Google Updates Waze Navigation App for iOS, Android Coming Soon
Driver navigation app Waze has released its first major update since being acquired by Google more than two years ago. Now available in iOS, the update will be followed soon by a new version for Android, the company said.
Waze said the 4.0 version of its app features a new look and cleaner design that makes it easier for users to navigate. Users can also access a number of key features with fewer taps than they could previously.
A redesigned reporting menu is aimed at making it simpler and quicker for users to update fellow Wazers with news about traffic jams, accidents, police patrols and other factors that could affect commute times. The updated app also reduces battery drain during use.
'Brand New Experience'
Waze's new look was designed to better serve users' driving needs, the company said yesterday in a blog post. "You might call it a brand new Waze experience," the post stated.
If users sync Waze with events and street addresses in their Calendars, the app will now remind them when they should hit the road to get to their appointments on time. In addition, a single tap on the app's right button will now let users quickly access their contacts to send them directions, locations or estimated times of arrival.
A Google spokesperson told us that the Waze team listens to feedback from users and chats with them regularly, which often inspires new features. "We also have a product team who innately understand driver behavior and have a long-term vision for the product," the spokesperson said.
Over the seven years of Waze's operation, the app has evolved "feature by feature to become the ultimate copilot for all things traffic," the spokesperson added. Having outgrown the app's original framework and design, she said that the company decided to launch version 4.0 as a fresh start, with room to interate in the future.
The update for Android devices is expected to be released likely within a few months if not weeks, the spokesperson noted.
Past Criticisms for Clutter
Waze began as a free community mapping project in Israel. It was co-founded by Ehud Shabtai, now the firm's CTO, and Uri Levine, who departed the company after its acquisition by Google in June 2013.
Purchased in a cash deal for $966 million, Waze was one of 18 companies acquired by Google that year. Google said the addition of Waze was "expected to enhance our customer's user experience by offering real time traffic information to users' daily navigation needs."
The social and game-like nature of Waze has made it popular with its estimated 50 million users, but the previous busy design of the app, with its multiple colorful icons, has also been criticized as a potential distraction for drivers who use it. A New York Magazine article published shortly after the 2013 acquisition, for example, asked, "Did Google Just Buy a Dangerous Driving App?"
The article pointed to a study by the Foundation for Traffic Safety that found that "drivers who use speech-to-text commands to interact with apps experienced 'a higher level of cognitive distraction' than even drivers who talked on a handheld phone and were less likely, for instance, to scan for people crossing at a crosswalk than drivers partaking in other distracting activities."
Several reviewers of the updated app have noted that Waze's redesign has helped to simplify its usability and reduce visual clutter on the interface.
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Posted: 2015-10-21 @ 4:28am PT
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