Choose Your Route: Google Maps vs. Waze vs. Apple Maps
Bet you can’t remember the last time you punched in an address on a Garmin GPS, printed out MapQuest directions, or flipped open your Rand McNally Road Atlas. These relics have become almost irrelevant since the advent of smartphones—even more so now that we have so many GPS apps to choose from. But which one is for you?
Let’s take a look at the most widely used navigation apps: Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze. Oh, and safe driving!
As the O.G. in smartphone navigation, Google has long been considered the leader of the pack, and it’s made some significant improvements over the years, such as adding new icons and buttons and features like Explore and Match.
The latest update has many users saying the app runs slowly and isn’t 100 percent accurate, but regular updates are part of the reason Google Maps can adapt to the needs of its users. It also helps when your navigation is backed by Google’s search engine and their extensive network of Street View coverage (which adds up to hundreds of millions of places you can explore all over the world).
Customizing your experience on the app is easy. You can add multiple stops to your route, see which lane you should be in, and even get turn-by-turn directions without a data connection (although this can eat up a lot of storage space on your phone). You won’t find features like these with Apple Maps or Waze.
If the Waze app looks overwhelming, that’s because it is. As a community-based navigation tool, Waze lets users alert each other about traffic incidents, road closures, and police sightings—all while getting turn-by-turn directions to any destination.
Unlike Google and Apple Maps, Waze relies on editors to improve its maps and navigation, but user data also plays an active role. As you drive around with the app turned on (even if it’s not providing directions), it’s collecting information about your commute: average speed, road layout, turn direction, etc. It’s also checking for errors. The more Wazers use the app, the better it gets.
There are, however, limitations. For safety reasons, you can’t navigate the app while your car is in motion (unless you’re a passenger). And you won’t find any routes optimized for walking or biking.
Waze is particularly useful in metropolitan areas where congestion can be a problem. When you’re in a jam, the app provides quick, alternate routes along back roads, side streets, and through neighborhoods to keep you moving (and traveling under the speed limit). What may slow you down are the advertisements; they appear every time your car is stopped and take up part of the screen.
Sure, the app had some problems when it launched in 2012. Bridges appeared to plunge into water, major world cities were forgotten, and supermarkets turned into hospitals. But Apple has made significant improvements to its maps in recent years, most notably a cleaner, simpler interface and more locations (that are actually in the right place). Plus, you can explore hundreds of them from a bird’s eye view with Flyover Mode.
Even more improvements are on the way. Apple is in the process of rebuilding the app with new data and enhanced geographic features like building outlines, pedestrian paths, and road network coverage. The updates are expected to provide more efficient routes for both walking and driving. In the meantime, the app will still get you where you need to go (and with proactive suggestions, it may even know where you want to go and recommend the fastest way).
Although Maps is only available on iPhones (and iPads), users can benefit from integrating the app with their Apple Watch, desktop, or using Siri for assistance. You’ll get turn signals and upcoming route changes on your wrist, and Siri can do the work of looking up an address.
Apple Maps is also known to use less battery and offer more privacy than Google Maps and Waze.