When it comes to mapping applications, Waze is probably the most fun one out there. It turns turn-by-turn navigation into a social experience, and a game (think: Pac-Man). It also happens to be free. And a few new features rolling out in the updated iPhone app today make it even more interesting.
The biggest new feature is the use of geolocated tweets for realtime traffic updates. One of Waze’s core features is the ability to send and get realtime traffic info as you use it in your car on the road. But that obviously requires that people use Waze to send those reports. But with Twitter integration, Waze can scan tweets sent from anywhere to find information about things like bad traffic or accidents on the road.
This is done “in a smart way — we’re only bringing in tweets relevant to traffic road conditions,” Waze’s Di-Ann Eisnor tells us. Waze is actually using a mixture of geotagged tweets and ones from relevant sources (such as the Department of Transportation) and running them through an algorithm to make sure they only show relevant ones in the app.
Twitter users can also ensure Waze will get their reports as quickly as possible by including the hashtag “#wazelive” in their tweets. And you’ll be able to see geotagged tweets on the map itself.
Another big addition to Waze is Facebook and Foursquare integration. With this new Facebook integration, you’ll be able to see your Facebook friends within Waze as they move around the map. These friends have different icons from regular Waze users to distinguish them.
With the Foursquare integration, Waze users can check-in to various places from within the app. Doing so in the correct way will unlock a “Road Warrior” badge.
But what may be the most important new feature in the iPhone app is the new iOS 4 functionality — including background location. This means that you can now use Waze even when you don’t have the app open (something which was previously possible on the Android version).
You can find the newest version of Waze in the App Store here (the new app was just approved so it may take a little bit of time to show up). It’s a free download.