Google Maps have been one of the most widely used sources of navigation information the world over. Their recent announcement speaking of their advancement in the field, from 3D mapping and more importantly to offline viewing have only made them more popular. But the competition isn’t altogether impressed by this latest offering from the search giant. 

Rival Nokia, with their famous Nokia Drive found on all their new devices, including those of the Windows Phone 7 variety said this on their blog recently, under the heading Offline user experience  – Offline maps are at the core of our navigation offering (with Nokia Drive) and we have been developing the perfect know-how over the past six years. Offering offline maps is not only about giving the option to cache some data offline for later use, it’s a complete experience. 

They Finnish phone makers went on to say – An offline experience is not only about street maps, it’s also about offline available points of interest (POIs) to enable offline search, it’s about navigation voices (over 70 of them, btw) available on-device and offline rerouting.

Taking on the Google

Taking on the Google

Where Google’s ideology might have been initially a bit flawed is with the requirement to constantly be connected to the net to view maps of various locations. This posed a problem for those travelling abroad or out of their regular coverage area. Without EDGE, GPRS, 3G or Wi-Fi Google maps were ‘lost’ (pardon the pun). Third party GPS software and of course Nokia Drive only required you to update the maps for time to time, but worked seamlessly in areas with zero network. All it needed was GPS connectivity. Then again Google Maps is free and supported accorss platforms, while Nokia Drive is restrcited to Nokia devices, even if it is free for life. However, while Nokia Drive offers Turn by Turn voice guided navigation, Google doesn't go that far, but does offer a considerable amount of social networking plugins for their services. 

Nokia’s blog also stated that Offline Maps needed to be stored on a handset/devices memory, which meant sacrificing onboard or memory card storage space. They mentioned that Nokia Drive is not limited by a 10 square mile radius and went on to say – You can download an entire country (e.g. USA for 1.8 GB, China for 862 Mb, UK for 203 MB) or specific regions (e.g. California for 147 MB, England for 166 MB, Beijing for 63 MB): just like having a shopping list. With Navteq (acquired by Nokia in 2008) backing Nokia all the way, the handset maker does have a stronger approach to the subject of Navigation and were in fact regarded as the best in this field at one point of time.

The Nokia post came up a day after Google announced on their blog that Google Maps were heading towards an Offline framework. Of course, we have to assume that this little blog post was in no way directed at the Google camp, even if the – It would be a shame to travel somewhere and discover you couldn’t do much with the offline maps because no navigation instructions were available. – quip seemed a little bit so. But suffice it to say, these two companies aim to compete heavily in this domain now.

Nevertheless, Google isn’t known for being too passive in any undertaking and will naturally try to outdo the completion, but in this case, will they be able to? We’ll have to wait and see.  

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