Waze is already enormously popular with everyday consumers; that's one of the reasons Google purchased the turn-by-turn navigation app in 2013. But now, Waze could become one of the first apps people see on their new Android smartphone — just like Google's own Maps, Hangouts, YouTube, Gmail, and so on. Waze has been added to the list of Google Mobile Services, a package of Google-made software that handset makers can install on top of the core Android operating system. Almost every major manufacturer (Samsung, HTC, Sony, Motorola, LG, etc.) elects to do this, and now they've got the option of adding Waze to that roster of bundled apps.
Waze depends on crowdsourced traffic data
Crowdsourced traffic data is critical to Waze's navigation features; the app will automatically reroute you if there's congestion or an accident up ahead. But to make those helpful decisions, Waze needs to pull in driving data from everyone using the app. By making this move, Google is exposing Waze to an even larger potential audience, and all of its routing functions should get even smarter as a result.
It makes total sense: yes, Google owns Waze, but Google Maps itself also benefits from Waze's community-sourced data on accidents, road closures, and more. Not long after the acquisition, Google integrated the app's incident reports directly into Maps. So Waze isn't really a Google Maps competitor so much as it's just an alternative for users who prefer its light, traffic-focused style and unique route-sharing capabilities. Keep in mind that Android makers can still opt to stick only with Maps if they choose, but we imagine at least some will throw Waze onto phones so it's ready to go out of the box.