Waze is one of the most popular navigation apps on the market, able to provide unique routes based on personal preferences and traffic. However, Waze has some notable problems that some people don’t like, such as the difficulty you experience when trying to get directions from a starting point other than your current location.
Luckily, there are many great alternatives to Waze if you want to navigate from your Apple Watch. While your app choices will be more limited than if you were navigating from iPhone or Android, there’s still a healthy selection of apps available on the Apple Watch OS. Let’s examine the best of those options.
If you won’t use Waze, Google Maps is probably your best bet. Google Maps reigns supreme as a navigation app for a reason; it’s not just because it’s free! You can use Google Maps as a full-stack satellite navigation application with more features than Waze. The only functional difference between Waze and Google Maps — they’re both owned by Google, now — is that Waze utilizes crowdsourced traffic and accident data to reroute the user in media res. Thus, Waze is typically the sat nav choice for users who benefit strongly from rerouting to the fastest route based on current traffic trends, like cabbies and rideshare drivers.
However, many people continue to use and prefer Google Maps for its flexibility. Waze is designed specifically for car and motorbike users — people who are using the main roads. It cannot create walking or transit routes; it lacks that information altogether. Thus, people who want to use their map application for more than just car routes typically default to Google Maps. Even people who use Waze for their work as drivers often use Google Maps in tandem when they go to places that Waze can’t take them to. So, many people who don’t need Waze’s additional features only use Google Maps with great success.
Google Maps also has a more fleshed-out sat nav system, including images from the street view that can help users navigate on foot and identify landmarks. It also includes destination information about nearby shops and restaurants that can help users decide where and where they can go next. Additionally, Google Maps incorporates social media features to help you learn the lay of the land. From the Google Maps app, you can see restaurant and shop ratings, reviews, and even special user statuses like “local experts” for people who frequently review locations in your current area.
Apple Maps is an alternative for people who prefer to use Apple apps. While cross-platform apps like Google Maps have unique merits, there’s also a case for using first-party developer apps, especially with Apple products like your Apple Watch. It has unique features, such as information about the weather, including the current weather, temperature, and forecast. Apple Maps also works on the lock screen if you use it concurrently with your phone, making it more battery efficient than other sat nav applications.
This app has many of the same features as Google Maps, such as in-depth restaurant and shop reviews, transit, and walking routes. It has a speedometer, which you can turn on in the settings to see how fast you’re traveling, which is excellent for biking and provides context when walking.
However, Apple Maps is missing many features on Google Maps. So, it’s up to you whether those missing features are worth being able to use your map application from your phone’s lock screen. For instance, Apple Maps only allows you to add a single stop to your route compared to Google Maps allowing you to add multiple stops. However, Waze doesn’t let you add any. So, it’s still a step up.
Apple Maps also has much more limited traffic, roadwork, and accident information than Google Maps and Waze. Waze has the most comprehensive traffic and accident information, with Google Maps right behind it.
The most distinctive feature of Apple Maps is its Flyover mode. Unlike Google Maps, which has Street View, Apple Maps can’t show you what the area looks like on the ground. Instead, you can look at the area with an aerial view using Flyover mode, as if you were flying over it on an airplane.
Magic Earth is a free 3D map application available on Apple Watch and other popular platforms. The application uses information from OpenStreetMap, an open collaboration project that collects mapping and geographical data. Magic Earth has many Apple-specific integrations like CarPlay and Siri. You can use Magic Earth to find the best car, bike, or pedestrian route from location to location. It also has crowdsourced information about traffic and accidents to get you on the fastest route.
One of the best features of Magic Earth is that you can use it in Offline Mode. This mode allows you to download maps and routes, and then access them without an internet connection. Live satellite navigation is an excellent tool. However, there are still many places in the world where the connection is spotty or nonexistent.
Magic Earth also has no advertisements even though it’s a free app. Waze only shows advertisements when the car is idle, usually. However, the ads in Waze are full-screen and some of them require you to wait before you can skip them. Many users find this to be frustrating, especially rideshare drivers who can’t start a new route because their app is stuck in an ad.
Additionally, Magic Earth shares one of the defining features that makes Waze so great: crowdsourced traffic and accident reports. By receiving data on traffic and accidents in real-time, Magic Earth and Waze can provide you with the fastest route to your destination rather than the most direct route. The most direct route might actually be slower due to traffic or accidents.
However, Magic Earth is strictly a satellite navigation program. If you’re used to the points-of-interest information you get from Google Maps or Apple Maps and want to keep that, you won’t get that from Magic Earth.
Which Alternative to Waze Is the Best for Apple Watch?
Which app is best for you will depend on what you want from your sat nav application. If you’re looking for the app with the most features, you’ll be best served by Google Maps. It has a full-stack sat nav with crowdsourced traffic and accident data and a full-fledged points-of-interest platform with social features. However, if you’re a privacy-focused user like me, you’ll appreciate Magic Earth’s short but sweet privacy statement. It boils down to, “We don’t keep your data forever and we’ll always tell you how we use it.”
Apple Maps is essentially only notable for being usable on an iPhone lock screen. There is nothing that Apple Maps does that another program can’t do better. However, that’s essentially how every Apple product works. Sorry to burst your bubble, Apple fans.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©DANIEL CONSTANTE/Shutterstock.com.