S60 Google Maps on N95 Rocks

I my recent post “N95 GPS Revisited”, I mentioned that I’d be trying and reporting on the new native Symbian S60 version of Google Maps as an alternative to the pre-loaded Nokia mapping application.

Well, in short, the Google app blows the Nokia one away, IMHO. It finally makes the GPS function of the N95 useful and totally changes this phone for me.

Quick Overview

The Google application integrates with the N95 GPS hardware and it shows your current location as a blue dot on the map. You can jump to your current location at any point using the 0 (zero) key. The 1 key zooms out and the 3 key zooms in.

The search function has been amazingly impressive in finding the right location with a small amount of text entry (even with misspellings). It must use the GPS position to make a lot of assumptions about what one is looking for, prioritizing local places, and so on.

Click ‘Directions’ and you get a ‘Route overview’ screen showing the step-by-step turns. Click ‘Show’ and the route is shown on the map. You can move from step to step with the 4 (Prev) and 6 (Next) keys.

Hit 0 and you go to your current location (with the route still overlaid on the map) and then press 6 to go back to the ‘route’ again. Even when in ‘route’ mode, your current location is shown live, moving on the map, at the same time as the ‘route’ overlay. This feature alone is a tremendous improvement in usability over the pre-loaded Nokia Maps app.

You can do other stuff like show traffic (for selected areas) and show a satellite view if you prefer (although it’s more data, so it can slow things down). As a native S60 app, it doesn’t use as much RAM as something like the Java-based Yahoo Go 2.0 app. It also integrates with Contacts and Web in nifty ways.

The speed of the app is pretty much dependent on your Internet connection speed. Also, all the maps all come in over the data connection, which may impact your bill if you don’t have an unlimited data plan.

In summary, this is the best mobile phone GPS app for practical use in driving that I’ve seen yet and really improves the value of the N95.

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