To Waze or Not to Waze

(Sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks, everyone. School’s been super busy. I’m gonna try to get back into writing now ūüėä I’ve got something exciting planned for next week ūüėŹ)

Waze is an interesting take on GPS navigation. Rather than just using GPS to get to places you’re unfamiliar with, Waze invites you to use your GPS everywhere you go. You see, Waze’s goal is to save you every possible minute while you’re driving – to work, to school, or wherever you’re going. So instead of taking you along the most direct route, Waze takes you on what it hopes is the fastest route – even if that means going through neighborhoods, on and off the interstate, whatever.

Waze achieves this the way I assume most GPS apps get their traffic data – through thousands and thousands of uses, or “Wazers,” with their phones in their¬†cars. As you driving using Waze, you’re also reporting back just how fast that route really was, which influences whether Waze sends the next driver¬†along that route¬†too, or if they get a different path. However, Waze goes a step further on data collection. Wazers can report all kinds of hazards along the road, from construction, to stopped vehicles, and even police and red light cameras. I don’t like that Waze encourages people to use their phones to report things¬†while driving (there is a hands-free voice mode), but I will (guiltily) admit that it’s nice to have this sort of info.

This¬†brings me to the¬†question: Do¬†I use Waze everywhere I go, like it’s intended? No, I don’t. I tried. When I first downloaded the app, I did. But it got pretty old.¬†When I drive to school, I basically have two, maybe three different routes I can take. And they’re all within five minutes of each other. So generally, Waze doesn’t really save me much time, and often it takes me on the same path I would’ve taken anyway. Even if I do take a different path, once I’ve made the first turn or two I know which way I’m going. And those voice prompts get really annoying.

I’ve gotten to the point where I only use Waze when I’m not sure which route would be fastest. Right now, that includes:

  • When I leave school at a different time than normal, and¬†I don’t know what the traffic is like.
  • During the heat of traffic, when all routes could be equally bad.
  • Driving to my new church, where I’m still getting the hang of the traffic on the different routes.

So that’s how I use Waze. Have you tried the app? If so, how do you use it? I’m interested in hearing how other people use this app, so let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter ūüėä

What I really want is for Waze to just send me a notification before I leave, telling me which route (“I-75” or “Highway 41”) is fastest, and then I wouldn’t¬†even have to use the app at all. Oh well. ¬†‚ÄĘ‚ÄĘ


October App Review: Runkeeper

App: Runkeeper
Developer: FitnessKeeper, Inc.
Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m doing a charity 5K run at the end of this month. ¬†This means that I need to get into shape! ¬†For this, I’ve downloaded an app I’ve used a lot before, but had¬†fallen out of the habit of using lately: Runkeeper.

Here’s how Runkeeper works: You click start, and then run. ¬†That’s what’s so awesome about it; it automatically tracks your time and distance over GPS, and also¬†calculates pace, elevation climb, and other stats. ¬†Runkeeper also will periodically give you audio cues telling you your time and distance, as well as any workout intervals (run for one minute, walk for one minute, and so on).

There are four main tabs¬†in Runkeeper. ¬†The first is the one¬†right in the middle: Start. ¬†This is where you go to track a workout. ¬†If you don’t want to track your workout over GPS, or you can’t (swimming would be difficult), you’ve got two other options. ¬†The first is called Stopwatch mode, and it’s more or less exactly what it sounds like: it’s just like GPS mode except you put the distance in at the end. ¬†The other option is manual logging. ¬†Put in what activity you did, how long and how far, and click save. ¬†This doesn’t give you as many details about the workout, but if you forget to track something, it’s nice to be able to add it¬†manually.

Next is the Me tab. ¬†This shows some basic stats: miles per month, workouts per week, etc. ¬†This is also where you can view your goals. ¬†This is one of the best features of Runkeeper in my opinion. ¬†Simply put, progress bars motivate me. ¬†A lot. ¬†Setting a goal is a great way to keep myself on track. ¬†Put in a¬†total distance and when you want to complete it, and Runkeeper will show you your progress over the weeks. ¬†I don’t have any goals set right now because I’m using a training plan (more on that in a second), but I’ve used them a lot in the past. ¬†Since we’re talking about stats,¬†it’s a good time to talk about¬†Runkeeper’s pricing tiers. ¬†You can use Runkeeper totally free, and it works just fine. ¬†Subscribing to Runkeeper Go gives you more stats, as well as some other benefits like more¬†training plans. ¬†If you’re a serious runner, it’s useful, but most people won’t miss it.

The next tab is Training. ¬†I’d never used this until getting ready for this race, but I really like it. ¬†It shows a simple calendar, showing you what workout to do each day. ¬†Straightforward and easy to use.

The final tab is Friends. ¬†This is a neat feature, almost like a social network. ¬†It’s a simple feed that shows you all activities from you and your friends. ¬†I’ve never used this with other people, but it seems like a cool idea. ¬†You can even like and comment on each other’s workouts.

Runkeeper does a good job of showing you plenty of data from your workouts, but what if you want that data elsewhere? ¬†Runkeeper will integrate with MyFitnessPal and Apple Health, which is cool. ¬†I’ve got it set up with the Health app, which is nice because I use other fitness apps too, and Health shows me all that info in the same place. ¬†Runkeeper also has a step counting app called Breeze, which I’ve used on and off before. ¬†Even though it’s a separate app, if¬†Breeze detects that you went on a walk, there’s a button to push that data to Runkeeper as a workout. ¬†Clever!

Runkeeper has been my go to workout app for years now (at least during the periods¬†I’ve been exercising), and there’s lots of good reasons for that. ¬†Runkeeper does its main job well, while still offering a host of other features. ¬†I’ve really been enjoying using it over the past few weeks, and I think I’m going to do really well on that 5K this month. ¬†‚ÄĘ‚ÄĘ