Word to the Streetwise: Waze Isn’t the Only App

A look at other navigation-assistance products available for both Israeli motorists and bus riders.

Google’s announcement that it was buying Israeli crowdsource navigational app Waze last month may have made it Israel’s most famous navigational aid. But app stores for smart phones now offer a variety of products, nearly all of them free, to make traveling easier for both car owners and public transportation users.

Waze has become the default choice by virtue of its having been first, but it now has competition from M8, which offers directions by topic rather than address; a free version of the veteran iGo; and the Israel version of Google Maps. There is also a clutch of offerings for people using public transportation.

TheMarker tested them in the field to see which other apps reach their destination quickly, efficiently and safely. Here are the results.

For motorists

Google Maps

Although Google Maps, the navigational tool of the company that acquired Waze for more than $1 billion, is a new player in the Israel navigational app market, it is the most popular navigational system in the United States and other countries around the world. Google is now presenting a new maps app that keeps the system’s advantages, such as clear maps, that make it easy to orient oneself and simple, efficient navigation. Google’s system will direct you, but you can always look at your location relative to the suggested path and change paths if necessary. Another advantage is that it is the single navigational app today that one can start on a computer and then continue using on the road ‏(with the help of Google Now‏).

Nevertheless, the system’s instructions are currently given in English, which would be inconvenient for some drivers. The route planning takes into account traffic conditions, but is less efficient than Waze at doing this. On Google Maps one cannot find reports regarding indicating police presence or other unexpected nuisances. Inasmuch as this is true, it reveals another advantage for Google’s new subsidiary Waze.

Bottom line: Best choice for those who want to plan a route on a map.

M8

Before there was Waze, cell phone companies also had their own navigational app that could be used for a monthly subscription fee. The company that supplied them with maps, Telmap, is now offering its own app, M8. The basic premise is that a search does not need to be done by address only. Consequently, the opening screen of the app doesn’t depict a map but rather search options for places to eat, recreation and for running errands. The maps’ quality is high and the navigational capability is usually effective. A plus is this app calls out the name of street you are turning onto, so you can double-check that you are making the correct turn ‏(something Waze will get soon‏). It can also be used to find parking near your destination.

But M8 has one glaring drawback: It’s has a clear tendency to recommend traveling on backed-up highways, making life more difficult for drivers. Our testers finished their navigational experience with M8 a bit frustrated.

Bottom line: App has the potential to become an interesting offering someday, but it’s not ripe just yet.

iGo

This veteran navigational system by the NNG company is preferred by Israel’s car importers who install it as a built-in option on the car’s dashboard.

iGo excels in giving clear travel instructions and precisely mapping complicated interchanges, but it does not seem really appropriate for cell phones. Installation takes a long time and the data is located on the actual device and not online. If you don’t have a cell phone with a lot of memory and a fast computer processor then this navigational system will bog down your phone. In addition, the graphics are old and it is difficult to work through the menus. In order to reach a specific address, one has to first choose a city, then a street name and the number instead of simply typing the full address like in other apps. Also, avoiding traffic jams is not one of its strong points.

This is also the one navigational app mentioned here that is not free. Its price is NIS 260, but sometimes that app can be downloaded for free around the Passover and Sukkot holidays in the spring and fall. Our testers did not find any advantages to this navigational system that would justify the price.

Bottom line: Not appropriate for navigating by cell phone.

For straphangers

Moovit

The Israeli app Moovit was the first app in the country to help users navigate the public transportation system. It provides real-time information regarding public transportation options as well as planning out routes, including bus-to-train transfers. The app requires users to fill in their destination and point of origin and offers several alternatives for getting there. Most bus times are based on real-time data and there is a lot of potential for reports on traffic conditions, including congestion, delays and more.

The most serious problem with the app is its tendency to occasionally crash in the middle of the journey, leaving you likely to miss your stop. Our testers complained about travel routes based on synchronizing several bus lines and difficulties in finding the right bus stop in areas where several stops are located.

Bottom line: Despite the drawbacks, Moovit is still the best public transit app there is.

Google Maps

Google Maps now offers users public transportation information and is very convenient for planning your route on the computer before leaving the house. Even on the move, it can be used for navigating with its simple, clear and pleasant-looking graphics. The problem is that the bus arrival times are far from being precise. More seriously, sometimes buses don’t even stop at the stops where the system directs you. Unfortunately, it’s also impossible to know the frequency of bus lines, meaning if you miss a bus, you won’t know when the next one will arrive.

Bottom Line: Google is likely to become one of the major competitors in public transportation navigation systems, but it still isn’t there yet.

Efo Bus

A more modest app than Moovit or Google Maps, yet it provides information not available on either them. Efo Bus provides a list of all the buses from different bus lines that will reach nearby bus stops soon, allowing users to rapidly consider alternatives.

Bottom line: Efo Bus offers more information about bus times and destinations than other apps, but is less effective navigating long trips for users.

NetBus

A simple and effective app for those traveling on a well-worn route and who just want to know when the next bus is coming. NetBus relays how long it will take the next bus to arrive and even shows where the bus is located on a map. Still, the times NetBus provides aren’t always precise.

Bottom line: A lightweight app that reports next bus arrival times.

For the dashboard

Mirror Link

We recently had the opportunity to use a navigational system that enables controls and displays smart phone content on the car dashboard. At this stage, this capability only exists for one car, the Toyota Corolla, and it can be synchronized only with the latest model Samsung phones. However, using Waze or Google Maps on a big, conveniently located screen is an excellent experience that makes navigating better. It is likely that this option will be offered for additional car and cell phone models in the future.

Bottom line: Still in its infancy, this technology offers a sneak peak at the future of car navigational systems.

Eyal Toueg