Waze Gets a Dash of Siri-Like Handsfree Input

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Of all the iPhone apps in the world, none have a greater potential to benefit from Siri’s voice input than ones that provide turn-by-turn navigation–since spoken commands would provide not only convenience but safety. (And, in many states, might let you control the app without breaking the law.) Sadly, the iPhone 4S doesn’t have a built-in navigation app, and there’s no way for third-party programs to work with Siri.

But Waze, the cool navigation app that includes information on traffic, speed traps and other hazards that’s provided by Waze users themselves, has come up with a clever workaround. Its iPhone version now has a Siri-like voice system that’s designed to let you control Waze without fiddling with the iPhone’s touchscreen.

You put Waze into voice mode by waving your hand in front of the screen. (It uses the phone’s proximity sensor to detect this.) Then you can speak commands such as “drive home” and “report traffic.”

Waze also uses the iPhone 4S’s built-in voice input to let you search for locations, although this isn’t really a hands-free option, since you need to pull up the iPhone’s keyboard to get to the microphone button. And just to err on the side of safety, the app doesn’t allow you to enter text when your vehicle’s in motion.

Waze’s new features fall far short of the potential for Siri to transform navigation if Apple gives third-party developers access and tweaks the interface a bit to allow for hands-free use. But it’s clever and useful–and a good excuse to try this nifty free software out if you haven’t done so lately or at all.

(MORE: The 12 Best Android Widgets for 2012)