Waze, one of our favorite free GPS apps for Android and iOS, gets a version 2.4 update today that adds text-to-speech guidance, a commuting widget for the Android app, and a host of smaller improvements.
The biggest change is the addition of a text-to-speech (TTS) engine powered by Nuance that adds spoken street, exit, and highway names to its turn-by-turn directions. Users will also receive spoken alerts as they approach road hazards reported by other Waze users. TTS is currently only available to Android and iOS users in the U.S. and Canada, though there are plans to roll the functionality out to other countries soon. Waze has also stated that TTS will have to be manually enabled in the apps settings menu by choosing the Full guidance option.
Another feature included in the update is a new commuting widget for the Android version of the app that aims to give an idea of whether or not it's a good time to leave for the commute home or to work with a color-coded meter. When the needle is in the red, traffic is heavy, while green means clearer roads and fewer delays. The widget also includes the current estimated travel time and expands with a click to show a Commute-O-Meter chart of estimated travel times projected a few hours into the future. There's also a clickable shortcut that initiates turn-by-turn directions to your home or work address, depending on which you're closest to at the moment.
The Waze app also gets improved map graphics and performance and animated icons and traffic indicators that seem to pop up from the ground rather than just appearing on the map screen. The new version of Waze is currently available for download in the Android Market and the iTunes App Store.