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Waze: Community GPS navigationWaze's crowdsourced GPS navigation offers up-to-the-minute traffic data. Use it because it is good for mankind, or because it's fun and FREE.
WhatÃ¯Â¿Â½s up guys and gals, IÃ¯Â¿Â½m Antuan Goodwin welcoming you to Tap that App, the show where we take a look at the hottest apps for your mobile device. Android phones often come preloaded with GoogleÃ¯Â¿Â½s free Maps with Navigation software, but users of other smartphone platforms usually have to pay to get their nav. Enter Waze. Waze is a cross platform, free mapping and navigation app thatÃ¯Â¿Â½s been available for a while on Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile platforms. LetÃ¯Â¿Â½s take a look at Waze: Community GPS navigation and see if itÃ¯Â¿Â½s worth tapping. Yes, even you, my fellow Android geeks, there are a couple open source and social elements that are sure to lure a few of you away from GoogleÃ¯Â¿Â½s maps software. Fire up Waze and youÃ¯Â¿Â½ll be greeted with, as youÃ¯Â¿Â½d expect, a map of the roads around you. As you drive to and fro with the app running on your smartphone, youÃ¯Â¿Â½ll notice on the map that some of the roads have little pellets Ã¯Â¿Â½ la Pacman and icons that you can collect by driving over to gain points. As you do this, you (and everyone else running the app/playing the game) will be contributing GPS positioning and flow data to WazeÃ¯Â¿Â½s crowdsourced maps. ThatÃ¯Â¿Â½s right, every bit of map and traffic data that this app provides is generated by a user on the road like you. HereÃ¯Â¿Â½s where Waze gains an advantage over traditional traffic services. Because it is automatically grabbing flow data from an army of users, rather than road sensors, it can potentially be more accurate, more granular, and more widespread at the same time. Where most traffic services only give data for major highways, Waze users can report traffic, accidents, red light and speed cameras, and police traps on surface roads. Here in San Francisco, weÃ¯Â¿Â½re often able to see traffic updates that are less than a few moments old on heavily trafficked roads. While some of you may want to run the app for the good of mankind and your fellow drivers, the rest of you will want some sort of return on your digital investment. Waze allows you to search for points of interest and take advantage of free turn-by- turn directions with automatic rerouting. For my fellow gamers and achievement whores, thereÃ¯Â¿Â½s also a scoreboard of sorts that tracks and rewards the users with points for miles driven, map issues reported and resolved, etc. so you can see how you stack up against your Waze buddies and Facebook friends. ItÃ¯Â¿Â½s a little pointless, but then again arenÃ¯Â¿Â½t all achievement systems? DoesnÃ¯Â¿Â½t make it any less fun to be at the top of the Leaderboard. ThereÃ¯Â¿Â½s also a social element that allows you to connect with your friends via status updates to let them know where you are and what youÃ¯Â¿Â½re doing and commuters can join commuting groups based on your daily commute to single out road reports, chats, and data that is relevant to the roads you travel most often. Think of it as a sort of digital carpool. WazeÃ¯Â¿Â½s crowdsourcing can be both a gift and a curse. Because its data is 100% user- generated, Waze will obviously be at its best and most accurate in areas where many users are, well, using and contributing data to the cloud. If youÃ¯Â¿Â½re the only person in your tiny town running that app, then itÃ¯Â¿Â½s you generating and supplying the map and traffic data. However, users in heavily populated major metropolitan areas with hundreds users running Waze will get the most out of the Waze experience. On the other hand, itÃ¯Â¿Â½ll be a lot easier to collect those little pac-pellets when youÃ¯Â¿Â½re the only one gunning for them. Unless youÃ¯Â¿Â½ve already got a navigation app of choice, weÃ¯Â¿Â½d definitely recommend that you tap this app for the low, low price of free in your app store of choice. You may not dig too deeply into the social networking aspects that Waze presents, but we think that most will find value in the turn-by-turn directions and free traffic data. ThatÃ¯Â¿Â½s it for this weekÃ¯Â¿Â½s show. Got an app that youÃ¯Â¿Â½d like to see tapped? Send your suggestions to TapThatApp@cnet.com. IÃ¯Â¿Â½m Antuan Goodwin, happy app tapping.