Sat. May 18th, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • Google Maps is better for planning routes with various transportation options (walking, biking, etc.) Waze is better for up-to-date traffic info and frequent route adjustments based on real-time situations.
  • Google Maps is superior for finding detailed information about places (restaurants, gas stations etc.) including reviews and browsing menus. Waze is less useful for exploration.
  • Google Maps allows downloading specific areas for offline navigation. Waze downloads route data only for the current trip. Waze offers fun features like avatars and themes, Google Maps has limited customization options.


Google Maps is one of the most popular apps for Android and iPhone. Waze, is another popular mapping app, and it happens to be owned by Google, too. The two services have borrowed many features from each other over the years, but they’re still distinctly different. So which one is better?

To keep things simple, we’re going to break this down into three categories: Navigation, Exploring, and some additional features. Any navigation app should be simple enough to just work—the last thing 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.



Obviously, navigation is the most important part of any map app. They need to take you where you actually want 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.

Google Maps tends to determine a route when you start navigating and mostly sticks to it throughout the trip. Waze users can report things like road closures, speed traps, broken-down vehicles on the side of the road, and other hazards. This information is then used to adjust the route while you’re driving. Google may ask if it’s okay to change your route, but Waze will just do it.


Traffic reporting is one of the features Google has borrowed from Waze, but it’s a different experience. If you use Waze, you’ll notice a lot more reports popping up on the map. Google Maps does not have a “community” feel, so things are not reported as often. And as mentioned, Waze actually does a lot more with the information during your trip.

All that said, Google Maps has one significant advantage over Waze. While Waze only offers driving navigation, Google Maps provides navigation if you’re walking, biking, ride-sharing, or using public transit. In those situations, Google Maps is the much better choice.

Exploring: Restaurants, Gas Stations, and Everything Else

If getting you to where you’re going is the most important aspect of any good map app, then knowing the surroundings is easily second on that list—in fact, the two almost go hand in hand.


When it comes to knowing what’s around you, both Waze and Maps do a good job. You can search for locations by name and pretty much find what you’re after. On Google Maps, you can pan around the map and easily spot lots of locations. Waze tends to show a lot fewer locations (but it loves to highlight parking lots) and you can’t tap on locations easily.

Google Maps and Waze can show you not only the location of businesses you search for but also their hours of operation, phone numbers, departments, and more. Unsurprisingly, the information for both is coming from Google—including the reviews shown on Waze—so it’s pretty similar on both apps.


This is where the interface and design differences really come into play. Google Maps is clearly more intended for exploration than Waze. While you’ll find similar information on both, Google has much more, and there’s much more you can do with it, too. You won’t be looking at restaurant menus, ordering food, seeing the busiest hours, and checking gas prices in Waze.

A location page on Google Maps is stuffed to the brim with information. It might actually be too much information, but the fact is Google provides a ton of helpful information right from within the app. If you use Waze, you’ll probably want another app for exploration.

Offline Maps & Customization

The way each app handles offline data is interesting. Google Maps lets you download a specific area for offline navigation so that you can start navigation without a data connection. You could even navigate an entire route without needing data. By comparison, Waze only downloads the route data after navigation has started and only for that particular navigation session, which is much less useful. Sure, if you lose data while driving, then you should still be good, but that’s the extent of its usefulness.


One big point in Waze’s favor is an element of just plain fun. Other Waze users and their customized avatars and cars appear on the map (if they enable it). You can collect candies and other items while driving. Every year around Christmas, new themes and voices are added for your Holiday travels. There’s tons of different voices and themese to choose from in Waze. Google will let you change your car, but that’s about it.

Waze vs Google Maps: Conclusion

Google Maps open, showing that the phone is facing north.
Jason Montoya / How-To Geek

 


Waze vs. Google Maps is similar to a “David vs. Goliath” situation. While they may have the same owner, you really wouldn’t know it by looking at them. Google Maps is far and away the company’s favorite, as it should be. Maps is an incredibly popular and powerful app that millions of people rely on every day. Waze feels more like a pet project that Google keeps around.

Regardless of which mode of transportation you’re using, Google Maps will get you to your destination, and it will have a lot more information about that destination, too. Waze will get you there with more fun (assuming you’re taking a car). Therein lies Waze’s one big advantage over Google Maps.

Waze is great if you want your navigation to change on the fly to adapt to current conditions. This is especially helpful if you’re someone who drives a considerable amount every day. Waze’s proactive route adjustments can save you time that Google Maps wouldn’t bother with. For the average person, it may not matter much, but frequent drives could benefit over time.


At the end of the day, Google Maps is a comprehensive travel service. It’s an understatement to call it a “navigation app” or simply a “map app.” Waze, on the other hand, is much more focused. It’s heavily geared toward navigation, and it does that well. Google Maps stands on its own, but Waze may need some companion apps to fill in the gaps.



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By John P.

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