What3words is a location-based app which aims to make it easier for users find specific locations. The app has split the entire globe into 3m squares and given each one a unique, three worded code. Users can then use the app find out what their three worded location is and then share it with friends to assist them in meeting up with you.
But just how effective is What3words as a location app and how is it any different to simply sharing a postcode with someone? In this article we will conduct a thorough review of the What3words app and look at some of its best features to help you decide if it’s worth downloading.
What3words review – Initial thoughts
As someone who was sceptical about the app, believing that it wouldn’t be any better than simply using a location’s post code on apple maps or google maps, I have to say that I was wrong – What3words is better, and far more accurate, than a postcode.
I’m sure we’ve all used a postcode on apple/google maps before to find someone’s house and ended up on the right street but 100 houses away. This is because postcodes cover a hell of a lot more ground than 3m squared. What What3words essentially does it create a more specific postcode for every single piece of land on the planet, even locations which won’t possess a postcode. Once you have your three words, the app will then give you the option to either share, navigate or save depending on your requirements – we’ll look at these features in more detail later on in the review.
The app is so specific and useful that it’s used by emergency services to locate individuals who have been in accidents but can’t relay where they are via the more traditional methods such as street names or landmarks. Stuck in the middle of a field? What3word has you covered. Lost in the desert? What3words has you covered.
- Pins down every location imaginable to an incredibly specific area, making it easy to find a meet up location with friends.
- No need to sign up to use many of its features.
- People who you are sharing your location with don’t need to have the app to be able to find you using the three-worded location.
- Doesn’t have its own navigation system so it links you out to apple/google maps once you are ready to navigate.
- The randomised nature of the words can throw up some insensitive combinations for certain places which could put people off.
- They provide a business account but provide very little information on what that entails.
Let’s take a look at some of the key features of the app and the benefits they provide users.
Share a location
I suspect this is probably the most commonly used feature of the What3words app and this is where you pinpoint the 3m squared area that you’re either currently in or where you’re headed and then share it with friends or family. To do this you need to simply select your zone on the main page of the app and then select ‘share’. This will then bring up a list of your sharing options, including messages, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and various other social media networks.
The person who you are sharing your location with doesn’t even need the What3words app to be able to gain access to your location. If this is the case then they will simply be directed to a web version of the app which will display your three words. They can take these three words and use google or apple maps to find you.
If you want to be really clever you can use the app to take a picture of your location along with the three worded code to give your friends an even better idea of where you are. Given that each area is only 3m squared though, the photo option is more of a gimmick than anything else.
Navigate to a location
Navigating to a What3words location is something that you will probably be doing as a result of someone sharing their location with you. If this is the case then you will already have your desired location in the bank as a result of them sharing it with you leaving you to be redirected to google or maps to begin your navigation.
However, this isn’t the only scenario where you will select the navigate option. If you already know a What3words address that you want to go to, either one that someone has told you or one that you have saved, you can search for it directly through the app and navigate that way. You can do this by typing the three words in to the search bar or by using the voice search function.
The app is also linked to uber so if you don’t have a car and the location isn’t in walking distance then follow the uber instructions after selecting ‘navigate’ on the What3words app.
Save a location
This is the only feature of the app which will prompt you to create an account. You can do this by logging in via your Apple ID, Facebook, Google or creating an account directly with them via an email address. Once you’ve created an account and logged in your will then be able to save locations and then categorise them for easier access going forward.
For example, if you have found a really nice spot on a field or park that you want to be able to save so you can return to that exact spot then you can save it and then navigate directly there next time you want to go. You can also use the saved locations feature if you just want a place to house locations that you visit on a regular basis such as your favourite pubs or restaurants and friends houses.
Use the ‘list’ option within the saved locations tab to create categories for each of your saved locations to save you scrolling through every single location you’ve ever saved.
Common questions about What3words
How is What3words different to Google or Apple Maps?
Well for starters, What3words provide a very different function to either of those apps. In fact, they actually work really well together – What3words will provide you with a location and Google and Apple maps will help you to navigate to that location. Both maps services are available within What3words meaning you’ll be redirected to one of them once you’re ready to navigate.
How much does What3words cost?
For the everyday user, What3words is completely free with no hidden costs and access to every single of its features. However, they do provide a different type of account for businesses who want to use their technology.
Unfortunately, you will need to get in contact with them directly to find out what they can do for your business and how much it costs because they don’t details this on their website. If you work in industries such as E-Commerce, emergency services or navigation then it might be worth getting in touch.
Are the generated words related to the location?
No, they aren’t. The words generated for each location are completely random which can actually cause some problems. For example, it can throw up words with negative connotations which could randomly be assigned to religious places such as churches, mosques or temples. This could understandably cause some upset.
Does the app work without a phone signal or internet connection?
Without a phone signal or internet connection you can still use the app effectively. You can still view the location of any What3words address and use compass mode to navigate. It isn’t ideal, but it’s better than nothing.
Unfortunately you will need internet and/or signal to load Google or Apple maps or share your location with friends and family. Apple maps will still work without internet or signa though if your internet/signal disappears after its already loaded.
What devices does it support?
The app is available on iOS and Android devices. Just ensure that your devices are updated to the most recent operating system to get full use of the app. If you are using a really old operating system then you will only be able to access What3words via a web browser.
To conclude, we believe that the What3words app is definitely worth downloading. It isn’t without its faults, which we have touched upon in this review, however its strengths do outweigh them. The ability to save certain spots which simply aren’t accessible via a postcode is brilliant for people who enjoy exploring open spaces and the fact it can help you to locate friends quicker saves a lot of hassle and unnecessary phone calls.
If you have enjoyed this review then feel free to check out our other app reviews – we are currently taking a deep dive into some of the most popular apps around to discover if they are all that they are made out to be.