This Smartphone Navigation App Is The Quickest Of Them All

Technology

One man's year-long test of the three most popular navigation apps has resulted in a clear winner

The smartphone navigation market has been predominantly dominated by three main players, each offering a slightly unique take on essentially the same product. Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze all have their fans and critics, but one app has routinely stood out. Waze is thought by many career commuters to be the creme de la creme of navigation apps thanks to its social live traffic and accident reporting features. But does it actually get users to their destinations quicker? One man recently undertook on a year-long quest to find out.

According to Digg, self-proclaimed Waze fanboy Artur Grabowski and his wife developed a way to document some 120 trips over the run of a year, tracking information such as initial reported travel time from each app, the type of drive mapped (i.e. > 75% city, > 75% highway, or mixed), traffic conditions, and the actual time to complete each drive. After all the drives had been tabulated, Grabowski began crunching the numbers to figure out—once and for all—which of the three apps was king. At first, it seemed Waze would come out ahead as it routinely estimated a 3% quicker trip time on average versus Google Maps. Apple Maps came in at 8% slower than Google's product.

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However, the tables turned once the drive actually started. Grabowski calculated the difference between observed and estimated trip times to see which app was best at staying true to its initial estimates. “Average error results were the exact opposite of estimated trip time. Using Apple Maps, I on average arrived 1% faster than initially estimated, versus 2% slower with Google Maps and 11% slower with Waze,” reported Grabowski on his blog (Google cached copy). “Apple sandbags its estimates so that users on average arrive at the predicted time or slightly sooner. Google and Waze are overly optimistic in their predictions and thus their users arrive later than expected.”

Though Apple Maps navigated Grabowski quicker than estimated on average, it wasn't the app that gave him the quickest routes. Neither was Waze, surprisingly, which was the worst of the bunch. Instead, Google Maps ended up wearing the navigation crown. “Adjusted for prediction errors, not only does Google Maps outperform its competitors, Waze is actually the worst performing of the three,” Grabowski wrote. So, if you want to get there quicker than the rest, use Google Maps. You can check out the full results thanks to a Google cache copy of Grabowski's blog if you'd like to dig into his data for yourself.

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