Google have recently released a native version of Google Maps, for Symbian.
Compared to the older Java version of the program, this has lots of advantages, the most obvious being start-up speed and runtime speed. Every animation is smooth, loading times are blazing if you have a good connection.
An added feature would be the GPS support. This is really cool as long as you have an always-on connection, especially when on foot. It’s got all of the search features you know from the online version of Google Maps.
Read on for some hands-on reports and screenshots.
I first tried the speed, searching and switching between display modes (important for the E70). It performed really well. There was no crash, the speed was constant, and the searches were relevant and filled with useful info. More on that below.
Afterwards, I took my GPS module and the phone with me and went out for a stroll (and to buy some beer). I was very curious about what results the imperfect precision of GPS would have on a precise map display. The results were as expected: there are some funny situations where your location is displayed as on top of a building block or in the middle of the street. Of course, there’s a precision indicator on the bottom of the screen, which works best as a disclaimer. The best precision I got was 9 meters.
Since pictures are worth way more than words, the review will continue in the form of captioned images. It’s better, simpler, more relevant.
This image’s sole purpose is for showing off. It’s the minimum zoom level. The whole world is on display, and you can click the navigation key/joystick to zoom. There’s a tad of delay between your action and the zoom-in, allowing you to zoom even closer or move the selection rectangle around. In this particular case (Nokia E70), the image is displayed in landscape mode on a 2.1 inch screen, so it’s very very sharp, even if not so big.
Now, to ‘visit’ London.. I did a quick search for ‘cafe’ while London was on screen, and I instantly got results for the particular area the map was zoomed on. Pressing a button as indicated at the bottom of the screen cycles you through the search results. The map will move quickly but smoothly to the destination point. Much smoother than on the iPhone for instance. Pressing the key allocated to the search result you are centered on brings you to the next screen…
…which is the info screen. Here’ you’ll get whatever details Google have about the current location. The ‘Directions’ options may be well known from the online version, but this time, if combined with a GPS receiver, you’ll have real navigation, live and with traffic infos. “more results” will give you the full list of results. Then, without opening any item in the list, there are some interesting options:
Most of what you see here can be found in the info page for each result, but it’s more practical to use this view if you don’t need to see the location on the map. Note the excellent integration with the operating system: you can save the information as a contact, and open the web address in its browser.
In the end, here’s a screenshot taken during the stroll. This time, it’s in portrait mode, too. I was actually 2-3 meters away from the little location dot. This is a definite recommendation, it really is an excellent program.