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November 27, 2013

Waze gathers crowd wisdom to conquer commute

Does commuting to and from work every day leave you just a little bit crazed? Then say hello to Waze, now available in the Windows Phone Store.


Waze is designed for commuting, and includes colorful maps as well as turn-by-turn directions and voice navigation – the features that anyone familiar with today’s leading mapping applications would expect.

But where Waze differs from other mapping and guidance apps is the crowd-sourced reporting function that is built in (the icon on the lower right of the screen opens this feature), so you can share things you see along the way with other people using the app, such as traffic jams, accidents or police traps. All of those things can be displayed on the map you see while using the app for navigation, too.

Getting started with Waze

The first time you use Waze, you should set up your home and work locations, under settings (click on the Waze icon on the bottom left of the app to bring up the Menu). And then, before you start driving, have a quick look at the latest “reports” under the Menu that have been submitted in your area, so you can avoid any surprises along the way.

The traffic indicator is color coded so you know – more or less – the average speed of other drivers on the road ahead of you.

It should be noted that while testing the app this week, distances ahead of turns are about twice the length of what is announced, so when the app says turn in 500 feet, it is more like 1,000.


The navigation guidance will include street names, if you want it. And you have a broad choice of languages to use within the app. For users in the U.S., the navigation guidance can be set to either English or Spanish voices, and there are male or female options for both. The voice does sound a bit robotic, though.

The maps will also display gas stations and noted prices in your area, and you can set it to show a preferred gas station, if you have one, as well as the type of gasoline you need (such as regular, premium or diesel).

Feeling social while you drive?

Social features include “Map Chats” – but you can disable this feature in settings, if you don’t want to have it on while you’re driving. Equally, if you encounter issues with the thing you see on any Waze maps, you can file a report to help make corrections and – ideally – improvements to the content that is shown to everyone using the app.

And, since the app is social, you can customize how you appear on the Waze map to other users (yes, you get to be a little rolling Waze icon). Although, you need to use the app for 100 miles of driving before you can set your “mood” – until then you are a newbie or “baby Wazer” as they note.

King of the road


As you use Waze, you will earn points for your driving and for the reports you submit, and the more you do the higher your score will be. From there you can advance to higher “Levels” within Waze based on your overall activity, all the way up to “Waze Royalty” complete with a crown on top of your icon to show you are among the top 1% of high scorers in your area.

You can send friends a link via SMS or e-mail to a live map showing your real-time driving and estimated arrival time using the “Share Drive” feature in the app. Or, if you want someone to meet you somewhere, there is a “Send a Location” option, too.

Waze is free to download and use – although of course, data charges may apply – but it also includes some discrete little ads that pop up periodically on the map view. This may not be a deal-breaker, but you should know what to expect.

You can learn more about the new Windows Phone app in the Waze blog.

Do you use Waze in your daily commute? Share your tips in the Comments below.