Waze GPS and Traffic is a longstanding GPS navigation app unlike most others. Due to that originality and some shortcomings, the app has been given mixed ratings. However, Waze v3.0 hit the App Store yesterday and its major user interface, performance, and search overhauls have already caused current and new users to express great appreciation for the developer’s efforts.

The UI changes are instantly obvious. What was once a little cluttered with information bars and several buttons has been trimmed down to only relevant navigation details and two simple buttons. In the bottom-right is the condition and hazard report, check-in, chat, and map error access button. In the bottom-left is the main menu, which adds buttons like mute for the text-to-speech feature and route options during a trip.

Button relocation and removal isn’t the only thing to have been modified in regard to the user interface. Further visual changes in Waze v3.0 include a map preview when first selecting a destination, day and night color schemes, estimated remaining time and distance reminders after rerouting, plus ETAs and previews for events that are located near your route.

While significant, map UI changes aren’t the only important improvements to Waze v3.0. Further enhancements and additions consist of:

• 100% rewritten code making the app run faster, smoother and respond much quicker than ever before
• New search fully integrated with Yelp, foursquare and Bing allowing you to search for, navigate to and check-in at real-time destinations you might not otherwise know about
• Wall in Waze Groups allowing commuting buddies to interact with one another more easily
• New Waze moods
• ‘Swipe’ gesture shortcuts to main menu and traffic reporting

For those unaware, Waze GPS and Traffic is a navigation app designed for everyday commuting. Relying on live feedback from other motorists, Waze can provide traffic accident, road construction, and other hazard reports much more quickly than other apps. In addition to road conditions, Waze GPS offers social features like chat, location check-in, and even game elements.

Waze is a universal app compatible with iPhone and iPad with 3G running iOS 4.0 or later, and available in the App Store as a free download.