(Pocket-lint) - The world is talking about Waze, a quirky driving app that will help you get to your destination on time, avoiding traffic, with really easy sharing so that people know where you are and when you'll arrive.
If you've not yet joined the Waze revolution, now could be a great time to get involved. Hop into the passenger seat and we'll spin through all the important Waze details that you need to know.
What is Waze?
Waze is a free navigation app for Android and iPhone. It offers community-based traffic (i.e., traffic details from other Waze users), aiming to help you avoid traffic and always be able to take the best route to your destination.
How does Waze work?
Waze uses builds its own maps from its Map Editors, applying layers of user information over the top from the Waze community. This allows Waze to give you accurate and up-to-date information on road conditions, speed cameras, roadworks and traffic.
Some elements, like speed cameras, roadworks and accidents can be reported by Waze users for the good of the community, the idea being that local people contribute to their local maps.
Many of the features are to support that community and give Waze a fun feel - the gamification of navigation, if you will.
What devices support Waze?
Waze will also integrate into the standalone app version of Android Auto, making a more complete driving solution for Android users who don't have any integration into the car's system, so it's great for older cars without any sort of connection to a head unit.
Just make sure your phone is properly mounted so you can use it handsfree whichever option you use, if you're using your phone in your car. Also remember to check out the voice control options.
Note that the standalone Waze app has some features that don't flow through to Android Auto - like the Spotify integration, for example, and voice control is a little different.
What about Waze in cars?
Waze is supported and integrated into Android Auto, so you can use Waze as the navigation app when connected to a compatible car head unit. If your car supports Android Auto, you can have Waze displayed on your car's infotainment screen and use it for all your navigation.
Waze is also supported in Ford Sync 3, using SmartDeviceLink. This enables direct app mirroring on Lincoln and Ford displays. SmartDeviceLink provides the scope for support on other vehicles too, but so far there haven't been any announcements of other car manufacturers supporting it.
Waze: Which is best - app, Android Auto or integrated into car?
Although the original app is the more fully-featured and has some of its own unique offerings, for driving, the best option is to get it on your car's display, so in-car Android Auto is the best.
This would be our choice, primarily because your phone is then connected, away, and Android Auto is handling everything else - and that also means integration into your car's mic and speakers, with simplicity for calling and media.
Waze potentially contains some distractions for a driver (which Waze voice addresses), but once in Android Auto these are less apparent than in the standalone app.
Getting started with Waze
Whether you're an Apple or Android user, the first point of call is to install the app on your phone.
Once installed, all you have to do is search for your destination. You can connect to your contacts and Facebook to retrieve addresses and you can also use voice searching through the app. When in Android Auto, there's full support via Google Assistant.
Waze will then find the best route to your destination, taking into consideration all the community data, before giving you turn-by-turn instructions once you start driving.
You will be alerted on the route to traffic, roadworks, speed cameras, police and other data that Waze users have contributed. You'll also have a readout of the time you're expected to arrive at your destination and the distance.
The app is free, there are no subscriptions, but there is in-app advertising and you'll find local businesses appearing on the map.
Pre-planning routes in Waze
Waze will also let you use the app to pre-programme a journey. One of the features in regular route planning is to access data on when the best time to travel is. This takes into account increased traffic volume for rush hour, for example.
You can then say when you want to arrive and you'll get a notification when it's time to leave so that you arrive on time. Or you can search and then head into "planned" to see what journeys you have coming up, or plan new routes.
Share your live Waze route with friends
Once you're on your way, the time of arrival and distance is at the bottom of the display. Tapping on this will pull up more details, including the option to "send ETA". This will let you share the route with someone else so they know when to expect you.
Waze users watching your route can respond with comments. On Android you can also share your route via any number of other sharing options.
Using voice in Waze
Voice control is becoming more prominent in our lives and Waze has an integrated voice system that's specifically for Waze.
In the Waze app you'll have to enable the "ok Waze" hotword from within the search bar at the top, and it will then give you voice control thereafter when you're in the Waze app. From within the Waze app, once you've enabled that hotword, you can't then access your other voice assistants - so you can't use "ok Google" or "hey Siri".
The thing that ok Waze is really good at is controlling Waze, navigation and your routes. What ok Waze won't do is control your music or anything else - although Google Assistant can be a little hit and miss with that.
When you're using Waze through Android Auto (either through the app on your phone or through your car) then the "ok Waze" hotword doesn't work and you'll have use "ok Google" instead. This is because Android Auto has a whole range of supported functions for voice, not just navigation.
Ok Google through Android Auto will let you place calls, reply to messages, play music and control navigation. However, because Ok Google accesses the full Google Assistant, you'll get some stupid occurrences. For example - if you say "cancel the navigation", instead of cancelling the Waze navigation, it searches Google and gives you some information about how to cancel navigation in a Volvo.
Essentially, the scope of Ok Google often stretches well beyond what you actually need when driving, which can throw up some problems.
The Waze speedometer
Waze has a speedometer in it that will indicate - with the option for an audible alert - when you're exceeding the speed limit. You can opt to turn it off if you'd rather just stick to your car's existing speedo - and you don't have to have the speeding alerts if you don't want them.
Head into settings > speedometer and you'll find all the options you might want.
How do fuel prices in Waze work?
You can search for petrol stations (it's a shortcut option when you go to search) and local stations will be returned, along with the fuel prices. These prices also say when they were most recently updated - and it's worth looking at these to ensure that it's accurate.
Just watch out for adverts here - the top petrol station is likely to be an advert and might not be the closest or the cheapest. In the settings you can also specify your fuel preference.
Waze and Spotify integration
Spotify can be linked to Waze (you'll need a Spotify Premium) and this will give you music control from within the Waze app. Why? So you're not fiddling around switching apps when you're supposed to be driving.
Once connected, the Spotify icon will appear in the Waze app, so you can tap and access music. It will offer to resume the last Spotify music or playlist you were listening to. You can also tap to switch over to the Spotify app, with a shortcut to get back to Waze, but we'd rather you stopped to do this, rather than did it on the move.
Note that the Waze voice controls don't extend to music.
Should you drive with Waze all the time?
Because Waze uses user data to determine traffic conditions and make driving conditions more accurate for other users, it's good to drive with Waze all the time, so you're playing your part. If you're in the car, then it's not much of an imposition to have Waze open.
However, consider your privacy and whether it's appropriate to have yourself shown as using Waze.
Privacy in Waze and how to go invisible
You can connect Waze to friends and see Facebook friends in Waze when they are using the app. You'll also see icons for other Waze users on the roads with some basic details - your mood and how long you've been a Waze user, for example. This is all part of the "community" of Waze.
If you don't want to appear on the map, then head into settings > privacy settings and toggle on "go invisible". This will keep you off the map. It will mean friends and other Waze users can't see you.
You might also want to delete addresses that are stored in Waze. Head into settings > planned drives and you'll see the option to "remove saved addresses". These are really there to help you find places easily, but at the same time reveal where you've been.
You can also turn off background location access for Waze. Head into settings > privacy settings > location. Here you can disable the app's ability to access your location when the app is closed. It can use this data to give you information about traffic problems or reminders about when you need to leave - but if you don't want that, you can stop it happening.