The biggest change that iOS 6 brings is the all new Apple developed Maps application. This means that you now need to say goodbye to Google Maps, and its excellent search and points of interest (POI) database. Sadly, despite what I assume were Apple’s best efforts, the Maps app is practically useless. There are no public transport directions, voice guided navigation is limited to a handful of countries, there are no offline maps, the search is nothing to write home about and the POI database is a joke. Finally, the Maps coverage, specially in India is a joke, specially when compared with Nokia or Google’s offerings. Oh, and Flyover (Apple’s bird’s eye view implementation) works in a handful of cities, not countries.
So if have an iPhone 5 or are running iOS 6 on an existing device, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, a little while ago Nokia started developing a web app for Nokia Maps, targeted towards Android and iOS. That app has matured over time and offers a lot of functionality that you would be missing with Apple’s Maps. Google similarly has a web app as well.
Offline caching of Maps, great for times when you don’t have a speedy internet connection.
Voice guided walk navigation.
Excellent POI database.
POI view, to quickly see interesting places around you.
No voice guided navigation, but Apple’s Maps app can’t even route to a place only 2 miles away. So the ability to follow the route in real time by looking at Nokia Maps seems like a minor miracle for an Apple owner.
Nokia Maps web app on the iPhone. Excellent all round coverage.
Ability to set Favourites, jump into the POI view etc.
Pre-cache a fixed area. If you want cover a lot of area, zoom out. However that comes at the cost of the level of detail you will see. Don’t expect to save entire cities, but great if you know the neighbourhood you’re going to be in.
Drive and Walk Navigation. Public Transport in a growing number of cities.
Jumping between different modes of navigation is very easy.
A small download and you can have voice navigation while walking around. Great for times when you have your earphones on.
Tap anywhere on the map and you can navigate to that place, or get POI information around it.
Share places via text, on Facebook, Twitter etc.
Wondering why do I hate the new Apple Maps so much? Here’s what Chandigarh looks like on Nokia’s application.
This is what Apple’s app could muster:
Seriously. Forget the fact that India gets no voice guided navigation, the real bummer is that the app fails to route over short distances as well. Apple’s Maps app is not just bad, its annoyingly bad.
Nokia Maps for the web went 3D a while ago, and the experience was fantastic. You could do a fly by over a ton of cities around the world, and the service was so good that CNN used it to show the route for the royal wedding. But the Maps team isn’t content on resting on their laurels and has activated a new stereoscopic 3D to make those maps really pop. This means that you’ll probably need to hunt for that long forgotten red-blue 3D glasses, which our friends at Unleash The Phones say is definitely worth the effort.
I haven’t been able to try the new mode out yet, my long forgotten pair of 3D glasses wasn’t up to the task. I am told that the glasses you use has a huge barring on your experience, so look for your best pair and let us know what you think. To activate the 3D mode, just click the glasses on the top right-hand corner on the webpage.
Meanwhile, a huge development for Nokia Maps mobile was the ability to use voice navigation on your iOS or Android device as well. Its is restricted to walk navigation for now, but your can get actual voice navigation for free on your iPhone or Android powered device for free, all via Nokia’s HTML5 magic. You are asked to download a 2MB set of voice files upfront and once your are on your way, its just like using Nokia Maps on a Nokia device.
Nokia recently made it clear that other manufactures of Windows Phone based devices would also have access to their famed Ovi Maps, slightly surprising, but I guess that was part of the deal they struck with Microsoft. But what’ll come as another pleasant surprise is that users on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android will not be left bereft either. Nokia’s soft launched a brand new HTML5 powered, mobile optimized Nokia Maps website that as you will see below works perfectly on Android and iOS.
The website (m.maps.ovi.com) is still very much beta (read basic), with the last update being carried out on July 7, but you can still browse worldwide maps on the go and plan a route, both driving and walking. Coupled with access to the GPS, it lets you track your movement accurately. On Android, you get small zoom keys to let you zoom in and out, but on iOS pinch to zoom works perfectly making the experience a tad better. This is probably down to better support for HTML5 technologies on iOS v Android.
With the speed at which Nokia’s Maps team works, I can imagine that the website will get pretty regular updates, perhaps incorporating POI and other goodies soon. This move marks a clear assault on Google Maps which for a long time were the sole runners when it came to cross platform deployment. In a lot of countries where Google doesn’t offer navigation, Nokia Maps via their HTML5 foray have the opportunity of matching the functionality the native Google Maps app provides.
I can see Nokia going the Google way with this, offer everyone your Maps so they get hooked but keep the best experience for your own platform. If you’re wondering this is how it looks on the iPad 2.
Check out the video for the full blown overview of Nokia Maps on Android (Galaxy S2) and iOS (iPad 2).
Finally before you start making your mind about it, remember this is a soft launch, a first step so to speak.