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.
While Nokia’s Drive app will be exclusive to its Windows Phones, the Nokia Maps application will be available on the Windows Phone marketplace for all Windows Phone devices. The application is a little different from what you are used to on Symbian devices and follows the Metro style UI.
Another difference is you cannot pre-load maps on this application, that is restricted to Nokia Drive. So you will need an active data connection to pull the maps and other location information around you. But once your get that out of the way, the experience on the app is very good. You can pinch to zoom, have access to all sorts of guides with Lonely Planet and Michelin integration, similar to the Symbian counterpart. Another aspect that has been really improved is public transport.
In certain regions around the world, Nokia will be offering tracking of public transport accurate upto the minute. The first view lets you search for places nearby, while the second view populates the map with the top 25 restaurants, shops, vistor attractions around you to give you a better idea of how to get around a new city.
Here is a in depth look at the application. Unfortunately the video was recorded in a noisy room, but the video should still give you a fair idea of what to expect from the Windows Phone variant of Nokia Maps.
Many thanks to Dan Martins from the Nokia Maps team for the demo.
The mapping division of Nokia has been on a roll these past few months continuously working on making the whole experience much better on Nokia devices. But that hasn’t stopped them from further improving on the HTML5 version of Nokia Maps that was launched for iOS and Android.
Infact, its progressed by leaps and bounds, a far cry from the somewhat limited experience it offered a few months ago. The new version of Nokia Maps mobile accesible at m.maps.nokia.com brings offline mapping to your navigation experience, and lets you download maps of your local area over WIFI before heading out to save on data costs.
Next, in addition to walking and driving directions, it now also offers public transport directions as well. A very welcome functionality indeed.
That’s not all, now it also offers guides and information about your location, along with a points of interest (POI) database that shows nearby venues for shopping, entertainment, food and so on, bringing the Nokia Maps experience on Android and iOS fairly close to the standalone version available on Symbian and the MeeGo Harmattan powered Nokia N9.
The Nokia Maps mobile experience on the iPad is very good because of the better HTML5 support, the larger screen and it to my mind it can give the inbuilt Google Maps app a real run for its money. Maps is one of Nokia’s core strengths and its been improving all the time, if you want evidence, I recommend you check out the HTML5 version of Nokia Maps on m.maps.nokia.com from your iOS or Android devices.
One of Nokia Maps’ biggest strengths is its ability to pre-load maps. Once you know where you’re headed, you can download the maps for that city/country over the air or via your computer for free before you leave and you’ll never be in a situation where you’re lost, just because your phone can’t pull the maps via the internet connection.
Needless to say its also useful even if you have speedy data as you save on data costs and no matter how fast your connection, it’ll never beat local storage. Someone decided to put together a fun video just to show this, the real action starts a few seconds in.
It may be pertinent to note that Google Maps on Android can now pre-cache maps in 10 mile blocks, useful, but that still doesn’t let use you those maps for navigation. Google Maps may be the leader in search, POIs, and public transport directions, but there’s nothing to beat Nokia Maps’ navigation and zero online dependency.
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.