Mobile apps have transformed the way we live our lives today. Because of all kinds of apps, we get things done — for lack of a better word — much faster. Can you imagine the amount of time and effort it would take to plan a drive to an unfamiliar place without navigation apps?
You don’t even have to, thanks to apps like Waze and Google Maps, which are surprisingly (or not) both owned by Google. 5 years after Waze was acquired by Google, it was launched in 2008. Despite being owned by the same company, both apps managed to grow their own respective user base.
What drives their users’ preference for one over the other? Let’s find out.
The Survey: The Battle Begins
As most millennials would know, Google Maps has been around for a longer time than Waze. It’s known for providing high-quality directions for more than just drivers, but also pedestrians, cyclists, and even public transportation.
Waze, on the other hand, is a driver-focused navigation app. It’s well known for its crowd-sourced approach where drivers can share real-time information about accidents, traffic information, speed limits, speed traps and more to help other drivers get to their destination more efficiently.
So far we’ve covered only the most forefront differences between the two apps. Now let’s find out what both app developers and regular users think.
We Ask Malaysian App Developers
We asked 20 Malaysian app developers to vote for the app that they think trumps the other. The result was pretty competitive but with 60% of the votes, Google Maps came out to be the preferred navigation app for more than half of them.
In our survey, we asked them to share the reasoning behind their choice as well. A lot of their responses related to user interface, design, traffic accuracy, and even storage.
Here are some opinions on Waze:
“Waze has better features and UI/UX. It’s easier to read directions on Waze compared to Google Maps. Also, users can report various types of incidents that could help one another save valuable time or drive cautiously.”
“Waze has much more accurate traffic predictions and forecasts (which is a feature that’s very hidden but much more reliable than Google Maps’s forecasts).”
And here are some on Google Maps:
“I like Google Maps’s user interface because it shows exactly which lane I should stay in while I’m driving. If I’m not familiar with a road, it’s easy to miss exits or turns, especially in KL. So this feature saves me tons of time and money by not having to reroute or drive off in the wrong direction to get to the right exit.”
“To me, Google Maps is easy to use, including for inner roads. I’ve also grown accustomed to Google Maps since I’ve used it from an early age.”
“I use Google Maps because it’s already installed on my Android, I don’t feel the need to download an extra app.”
We Also Asked 250 Regular Users
Using Instagram and Twitter polls, we also asked 250 everyday Malaysian users to choose their preferred navigation app.
Yes, Waze actually got 23.2% more votes than Google Maps. That is quite a gap. However, there were also responses stating that they switch between both apps depending on the situation at hand. Here’s one insightful opinion:
“Both! I use Google Maps to calculate route times (especially if I have more than one destination) because I can swap destinations around to find the best route. Then, I use Waze to actually get there because it shows extra stuff like stopped cars, police, etc.”
We, too, believe that both apps have different sets of strengths and weaknesses that distinguish them from each other. Which app is better would really depend on what features are important to an individual.
It’s pretty clear that both apps take on different approaches when it comes to user interface. Waze has a minimalistic interface, drawing attention to action buttons and details with 3D graphics. Google Maps has a more laid back and traditional interface, which is good for drivers because that also means minimal distractions.
Aside from UI, Waze may lack some attention to user experience. The app changes locations, shifts, and rotates a lot. With a huge direction indicator at the top of the screen, it’s easy for users to miss a turn. Google Maps moves around too, but only when it’s necessary.
These days, we all live by real-time data. It’s beneficial to be aware of the latest information, and that’s where Waze gets ahead of Google Maps. With their crowd-sourcing model, users can easily submit the latest information on events happening on the road.
Fast Routes vs Good Routes
Even though Waze and Google Maps may share the same data, they often formulate completely different routes for drivers. Why is that? Waze is built to get users to their destination as quickly as possible. It doesn’t matter which routes are common, if it gets users to their destination in 20 seconds, Waze will use it.
Because of that, many people have reported “weird occurrences” using Waze, including unnecessary turns, U-turns, and exits. Google Maps, however, is known for standing by suggestions and alternatives that are common and well-known.
Have you tried changing your navigation voice on Waze? You can customize the voice by using your own, your friends’, and even celebrities! With traffic conditions in congested areas like Kuala Lumpur, this will definitely lift users’ moods by a little.
Besides, even though Google Maps provides the option to avoid tolls as well, users can select routes that avoid tolls AND unpaved roads. That’s a pretty awesome feature to have in a navigation app. So, kudos to Waze.
In 2015, Google Maps’s offline navigation was finally made available in Malaysia. This allows users to download a location with WiFi before setting out, and get to their destination without turning on their mobile data.
Whether you have limited or unlimited data, it’s pretty neat to have this offline function. Imagine losing your signal driving halfway through a rural area. At least you won’t get stranded if you were using Google Maps.
The Answer: It’s For You to Decide
Waze is great for drivers who want to contribute to road safety by reporting accidents, traffic updates, and police trap alerts. It’s also good at getting users to their destinations fast.
Google Maps, on the other hand, displays uneditable internal traffic analysis, but it has great user experience overall. One plus point is their Live View feature that utilizes augmented reality to help users familiarize with new areas easily and accurately.
So it’s time for you to pick one of the two. Better yet (if you’re not picky about storage), use both! Pull out whichever one better suits your current needs.
Psst! Before we go, a Snappymob developer suggests an honorable mention: If you’re an iPhone user, you may want to give Apple Maps a try too.