That road trip is about to look a lot different if you’re a fan of the popular navigation app Waze.
The GPS app that blends crowdsourced social updates from its users received a major upgrade, featuring a redesigned user interface making it easier to share updates, but still leaving the screen a bit cluttered.
Founded in 2007, Waze surged in popularity on the iPhone and Android smartphones as a GPS app with a significant social component. The company was hot enough to attract Google, which bought Waze in 2013 for more than $1 billion.
Waze works as your standard navigation app, with a social twist: You pop in your destination and Waze takes you there. Users can save Favorites such as their home or work to jump-start navigation, and even share where you’re going and estimated arrival time with friends.
The big reason Waze is so popular is the crowdsourced traffic updates. During your drive, if you spot a road hazard, accident or heavy traffic, you can submit a report to alert other users.
The more you use Waze, the more it tailors your routes to the most efficient way possible. So, if you have Waze running when you commute home or to work, it can change routes on the fly to get you to your destination quickly and dodge traffic.
Waze’s 4.0 update introduces an overhauled interface highlighting key points on the map more clearly. When you see a yellow icon, you know it’s a hazard, vs. blue for a police officer nearby. Key streets on your commute are also easier to pinpoint.
Waze is also a game in some respects, as frequent users rack up points boosting their status. A Waze icon on wheels represents you on the GPS, and with every level users reach, they morph from a Waze Baby (with pacifier) to crown-wearing Waze Royalty.
The process for choosing your route is easier as well. Not only can you review your path, but look ahead to any reports of traffic or accidents along the way. Swipe left to right to pull up the menu and type in your destination.
As alerts flow through during your travels, users might notice the screen can get cluttered quickly. It’s especially true if you still use an older smartphone with a smaller screen, like an iPhone 5S.
Waze is the best navigation app available for your smartphone, and this latest update should make your drive more pleasant.
Brett Molina is a tech writer who likes to take apps for a spin and spread the word.
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