Nokia Drive offline navigation review: taking the Lumia 900 for an off-the-grid spin

Nokia Drive offline navigation review taking the Lumia 900 for an offthegrid spin


I’ve sung praises about it for years, but it seems like only now the industry is getting on the same train of thought. It could be my unnatural adoration of travel, or just an entirely healthy fear of getting lost, but offline navigation has long since been a top priority for me when choosing a mobile device. Or, more importantly, a mobile operating system. For the longest while, iOS forced my hand to Android due to Google Maps Navigation being available only on the latter, and while even that wasn’t offline, it still far surpassed any other routing app in terms of system integration, map updates and general silkiness.

Even dating back to our 2010 mobile GPS shootout, Nokia has been a player. At that time, it was the outfit’s Ovi Maps leading the pack, offering the only legitimate offline solution amongst a legion of ho-hum alternatives that required bits of data to keep you on track. But frankly, there wasn’t a Symbian device in Nokia’s stable that could show up my Nexus One in terms of overall utility, so begrudgingly, I pushed it aside. Eventually, Google came around and added caching to routes, which effectively downloaded all routing guidance along your path as soon as you plugged in a destination. The killer, however, was that it wouldn’t take too kindly to veering far from that path should you ever drop signal. Close, but no cigar.

Fast forward to today, and we’ve got Google Maps already working in offline mode for Android 2.2+ devices. Furthermore, the company’s Brian McClendon confessed to us at its June 2012 ‘Maps’ eventthat it’s “committed” to bringing all of the app’s features to iOS (and potentially other platforms). But in my haste to find something in the here and now, I recently turned to the Lumia 900 for guidance. Literally. Back in late March, the Lumia-exclusive Nokia Drive application gained full offline access, and I sought to use the handset exclusively to navigate a 1,900-mile trek through some of America’s most remote locales.




Google Expands Indoor Maps Selection

Google is launching indoor maps for Android devices in the U.K., to enable smartphone users to easily find their way around train stations, sporting venues, art galleries, shopping centres and department stores.

More than 40 venues in the UK have so far submitted their indoor floor plans to appear in the Googlemapping system. Google said any building owner can now upload their maps for future inclusion in Google Maps.

To use the system, Android smartphone users open Google Maps on their device, zoom in to the location they’re in, and the indoor floor plan will automatically appear. The indoor maps function of the softwarelaunched last fall with a selection of U.S. venues.

Users will also see where they are in the building via a blue dot on the map — if they have enabled the My Location feature on their phones. Kings Cross station, the Barbican Centre, and the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square are among the indoor locations currently supported, said Google.

Razia Ahamed, Google geo indoor partnerships lead, said: “You’ll no longer need to feel clueless when you’re at the railway station, trying to figure out where to buy a coffee before you rush to catch your train.

“Nor will you feel embarrassed about asking for the lingerie section when you’re in the department store, because you’ll have all the answers in the palm of your hand.”

Last month Google launched a location-based tool that combines its mapping technology and Android smartphones to deploy offsite staff effectively depending on their locations.

Using the new Google Maps Coordinate app, Google said call centre employees at a company could quickly send staff to a trouble spot or where service is required quickly, by finding out which of its employees are closest to the problem site.


Google Beefs Up Maps as Apple Breakup Nears

Google’s Mapping team goes offline with mobile Google Maps, shows off backpack-sized Street View contraptions, and wows with new 3D fly-over technology.


Google announced Wednesday that its mobile version of Google Maps is going offline, Street View is going off road with a new backpack-sized camera, and Google Earth will soon be serving up eye-popping new 3D imagery that you’ll be able to “fly” above.

News of the Google Earth and Maps upgrades come a week before Apple is expected to dump Google as its default mapping technology on its iOS mobile platform. In a world where location-based services are becoming more popular and lucrative this is bad news for Google. Perhaps Google’s intent was to show Apple what it was going to miss. And it did.


Eye Popping 3D Fly Overs

Google’s Google Earth team has been working hard over the past year to add “fly-over” capability to the product. Product manager Peter Birch demonstrated the new functionality by flying over some well known spots in San Francisco and viewing various angles of City Hall, Coit Tower and the Embarcedero.

Google says it has contracted a fleet of small airplanes equipped with the Google Earth cameras. The planes fly around tall buildings and other landmarks, and in strips over the city capturing thousands of 3D images of different angles of every object and every piece of landscape.

Then through an automated process called Stereophotogamitry, a bank of computers uses complicated algorithms to review all the images captured by the planes. The best images for each tiny section of each object are chosen, then fitted together to form a complete 3D image. And there are many such 3D images for each building or landmark, covering all the angles one would see if he flew around it in an airplane.

The new fly-over capability will launch for a small set of cities “in the next few weeks,” Google says.

Image shows Google Guides, a service that allows you to pick a point of interest (left) and then Google will “fly” over that area.


Street View Trekker

Google’s Street View is getting some new tricks, too. Luc Vincent, Google’s Street View engineering director was here to a new way Street View cameras will be going off-road to capture images. It unveiled a backpack-sized Street View camera that weighs 40-lbs and that people can wear and capture 360-degree images anyplace they can hike.

The Trekker is meant to compliment existing off road Street View cameras such as its Google trike.

Going Offline with Google Mobile Maps 

And finally, after many requests from users, Google is making mobile Google Maps usable even when you have no access to Wi-Fi or cellular signal. You just select a section of a map that he will need offline before they leave home. Then map then downloads, and when you arrive at the place where you know you’ll be offline, the Map will work in a very similar way to how it works when connected.

The map will work with your GPS signal to locate where you are, but you won’t be able to zoom down to Street View level. This capability will be available in the next few weeks on Android, but not on iOS. The service will become available in the next few weeks, the company says.

Google says it has now collected more than 20 petabytes of Street View imagery, and that 75 percent of all people in world can now see their house in a high definition graphic on Google Maps.

But Wednesday’s announcements come with some bad news (for Google) from Apple. The Wall Street Journal is reporting it has confirmed reports that it will ditch Google Maps for its own mapping app later this year. Apple will launch its own mapping service as part of it new iOS6 operating system for iPhones and iPads, the Journal reports. Today, Google Maps is the default map service in iPhone and iPad.

By Mark SullivanPCWorld