Possible alternative to using Google Maps on Nokia

January 28th, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Maps Booster

I’ve always liked Google Maps, not for the quality of the maps, nor the fact that everything is repeatedly downloaded (but at least the mapping is as up to date as possible), but because it does Cell ID and WiFi location as well as pure GPS location.  Towards the end of a long day, when the battery is starting to run out (or I am nervous it soon will), one nice option is to use Google Maps (instead of Ovi Maps), and my location will be pretty accurately found on the map without the need to enable the battery-draining GPS.

This single feature of having access to a rough location without needed to fire up (or wait for) the GPS has made Google Maps a shortcut on my Nokia homescreen, whereas Ovi Maps is simply left dormant in the main menu.  Well, could I have found a solution for this…?

Something I missed when it launched last year was that Skyhook Wireless (the company behind the Cell ID and WiFi location information on the iPhone) have released a little application called Maps Booster for Symbian.  What this does is add an additional positioning server option deep within the positioning subsystem of the Symbian OS, which, when turned on, will provide, through the standard positioning interface, a rough location to all GPS-aware apps (so Ovi Maps, but also things like Garmin’s SatNav software, or even third party apps).  Now, for most scenarios, I set Google Maps to work without enabling the GPS, and by configuring your Nokia device in the same way, you could, once Maps Booster is installed, do the same thing.  The only downside would be you would need to go deep into the Symbian menu structure to turn on the GPS (it’s easier to get to within Google Maps).

In terms of phones supported, it looks like most S60 3rd Edition FP1 and FP2 devices are supported, along with S60 5th Edition devices, including devices such as the Nokia E63, which doesn’t have a built in GPS, thereby providing a nice rough location service to this device in the same way Google Maps does.

Oh, and if you were wondering where it appears on the menu, on newer devices it’s Applications->Location->Positioning->Positioning Methods, whereas for elder devices it’s Tools->Settings->General->Positioning->Positioning Methods.

I’m looking to install this app, and see whether it allows me to convert from Google Maps to Ovi Maps.  However, as with all things, it’s not that easy…

  • Maps Booster can only be installed from the Ovi Store, and costs £3 (although that seems perfectly acceptable for the functionality)
  • Of course, that’s £3 per Symbian device due to the way the Ovi Store works (purchases are by device, not by user account)
  • Moving away from Google Maps will lose access to Google Latitude, and with Nokia’s FriendView service now shut down, Latitude is a well used feature on my phone.
  • There are rumours that there is a small incompatibility between the latest firmware on some Symbian devices and Maps Booster, which prevent it from appearing in the Positioning Method list, preventing it from working.  Ironically, that’s the same firmware that is needed to get the new free Ovi Maps working…
  • Also, don’t forget to keep a copy of the install file once downloaded from the Ovi Store, else you might end up paying again if you need to hard reset your device, although we understand the Ovi Store should offer you a re-download option for this software now.
  • Ironically, by enabling the feature, it can cause some minor problems with Google Maps, which doesn’t seem to like the “inaccurate” GPS positions; of course, leaving GPS turned on should produce a good solid fix in time (or leave the GPS option within Google Maps turned off, and then it will use it’s own database for the rough location).
  • Is Google Search actually better than the Ovi Maps search function, and hence apart from when I plan in advance, will I end up back with Google Maps anyway?
  • It’s been suggested it’s not best used when driving, where GPS support is really needed, as it has a delay on updating the position; however, it should excel whilst walking in cities (where the GPS may struggle due to tall buildings and where they are loads of WiFi networks to locate you).
  • Finally, it’s not clear how much data the app uses, and whether it has any local caching, or whether it always needs a data connection; if so, don’t forget to turn it off (along with so many other applications) when roaming, where, ironically, again, it could be the most useful…

If you head to Skyhook’s Coverage page here, and scroll across to the UK, you can see there are whole areas of the country which are pretty accurately mapped with Cell Towers and WiFi, which should ensure this software offers a nice alternative to GPS, especially when the dreaded battery is running out…

I’ll hopefully report back in a month or so and let you know how I get on (now, if only Nokia would give me free Ovi Maps navigation for my main everyday device)…


4 Responses to “Possible alternative to using Google Maps on Nokia”

  1. Echo Says:

    Hey there,

    Saw this post and your Brightkite one and wanted to bring your attention to a new tool that uses Skyhook (at least on S60) and runs counter to the current trends in location-aware software and social networks. We released it in mid-January and beta users are by-and-large very happy – of course they all want new features but those are coming.

    It’s a piece of software called echoecho that allows you to share your location (works on iphone, android, blackberry, nokia symbian, windows mobile) and yes I know you know all about latitude, loopt, gowalla, foursquare etc…

    but here’s the thing – I don’t want to broadcast my location – or at least I do not always want to broadcast it. The fact is that there is a huge portion of the population that craves privacy. These folks are not well served by the existing location-based services. Each person has a differing level of privacy need, e.g. some will let you know what they are feeling or thinking, some what they had for breakfast and some where they are while they are eating. Most of us do not want to be followed on a continuous basis, or if we are, it would be by someone we would rather be walking with to wherever we are going.

    With these thoughts in mind, we decided, about the time Foursquare and Latitude first came out, to create an alternative for like-minded folks. We not only removed the requirement to join a new social network, we also streamlined the crap out of the interface. The result is at http://www.echoecho.me – we launched 12 days ago. Echoecho works on any smartphone worldwide and allows you to share your location with exactly who you want, when you want.

    In a sense, we have started from the other end of the spectrum by creating a tool that will allow individuals to rapidly share precise location information. We made the bold assumption that most people you care about are actually in the address book already on your phone.

    The next steps are clearly to make it easier to share with close friends or colleagues while maintaining privacy from the general public. Also, rather than creating our own texting or check-in service, we kept our API open so social game and service developers can quickly integrate our capabilities.

    I can send you a few screenshots (to show what it looks like on different platforms) but the easiest way to understand the service is to go ahead and install it yourself and echo anybody in your address book – just point your mobile browser to http://m.echoecho.me

    Let me know if you want any more information. And thanks for the thoughtful articles from the other side of the pond – where not everyone owns an iPhone or Blackberry.

    +1 778 893 4466 (m)

  2. Brightkite now available for Symbian | UK Gadgeteer Website Says:

    […] fact, maybe combining this with the Maps Booster application I discussed this morning would provide that nice alternative to Google Latitude I was looking for… […]

  3. More Detail on Ovi Maps & Maps Booster | UK Gadgeteer Website Says:

    […] via the fairly new public API), Skyhook Wireless and their Maps Booster solution (which we covered here, and adds support for Cell ID and WiFi positioning into the OS, making it available to all apps), […]

  4. Fancy a cheaper Symbian Handset? | UK Gadgeteer Website Says:

    […] of GPS, which was solved pretty much completely by purchasing Maps Booster from the Ovi Store (see here and here for a review, and I note it’s on sale even cheaper now); in fact, even on phones […]

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