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)…