Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nokia Maps: Are We There Yet? A closer look at Nokia Maps for Symbian S60

location based services
portable navigation devices

Written by Richard Bloor
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Nokia's release of Maps 1.x should mark a milestone in the migration of personal navigation to the smartphone. However, Maps may leave some S60 users a little lost.

// -->

Maps is the result of Nokia's take over of Smart2Go developer Gate5. Initially released as a beta application for S60 3rd Edition and "generic" Windows Mobile devices - as well as being preloaded on the N95, E90 and 6110 Navigator - Maps offers users extensive worldwide map coverage, searching, and add-on real-time navigation.
For some users who installed the beta application, Maps 1.x will disappoint. While the beta version of Maps loaded quite happily onto an N93, the final version (even though the sis file naming suggests otherwise) appears not to be available for "generic" S60 3rd Edition devices. A limited range of more recent devices are supported and Maps 1.x refuses to load on N93s. Support is provided for the more recent N93i, which theoretically runs the same version of the S60 platform. Users of "generic" Windows Mobile 5 Phone Edition devices are able to get Maps, while some owners of S60 3rd Edition devices seem to have been left out.
A recent discovery while exploring north of Wellington, New Zealand, highlights another potential issue with Maps. Traveling north from Wellington on State Highway 1 the first water crossing motorists encounter is Paramata Bridge. However, in Maps this bridge appears to be missing. Its "loss" is confirmed by an attempt to navigate across the bridge open: Maps takes the hapless motorist on an 11km diversion around Porirua Harbour.

While New Zealand may not have the highest density of Map users in the world, the omission of a bridge on the North Island's main truck road is not a minor.
Maps (beta) allows users to plan and simulate (with full voice guidance) a route within New Zealand. However, there is no option to buy the real-time navigation for New Zealand, unless this is bundled with Australian coverage. This issue is certainly not unique to New Zealand, as the list of territories with full navigation is limited. However, the fact that routes can be planned and simulated but can not then be used, will cause undoubted frustration.
In general Maps, even in the beta version, is an excellent application: The map details and points of interest coverage looks good, while the search feature seems powerful. It certainly outdoes the coverage of most other native Symbian navigation applications, most of which do not provide coverage for New Zealand.
The fact that Nokia seems to have chosen to limit availability of the final version to a subset of possible handsets is disappointing. It makes no sense to limit an emerging technology in this way, particularly given the "platform promise" of S60. The lack of full navigation within New Zealand also strikes as odd, given that Maps clearly has all the information to achieve this. There appear to be no obvious barriers to implemtation; given options for purchasing the add-on services include credit card payment. The error in mapping information is somewhat inevitable, a consequence of dealing with the large and complex datasets involved.
Nokia Maps: getting there, but still some way to go.
Coincidentally Nokia made a press released today regarding Maps; read it here.
Richard Bloor is co-founder and featrues Editor at the popular

No comments: