Connoisseurs of commuting could argue that Waze has single-handedly upended navigation technology.
Think about it. Once upon a time, gadgets and apps had to rely on data from big corporations like INRIX to tell travelers about traffic ahead. Waze said, "Forget that. Why not let the drivers themselves tell us what's happening?"
It was a gutsy move. For Waze's plan to work, the company would need thousands of smartphone owners around the world to download and use its product. After all, what good is crowdsourcing if there's no crowd from which to source data?
In the end, Waze's gamble paid off, and it did so for two reasons:
1. Waze was (and is) free.
2. Waze includes game elements that make using the app fun.
What's more, Waze hasn't rested on its laurels. It's been steadily improving its app, adding great features like real-time gas prices and voice alerts for important traffic hazards. Earlier this year, at the Mobile World Congress, Waze beat out heavy-hitters like Dropbox and Flipboard to be named "Best Mobile App", and -- as often happens -- it was bought by the biggest of the big guns, Google.
With all those accomplishments under Waze's belt, it's been difficult for companies like Garmin and TomTom to keep up. They've tried to stay ahead of the game by offering a selection of celebrity voices for their turn-by-turn navigation service -- voices like Darth Vader and Homer Simpson -- but Waze has moved into that territory, too. This week, the company debuted its first celeb voiceover, featuring comedian Kevin Hart.
Hart seems like a good choice for a voiceover. As you can see from the video clip above, he's got great delivery, which should keep drivers calm and entertained when they're on the go. He might be a little obscure for older drivers, but he'll likely be a huge hit with Waze's younger fans.
All of which leads to a bigger question: how can standalone navigation services remain relevant in the age of smartphone apps? If you've got ideas, share 'em in the comments below. Or send them over to the folks at Garmin -- they'd probably love to hear.