Learning from Waze: How to Create Successful Location-Based Apps

09 Jun 2017
11 min
author avatar
Nataliya Kh.
Business analyst

Have you noticed that almost each time you install a new app it asks for access to your location? This applies not only to applications that establish a route, but also to social networks, eCommerce solutions, tourist services, and even games. The feature of position finding has become very popular as it adds functionality to the product and opens up new opportunities for the users. 

Even though some customers prefer blocking apps from tracking personal whereabouts, a significant part of them enthusiastically use locally based services on a regular basis. Nearly 49% of users see their obvious advantages, 30% do it for fun, and 21% follow the trend.

why users install location-based apps

The reasons for installing a mobile location-based app

The expansion of mobile location based services

At the current stage of development of mobile app development technologies, there is a great variety of location services apps. They appear in almost each category of different app stores. No matter what target audience you represent, there is a strong chance you will come across geolocation built in the app you choose.

Lets explore the most common types of mobile location services. They are listed on the principle of decreasing popularity based on the TNS research that studied the reasons for installing navigation apps.

Finding nearby events and places

This category includes, primarily, the applications for travelers and for people who want to keep interesting events abreast that take place in their area. These apps are based on GPS navigation. Often, they provide extra services such as short historical notes using the technology of augmented reality.

Using navigation

The main purpose of such apps is to guide a driver or a pedestrian through an unfamiliar road. Navigational apps pave the optimal way and warn about possible barriers like traffic jams or roadworks.

Getting in touch with friends

This category covers location based social media, location based messaging apps, location based news apps, and also location based dating services. Based on detecting the position of certain people, an application may offer a wide range of options. For instance, dating apps can find your best half within your city or even region.


Do you want to know What Stands Behind the Success of the Best Dating Apps? Check out our article to get the answers!

Receiving special offers

Different kinds of discounts are widely used in location based shopping apps. Thanks to the beacon technology, a user receives relevant notifications once he or she approaches a particular shop or supermarket. Based on the users preferences learned from previous purchases, the retailers make really attractive proposals.

Checking public transport

The passengers can easily get from one point to another by public transport even if they do not know which bus or tram number suits them. Using location based software, they can enter the point of departure and the place of arrival. The app will suggest the best options for making the trip.

Wazes formula for success

One of the hallmarks of the Waze app is that it accommodates several categories above. Not only is it a navigation service but also a specific means of communication that combines a long list of additional options. Designed in a cartoon-like style, it easily wins peoples trust and adjusts them to the relaxed style of interaction. The fact that Google bought Waze for nearly $1 billion confirms a brilliant idea and a great realization of the latter.

So, what makes Waze so special and what stands behind its success? At first sight, it may seem that its a habitual GPS app that helps not to get lost on the way. However, when we take a closer look, we can see a wide spectrum of nonroutine decisions that convert a standard idea of location based tracking into a non-trivial application. Lets consider them in more detail.

Effective cooperation

This functionality is based on the users teamwork. While driving, each of them has an opportunity to mark gridlocks and bad pieces of road. To illustrate the situation, a user can attach a photo.

It is also possible to notify friends about forced delays and the approximate time of arrival right from the app. An intuitive interface allows doing it in a fast and simple manner.

Notifying users about road condition via Waze

Notifying users about bad pieces of road via Waze

Scheduled drive

Waze is an intelligent app. It can learn the habits of its users and suggest the optimal solutions. For instance, having studied the most frequent routes by which a driver moves, the app offers the best time for the trip, taking into account the situation on the road. It is also possible to enter the date of trip manually and get updated about the best variants of departure time.

At will, the user may synchronize scheduled drives with the calendar, share them via Facebook, or send them via email.

Free gas

Not only can Waze users track the nearest gas stations and identify the type and price of gas, they also have the opportunity to receive gas for free. Using the Waze Rider service, the drivers can give a lift to the passengers who are moving in the same direction. Unlike Lyft or Uber users, they wont get paid with money but receive special points that can be converted to gas.


Uber is one of the most popular apps worldwide. If you think of developing your own Uber-like business, check out our article.

Speeding warnings

One of the latest features introduced by Waze is alerting users about speeding on the particular bits of road. Waze does not disclose the secret of developing this functionality. However, we may affirm that it works on the basis of GPS location tracking technology and the notes made by other users.

A great thing is that you can adjust the relevant settings as per your needs. In particular, you can choose when exactly the app should send a warning. The possible options include alerts at once when the speed limit is exceeded and when it reaches 5%, 10%, or 15%. In addition to visual signals, it is possible to set up voice notifications.

Celebrities voices

It is really boring to listen to robotic voices that say turn left or turn right. The possibility to choose between male and female versions would not be surprising either.

Realizing it, Waze got ahead in achieving customers satisfaction and offered the chance to pick up the voice of a favorite celebrity. Isnt is cool to be guided by Elvis Presley or Morgan Freeman?

