Life Hack 3: Waze vs Google Maps, When Every Byte Matters

WazeI have been a long time fan and user of Waze. I really like the idea of crowd-sourcing traffic, and since it uses the Google Maps API underneath, was pretty confident in the maps and routing. I found two issues that sent me back to using Google Maps while driving using my smart phone as the GPS.

The first issue with Waze pretty big. Some of my favorite locations somehow got corrupted. I checked me “work” location and noticed the address had somehow changed to a set of asian characters. Out of curiosity, I decided to see where it routed me. Strangely enough, it took me to a different part of town. At least it didn’t try to route me to Singapore. I edited the location, put back in the correct address, and thought that would be the end of it.

Google MapsUnfortunately, the next time I tried to navigate with Waze to work, it still routed me to that same, wrong location across town. I thought maybe the Google Map had some incorrect data. I fired up Google Maps and tried to enter the same address. It routed me directly to my actual work address. I have had a couple of similar instances where I entered an address into Waze and ended up way off course. Google Maps got me back on track and to my location.

So not only was Waze occasionally unreliable in its locating and routing to destination, I also noticed that my data usage each month was increasing. I checked the data usage of all my apps, and Waze was the top offender. Since I use Ting for my provider, and they charge by metering data, keeping my data usage low is important to me. I found out that I could significantly reduce the data I was using for GPS without sacrificing accurate useful routing.

Google Maps allows you to download map data for any areas you frequently drive though.  It still will occasionally use a little data to track traffic, alerts and other miscellaneous things. Downloading maps on the fly, however, is where most of the data usage in GPS apps come from. Downloading maps to your phone will take up some storage space, and the larger the areas you download take up more storage space. As long as you have some space to spare, and you download them over WiFi, you can significantly drop your data usage.

Here are the steps to download maps to Google Maps using the Android app. I have not found a way to do this in Waze.

  1. Open Google Maps Application
  2. Open the Menu (The three horizonal bars on the top left corner of the interface)
  3. Select Offline areas from the Menu
  4. Select Custom area from the Offline areas menu
  5. The app will now show you a selection of the area immediately surrounding you. You can pinch to zoom in or out, or scroll around to select exactly where you frequently drive. The app will tell you at the bottom how much space the download will take.
  6. When ready, touch Download

The next important part is also found in the Offline areas menu:

  1. Click the settings gear on the top right
  2. Make sure Automatically update offline areas is on
  3. Make sure Automatically download offline areas is on
  4. Make Sure Download preferences is set to Over Wi-Fi only (default)

This will make sure your maps are kept up to date, but that they will only update when you have WiFi available!

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