional navigation options if I’m biking, walking, or taking the bus or subway.
Winner: Google Maps
Finding Things: Restaurants, Gas…
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