From a functional point of view, this option may not bear any value, however, it contributes largely to increasing the client's loyalty.

using voices to guide you

You can choose the voice of a celebrity to guide you on the way


Clients loyalty is a very subtle point in the app promotion. Learn how to go about it wisely in our article 5 problem solving hints to increase customer loyalty and expand your client base

How to raise money with Waze

There is no doubt that tracking apps and location based startups are sought after. However, when deciding on their development, everybody thinks of the way to make a profit.

Monetization models surprise us with their diversity. They range from in-app purchases to paid content. In the case of Waze, we are going to consider advertisement as the primary source of income.

A hallmark of the ad in the app is that it is tied to a specific place. For example, when the user is at some distance from a particular point of sale, he or she receives a notification about possible promotions and discounts. Since the app knows where exactly the user goes, it can also display an advertisement related to the stores that the user is likely to meet on his or her way. Also, the app shows the way to the destination.

Thus, when building a location based advertising app, you should pay attention to such important points as location based information and location based search. Their proper implementation will help showing the right content at the right time.

Waze app ingredients

How to build an app like Waze

How to make an app like Waze

As you can see, Waze is a quite complex app that covers a large range of features that are nontypical for usual tracking apps. Yet, it is not necessary to include all of them at once. The best way is to start with the minimum set of options. Below is the required list that you cannot omit when creating an MVP.


The majority of mobile apps allow authorization with an existing email or social media account. This is quite easy to implement using the oAuth standard that makes it possible for an app to apply users credentials without actually knowing them.

You should also think of an opportunity to create an account from scratch. Registration with the phone number might be a nice bonus.


Tracing users whereabouts is a core functionality of the navigation app. In most cases, developers use GPS technology for this purpose. To implement it, they refer to iOS or Android Location and Maps services depending on the selected mobile platform.

To extend the apps potential, you can involve extra services to identify location data. They are WiFi, beacon technology, and base stations.


Learn more about each way of detecting location data in our article 3 Ways to map out your Business Within Location-Based Apps

Turn-by-turn navigation

This functionality includes voice instructions and rerouting that starts if the driving situation changes. Its very valuable for users as it helps follow the correct route without looking at the phone and abstracting from driving.

To develop it, you can refer to the Google Maps Directions API. It has a list of step-by-step guidance and easy-to-follow instructions.

How to benefit from using a Waze-like business model?

To understand the basis of the app business model, it is necessary to define its key feature and find out what exactly makes it different from other applications.

In my opinion, the punch line of Waze is its social orientation. Instead of simply giving the direction signs, the app encourages users to engage in the process of paving the way and supports active interaction.

Thus, the short summary of Wazes idea may be expressed as follows: Let the users contribute to the common goal!

Bearing this in mind, you can think of other business areas that can benefit from using this approach. Here are a few examples to give rein to your imagination.

Waze for Tourism

You definitely know location-based mobile apps that suggest the nearby places of interest. Using the Waze approach, you can let the users mark the non-typical sights that, in their view, are worth seeing. You might also think of the possibility to write a short description and vote for the particular place by other users. This will allow the newcomers to quickly shake down to the new conditions and choose the tourist trail.

Waze for Shopping

A similar model can be used for creating a location-based shopping app. The habitual shopaholics may advise on the cheapest or the most fashionable stores in a particular area. Also, they can share the information about the possible promotions and discounts.

Waze for Games

Pokemon Go and Ingress are world-known games based on users interaction. Taking into account their example and the example of Waze, you can think of your own game that would pull people together.

Waze business model for X

How to use the Waze business model for X

A short business model canvas for a Waze-like business

The business model canvas demonstrates a set of actions, resources, and partners involved in the achievement of the companys goals. It also shows how the participants benefit from using the product.

In the original, the business model canvas has nine sections. You can see a full list and download the template here.

A quick canvas template may be limited to three parts that describe the key points of the business activity. They are a product, a market, and a value. Having answered the relevant question in each section, you would get an initial understanding of your business strategy.


What do you offer to your customers?

  • A quick lost-proofing based on the GPS navigation and other users suggestions
  • Sharing and receiving the useful information 
  • Constructive communication with friends 


What clients do you work for?

  • Young and experienced drivers


What is the value of your product to customers?

  • Data accuracy
  • Bonuses for help (free gas) 
  • Pleasant communication 
Waze business model components

Components of the Waze business model

So, where to start?

The process of app building and promotion is not an easy one. If you want to develop an app like Waze, you already have a good example that is worth following.

Based on the above recommendations above, start with composing the business model canvas (firstly - short, then - extended), proceed to building the MVP, and, finally, work out the full app structure.

Mind involving professionals in this process not to miss a single detail! BTW, we have tons of useful information to help your business thrive, so make sure you won't miss anything and subscribe to our blog.

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