Why Using Google Maps and Waze Simultaneously Offers the Best Navigation Experience

Google Maps is now my preferred app 11 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
The new Google Maps UI in dark mode on CarPlayThe new Google Maps UI in dark mode on CarPlayThe new Google Maps UI in dark mode on CarPlayGoogle Maps speed limit infoWaze on CarPlayWaze on CarPlayWaze on CarPlayWaze on CarPlayWaze on CarPlayWaze on CarPlay
Many people believe Google Maps and Waze are like two drops of water. At some level, they are, as they can both take someone from where they are to where they want to be faster and more conveniently.
The differences between them are the reason why Google sees no reason for a merger. Google Maps and Waze continue to operate as separate apps because one is focused on becoming a fully featured mapping platform while the other's mission is to offer top-notch navigation capabilities.

However, as a long-time Waze user, I recently turned to a configuration that makes more sense in my car. I've been running Waze on CarPlay for years, and despite the welcome updates, such as the addition of speed bumps, I can no longer deal with the app's shortcomings.

Google Maps is now my preferred navigation app, and despite not being able to fully replace Waze, I found a way to get the best of both apps. I now keep Waze running in the background to use Google Maps for navigation and still receive Waze traffic reports with a popup on the screen. Here are my five reasons for creating this irreplaceable duo.

Google Maps offers a cleaner UI.

The new Google Maps UI in dark mode on CarPlay
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
If you've been following my editorial pieces on Waze, you probably know I'm not a big fan of its cartoonish interface, which it has offered for years.

The Google-owned company rolled out subtle refinements to the UI, but Google Maps is still the cleaner choice that makes navigation more convenient. The colorful UI in Waze, the moods (which I disabled right away), and the lack of a modern approach make the app cluttered.

Google Maps has recently received a UI makeover with the addition of a new color palette. It was a controversial update that many users hated, but it looks like everything has eventually gotten used to it.

The best of Waze is still available.

The new Google Maps UI in dark mode on CarPlay
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
The incident reports in Waze are undoubtedly its main selling point. While I can no longer submit traffic reports, keeping Waze in the background allows me to receive alerts for accidents, potholes, and other hazards.

When Google Maps takes the entire screen, and Waze runs in the background, the latter shows notifications in a pop-up banner at the bottom of the screen.

I'd indeed need an option to adjust the timer and get some notifications earlier, but it's a trade-off I'm willing to accept for a cleaner navigation experience.

Struggling with Waze isn't worth it.

The new Google Maps UI in dark mode on CarPlay
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
While I discovered that Google Maps sometimes offers better routes than Waze, I admit that the latter sometimes offers faster routes to my destinations, especially at rush hour.

However, Waze finds faster routes because it throws you in a rat race, sending you to narrow, residential roads where driving could eventually be more dangerous (not to mention the disruptions you cause in these regions).

I think arriving home two or three minutes earlier after using a highly complex route with multiple turns, narrow roads, and crossing large boulevards isn't worth it. Google Maps offers simpler routes, and the ETA difference isn't big enough to justify sticking with Waze.

Google Maps just works.

Google Maps speed limit info
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
While I've been lucky to hit only a small number of Waze issues, including the app locating me on another road, others have been complaining of bigger problems for a long time.

Google Maps seems to offer a more reliable experience, including CarPlay, so navigating to a configured destination is typically a less stressful journey.

Because I keep Google Maps on the screen for navigation and Waze in the background, I no longer have to worry about the latter being unable to track me correctly, albeit the reports I get could sometimes be wrong due to the wrong location.

However, Google Maps seems to be more reliable overall. It just works out of the box. You launch the app, set a destination, and that's all.

No more struggles with nonsense reports.

Waze on CarPlay
Photo: autoevolution
Not long ago, I told you how a two-hour journey with Waze on the screen became a horrible experience because the app kept spamming me with reports that didn't make sense.

I was driving on the highway and got alerts for things like unplowed roads (at the beginning of summer), objects on the road, and blocked lanes), leading me to believe that Waze actually contributed to the traffic problem I had to deal with.

When I keep Waze in the background, these false reports stay on the screen for a limited time (in the banner at the bottom of the screen), but they don't interfere with my navigation UI in Google Maps. When I switch Waze to full-screen mode and get such a report, the alert remains on the screen until I dismiss it or pass the location where it was flagged. With Google Maps, I can focus on the road more easily, still seeing what happens on the road more clearly, thanks to the unobstructed interface.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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