Where Waze falls a bit flat is its user interface. The maps are easy enough to read, but the app's Menu and Reporting buttons are tiny and tucked into the lower corners of the screen. Tapping them causes pop-up menus to appear with more options and larger buttons, but that still means that the driver is at least three taps and possibly a swipe away from choosing a preset destination, such as home or work.
Inputting a destination that's not already a stored favorite is even more fiddly. That's because Waze's search-based destination entry returns results for input addresses and destination names for six different destination search engines, including Bing, Yellow Pages, Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Waze's own business database. If you search for a name, your handset's address book is also searched. That all sounds good and for handheld use -- more choice is good -- but if you just want to do a quick search from behind the wheel, swiping between multiple destination lists gets very tricky, very quickly.
Fortunately, you won't have to fiddle with your phone's keyboard while driving, because the destination input screen will allow addresses and search terms to be input via voice command with a tap of the microphone button next to the search field. This voice input uses your phone's native voice input system, for example Google Voice typing for the Android version of the app.
There are also voice commands available for such quick functions as "Drive Home" or "Report Heavy Traffic," but this secondary features is disabled by default and is hidden in the settings menu. Once activated, you can trigger Waze's voice-command system by waving a hand in front of the screen or tapping the map with three fingers. Interestingly, this voice command system seems to use a totally different speech recognition system from the search and address input system.
Once you've got a destination chosen, the Waze experience once again smooths out. When tested in and around San Francisco, the routes that it chooses are logical, quick, and vary depending on the current conditions as dictated by the app's traffic and incident data. Spoken direction include text-to-speech spoken street names, so you'll get "Turn left on Van Ness Avenue." Sometimes it seems that those spoken directions could come just a bit too late -- a bit more time to react to a prompt to turn is always better -- but the navigation app's instructions were generally easy to follow.
Waze also includes social features (connect to Facebook), game mechanics (earn points and find digital treats on the map), and a questionable Map Chat feature that lets you leave messages and photos on the map for other drivers to browse. There's also a feature to find and report fuel prices, which can be useful but probably isn't something you want to use while driving. In fact, generally speaking, the less that you interact with Waze while driving, the easier it is to live with.