Like many others, Robert Scoble being the most obvious, I've been waiting for apps to start leveraging the enormous amounts of data we generate and explicitly share into a utility. Yet except for a few exceptions, exceptions we will be talking about, the majority of apps continue create more noise rather then filter our the signals. Why can't apps learn that on weekdays when I wake up I always check weather and traffic?
A Glimpse Into the Future
While many lamented the switch in iOS from Google maps to Apple own's offering, it brought about a search for alternatives. One of the most popular or talked about alternatives was the Waze app. Saying the Waze app is an alternative to Apple or Google maps is like saying a motorcycle is an alternative to a bicycle, sure technically it's correct but it so much more. So let's look at what makes this app so special and what should other app makers strive to emulate:
- Built on user input: with 34 million users, it will be hard for any company or process to be able to build the information network ways has along with the participation they are encouraging via some neat gamification features
- Reacts in real time: unlike Google's or Apple's map product, as you drive you get traffic updates from other users that help the program re-route you. From traffic, to accident to road closures, it all works together to get you home not only safe but faster
- Values User Experience: whether through happenstance or effort, the app flows really well. Care is taken to make sure that we're not asking drivers to do too much (ie no chatting). The reporting interface is quick and the buttons are big. All and all its a well crafted app. Even simple things like the map switching to a darker BG at night is a welcome little touch
- Gamification: and while it's a word we have all come to hate because of the abuse of this methodology, Waze like Foursquare uses gamification features to its advantage to make sure users not only use the app for way finding, but continue to be active reporters of road hazards and closures. This is done through the accumulation of points which allows greater customization of your avatar
Trust and technology
Something really interesting happened on this trip to the future. I learned that to get the most value of the app, you had to trust it. You had to trust is realtime re-routes to a degree i hadn't done with any other app.
When Yelp gives you a restaurant rating, you are free to believe it or not and plan your evening accordingly. With Google maps, although you may get a few routes to your destination, once one is chosen, it doesn't change. However with Waze that is not the case. You indeed get your choice of routes to take (the fastest one is by default the one you must opt out of), but along the route, as new information (ie hazrds and accidents) is reported, your route is updated on the fly.
Many times, It's taken me on side streets to bypass a busy artery. I'm getting use to it, but in the future this feeling of having to trust the technology will only become more of the norm.
Have you downloaded the Waze App? If so, what are your impressions? Did it take you a little time to get use to the real time rerouting?