Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Nokia Ovi Maps
Free turn-by-turn navigation for Nokia smartphones
- Free, simple and effective UI, no extra data charges for accessing maps, straightforward map screen
- Text on map screen is too small, no volume buttons on home screen, no lane guidance, some navigation issues
Nokia's Ovi Maps solution may not do enough to knock off a dedicated GPS unit, but it's a compelling offering, especially when it costs nothing. Anyone with a compatible Nokia smartphone should do themselves a favour and download Ovi Maps.
Nokia shook up the GPS market in January by announcing that full turn-by-turn navigation on its Ovi Maps software is now available as a free service. Compatible with 10 current Nokia phones (with more to follow) and all future handsets, Nokia Ovi Maps is a competent solution for casual users, but we'd still recommend a dedicated GPS unit for everyday use.
GPS navigation on mobile phones isn't a new feature, but it's generally been one consumers have had to fork out extra money for. However, there are a number of GPS applications available for the iPhone, for example, including apps from the likes of TomTom and Navigon.
The latest version of Ovi Maps, 3.03, has received a welcomed facelift. Upon start-up, users are greeted with a simple main menu. From here you can pinpoint your current location, search for places on the map, navigate using drive or walk modes, check the weather and access free Lonely Planet Guides. The entire UI is based on single-click functionality and it's easy to grasp.
A key feature of Ovi Maps is its ability for users to download and store maps on the device itself. This means there are no data charges for using the service, unlike Google Maps for example. The only data charges you'll incur are as a result of assisted GPS, which uses a small amount of data in order to decrease the time it takes to gain a satellite fix on your current position. We recommend leaving this on for faster navigation, but it can be turned off in the settings menu if you wish. If you are travelling abroad, you can download free maps for more than 70 countries.
The Nokia Ovi Maps user interface is clean and straightforward. When selecting drive navigation, you can choose to navigate to your saved home destination, select a new destination, or view the map. When searching for an address or location, you simply type the full address or details into a single search box; there is no need to separately input information such as suburb, street name or house number.
The map screen is clear and there is minimal clutter around the map. When in landscape mode, a bar on the right side of the screen displays selected information about your trip (such as speed, distance and time remaining and the current time), while the top of the map display is reserved for a next turn icon indicator and current street name. Unfortunately, the text is far too small even on a reasonably sized display. Street names are barely legible unless you lean forward and squint — hardly ideal while driving.
There is a wealth of options, including night mode, saving a place from the map screen and selecting a different route. We would have liked volume buttons on the map screen; these are in the options menu, which means two extra button presses (or screen taps if you have a touch-screen phone). There are 3D landmarks on the Australian map, but no lane guidance.
The general navigation experience is solid, but the small screens of most phones means it isn't as polished as a dedicated GPS unit. The turn-by-turn voice instructions are clear though, and text-to-speech technology is available with both UK and US voices (but not Australian). Volume could have been louder on our Nokia N97 mini, but this will vary depending on your device.
Safety alerts are preloaded and the voice guidance warns when you are passing a speed, safety or red light camera, and a red mark flashes on the map in the appropriate location. Map performance was a little inconsistent — Ovi Maps failed to recognise at least two known no-right-turns and also seemed to favour illegal U-turns when rerouting in some instances. These issues are common with many GPS devices though and not restricted to Ovi Maps.
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