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May 7, 2009 in Nokia Randomness
What I was doing for the past week.

What I was doing for the past week.

For the past week, I’ve been on vacation in Italy, and more or less away from any kind of internet connection. While the trip was entirely for pleasure, it was also a bit of an experiment: could I possibly find my way around armed with nothing but a Nokia E66, and the Maps application?

The short answer is yes. The trip’s taught me a couple things about the GPS and real-world usage. It’s one thing to use your cell phone’s GPS to determine the fastest way to the nearest IKEA, but another to be completely lost without one. I toured Milan, raced through the mazes of side streets and alleyways in Venice, and explored the historic sites in Rome – the whole time relying on my E66′s integrated GPS.

So how’d it go? Pretty well, actually. For the most part, I was able to depend on my integrated phone GPS to find my way around. The search was pretty speedy when the actual GPS couldn’t acquire a lock (a frequent occurrence, unfortunately). I found that the Italy maps that I had downloaded prior to leaving, included metro stations and that alone was extremely handy during the trip. It would be awesome, however, if the maps could show actual subway lines – having metro stations on a map is good, but knowing which subway lines are connected is even better.

It’s funny how spoiled we are when it comes to unlimited data plans and assisted-GPS though. I’m used to five, ten second locks thanks to the magic of A-GPS, but take that away and the lock time turns into something like three to five minutes. Or more. This was my biggest gripe with the GPS, even though the density of buildings in Italy probably played a pretty large role in the lag. Because of the delay, most of the time I’d be using Maps in complete (GPS + Data) offline mode. Which is sad because that means no walking, no breadcrumbs, and having to manually search for each street name to figure out just where you are. Although I do want to mention that I love those breadcrumbs in Walk mode. Why not add them to all of the other modes, Nokia?

One of the major shortcomings of Nokia Maps is the interface. For one, there’s still a lot of bugginess and random crashes. And in accordance with Murphy’s Law, these crashes seemed to get worse whenever I was severely pressed for time (rushing to catch a train, for example). There was one point where I needed to reboot the phone twice and rerun Nokia Maps three times to actually get the app working again. And then after that I had this strange bug where each menu option was missing its first letter (I love browsing through my “avorites”).

I also found the map scaling, or lack of, to be pretty annoying. The scale only appears whenever you’re in the process of zooming in or out, even though sometimes I just want to see the scale for myself to get a good grasp of the distance between two places. Maybe have an option to always display that (a compass would also be nice).

In the future I hope Nokia adds more POIs (points of interest) included in each map pack. Because the number of restaurants and general touristy places to see is pretty meager. I guess this is partly done on purpose so someone actually buys the City Guides.

At any rate, my trip is officially over. And despite my criticisms I have to admit that without Nokia Maps, I would’ve been in a lot of doo-doo. I’d probably still be there right now.

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