February 9, 2012
You have to hand it to the team behind Waze for coming up with more and more ways to improve their already superb community-powered traffic and navigation app for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Today a fresh update was released, introducing a couple of promising new features and marking the return of an old one on top of the obligatory bug fixes and optimization measures. The update delivers the ability to share your location, destination, and ETA via email or text, and it also brings back the turn-by-turn navigation list. But the most notable inclusion (albeit currently available for U.S. and Canadian users only) is the ability to operate the app handsfree on the iPhone. Indeed, this is a very welcome addition, considering that Waze is used primarily by drivers, who are of course advised not to occupy their hands with holding anything other than the wheel while on the road. But perhaps more notable than the feature itself is its manner of execution, which is a clever solution to Apple’s strict limitation on the third party use of Siri. To accommodate this particular feature, Waze is effectively reappropriating the iPhone’s proximity sensor (the vaguely visible detector that shuts off the screen during phone calls) such that it preps the app to accept voice commands when you wave your hand in front of your iPhone. This way, what you can otherwise do by tapping on the app (report traffic jams, accidents, speed traps, etc.) you can now do by simply speaking to the app. Note that since neither the iPod touch nor the iPad have a proximity sensor, this workaround is functional only on the iPhone. Waze is available in the App Store for free. Download it now, or update the existing app on your device to continue sharing real time road intelligence with your fellow drivers in your community.