Archive for February, 2007

Google Maps comes to Windows Mobile

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

I just read over on Google’s blog that they’ve released today a version of Google Maps just for Windows Mobile devices. As my phone is currently a Windows Mobile 5-based Orange SPV C600, and I also have an iPaq hx2750 again with Windows Mobile 5, I obviously had to give this a go.

Google Maps Map imagery on an SPV C600 First it went on my phone – one of the cool parts of Apple’s demonstration lGoogle Maps Satellite imagery on an SPV C600ast month of the iPhone was how well integrated Google Maps was. Google Maps on my Windows phone seemed pretty fantastic too, but with the advantage that I don’t have to wait until the end of the year to get it 😉 It’s really simple to use, and over my GPRS connection it could pull up all the map data very fast. I could pan around and zoom in and out with only a couple of seconds wait inbetween, and flicking to showing the satellite view didn’t seem any slower either. Zooming in and out is just a case of pushing up or down on the volume button on the side of my phone, and hitting the menu key throws up the option to find your position either by typing it in, or by tracking your location via a GPS device. On my phone I don’t have such a GPS option, but on my PDA that’s another matter – more on that shortly.

You also have access to similar features of the Google Maps website such as finding nearby businesses or getting directions from one point to another, although I haven’t been able to get it find me any businesses in the couple of (admittedly Scottish) locations I tried – perhaps that side is still more US-focused for now. Google Maps will also let you quickly jump to the address of any of the contacts on your phone just by clicking on their name from a menu.

There isn’t however the kind of hybrid view you can get on the full Google Maps of both map and satellite imagery, but you can flick between one or the other which is still useful.

Having wrestled with so many supposedly simple and quick map sites on my phone over the last few years that have resulted in me giving up (either from lack of detail, lack of patience, or unwillingness to pay Orange for the privelege), and ending up lost, Google Maps is really a breath of fresh air. It’s now got a permanent home on my phone, and really mobile providers should consider bundling it on Windows phones as standard.

Google Maps Satellite imagery on an iPaq PDAWith all that success, I also tried it on my iPaq. Google Maps Map imagery on an iPaq PDA showing menu optionsThe experience is pretty similar, same options but obviously on a PDA you can see a bigger portion of the map, and as it has a touch screen the zoom options are presented on transparent buttons near the bottom of the screen, freeing up the left hand menu option for carrying out searches. You can also far easily set start and end points for getting directions, just by holding down the stylus on the location you want to mark, and choosing the appropriate menu option that pops up. Aside from that, it’s essentially the same – except that I tried it out via a wireless WiFi connection instead of via GPRS, so the speed was near instant.

As I had access to a GPS device that fits into the CompactFlash slot of my iPaq, I thought I’d give it a go and see how well Google Maps can find my location. My experience with other GPS applications for Windows Mobiles hasn’t been good, with there often being too many confusing options and ultimately it taking an age to pinpoint my location. With Google Maps though, there’s one option – if you select ‘Track Location (GPS)’ and your GPS device is enabled in the Windows Mobile OS, it just detects it and gets on with finding the nearest satellites. In my case it found my exact position and loaded up the map data instantly with out making any fuss. Perfect.

Things that could be better? Not a lot, really just the ‘Find Nearby Business’ option having more for UK users, and it would be fantastic if it could also track my route across the map as I move, logging as it went via GPS. That way I could see a quick visual representation of where I’ve been, and maybe even export it out for use elsewhere.

I really can’t say enough good things about Google Maps for Windows Mobile – I’m really pleased Google took the time to develop this, it’s going to come in so much use when travelling, and is definitely far more reliable than anything else I’d used thus far. Nice.