Google Maps may tell you where to go, but it won't give you cupcakes. Waze, on the other hand, tempts you to use its map app by dangling digital treats and other social gaming incentives.
Starting Tuesday, BlackBerry owners can try out Waze in beta form. We jumped into a car with Waze and tooled around San Francisco testing out the new BlackBerry beta while hunting for e-cupcakes.
While you use Waze's turn-by-turn voice navigation, real-time traffic, and other location-specific alerts, the app simultaneously sends anonymous information, like your speed and location, back to its database to improve the service as a whole. This is crowdsourcing put to practical purpose, especially when the Waze community pitches in by reporting navigation and mapping errors and traffic accidents from their phones.
As for those cupcakes we mentioned, Waze uses them and other gaming conventions to further engage the user base. Collecting digital representations of cupcakes or other road goodies when you drive by a certain location earns you bragging rights and points, though not real-world morsels. (The cupcakes have turned into "blackberries" for this special release--har dee har har.) For Waze, making a game of its map app gets users involved, and that means more valuable road information for its database where those details are otherwise slim or lacking.
Unfortunately, Waze misbehaved more often than it should have on our BlackBerry Bold 9700 during our driving demo. We witnessed confused navigation and an error message. Even without the bugs, Waze offers far fewer features than the iPhone version that had also come along for the ride. We got the hang of navigating the map on BlackBerry, though it could be more intuitive. As far as hardware goes, Waze will use the Menu button and the "i" and "o" keys for zooming in and out. There's also some functionality in pressing the track pad.
If you've got a BlackBerry 8900, 9000, 9630, or 9700--but not the Storm--you can download Waze's beta. As an extra incentive, Waze is offering an iPad to the user who drives through the most blackberries from May 4 to May 14, 2010. Waze is also available for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian phones.