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.