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Issue 10.5 ('Real World 2012')
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Issue: 10.5 (July/August 2012)
Author: Dave Mancuso
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 5,728
Starting Page Number: 16
Article Number: 10503
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When my last GPS unit died, I decided to try for a single unit auto solution. If I could find a decent iPhone GPS app, then I only needed to deal with one device on my dashboard. I looked up all the reviews, and tried two apps, Motion-X GPS Drive and Waze. Waze was of particular interest to me because of its traffic tracking feature. It was also free, so the decision to try it was easy.

Once Waze was on my iPhone, exploring the settings was a snap. Most of the presets were fine with me except a few (more on that later). The look of the map is a big deal for me (I'm shallow that way) and Waze provides 3D and 2D maps that are easy to view and read. It was easy to see where I needed to turn and when, even on Interstates with intricate exits and merging ramps. One interesting thing to note is that I had previously preferred wide maps. My iPhone, however, mounts vertically in portrait mode on my dashboard. Waze will display the map in landscape or portrait, whichever you prefer, but I actually came to prefer the portrait display because I could "see" farther up the road on the map.

The other required feature was accurate directions. Waze found virtually all of the locations I searched for. It was nice to dump an entire address into one field and let Waze parse it into an accurate location. An added convenience was the ability to search my iPhone Contacts, even by first name alone. Any result could be easily saved to the Waze navigation list.

Driving with Waze was smooth. I was able to set the GPS voice to a level that suited me and set the level of directions from only general prompts to specific street turn by turn directions. Waze gave me clear directions at the proper times, and its routes, while not always what I would take, were pretty good.

The best thing about Waze is how it warns of upcoming traffic, accidents, and even stranded vehicles. I was able to customize how the warnings appeared and turn them off if I chose. On a drive to Washington, D.C., Waze actually saw upcoming stalled traffic on the interstate, planned a detour to save time, and informed me of the new option it had for me. As I left the Interstate, I saw four lanes of stopped traffic that Waze saved me from. Minutes later, it led me back to the interstate a few exits farther past the traffic, saving me over half an hour.

The one annoying thing to me about Waze was the gamelike features it tried to foist upon me. I created an account with Waze (actually a foursquare account—Waze has merged with foursquare) to see what features it gives me. Even without an account, Waze gives me anonymous crowd-sourced traffic and other information from other users. I didn't use the social media features Waze offered me, but I also didn't feel like my life was lacking without them. However, I began to hear odd noises from Waze and see strange things on my GPS driving map. Waze has driving "games" for you to play and points you can gain while driving. If you're into this, it could be enjoyable. I was not. I didn't need to be running over Santa hats or rabbits or other odd icons. And the sounds distracted me as well. Other users may love these features; I turned them off in my Waze settings and getting from point A to point B became much less distracting. On a side note, I had absolutely no use for the Wazer's "Meetup" feature. Perhaps it would make more sense as part of a larger social network. Perhaps that will be part of foursquare's future direction for Waze.

There were a couple of times that Waze did not lead me through the correct route, which caused me to switch back to Motion-X. However, Motion-X failed to give me proper directions for the same route. I concluded that the destination route was more at fault than either of the apps, unless they use the same mapping technology.

A small thing to note: I did like Motion-X's ability to play and control my music library without needing to switch applications when managing music. Waze has no such option, but it didn't really seem to be an issue for me.

Currently, Waze has become my main GPS app. The maps are easy on the eyes, and the traffic information has become increasingly valuable. I drive a decent amount (170,000 miles or so in the last six years), so I did get to put the app through its paces. With the price, and the fact that you aren't required to make an account to use it, Waze is a very easy option to try. To save having an additional hardware GPS on your dashboard, not to mention the money spent on that hardware, Waze is an excellent option to try. Highly recommended.

End of article.