Google adds true offline maps to GMaps

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Although only for Android at this stage (and to be honest, I’m not sure half of the newer features will ever make it to Symbian), the latest Google Maps Android client includes support for downloading maps for offline usage.  This is only the first generation of this, and I’m sure Google will implement more features around this as time goes on.  At the moment, it’s a “Labs” feature, which allows you to choose whether or not to turn it on, but having done so, you can then long press any location on the map and the Places page that you can select has an option to download maps.

This downloads a map approx. 10 miles around the chosen spot (though it’s a square area, so not exactly 10 miles).  If you change your mind, you can go into the Cache settings to delete the download.  Right now, this version will only download the base maps and landmarks, so a lot of detail is missing (and obviously no satellite maps), but it’s a good start, and combined with a few well placed favourites (starred places), this should be better than no maps at all whilst travelling, especially abroad, where you don’t want the roaming charges.  However, don’t plan for that trip abroad too far in advance; Google Maps will automatically delete the data after 30 days, so you need to do this just before travelling.

I have to say it’s a good start, but it still seems a little bit hit and miss, and until it’s a more controllable feature, I’ll be sticking with other apps that use complete offline maps.  Also, if roaming, don’t forget that the GPS uses a little 3G data to get the initial fix, so unless you turn that off (or turn off data completely), you won’t avoid all roaming costs, and, to be honest, an Android device seems to use more data that others due to the background sync options that you need to be careful over roaming costs.

One option is to get inclusive roaming data as part of your contract, and many of the higher Vodafone contracts already include Data Traveller which does just that, or you can add it to a lower priced contract (see here for more details and here for an update).

As always, this is available from the Android Market.

Screenshot courtesy of Google, where you can also get more information.


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Vodafone update inclusive roaming data

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I’ve covered Vodafone‘s data roaming before, but in the last day or two they have improved the deal.  Whereas before you could get 5MB per day of data roaming (within Europe, for £2/day or £10/month) they have now increased the limit to 25MB per day.  This makes the offer even more appealing, as most people are capable of keeping their phones below 25MB of data per day; before the 5MB per day limit seems designed to prevent accidental use of roaming data, but at 25MB per day I think it’s now designed to be actively used.

A few warnings and conditions of course; it’s opt-in (although recent PAYG users are automatically offered the service); without it the rates are higher, so well worth checking you have the facility. Outside of Europe, the cost is higher (£5/day with no monthly deal), and the costs are higher again for laptops / tablets.  However, if you have a recent £40/month or higher contract (often including 900 minutes or more) then you may actually get Data Traveller included with your contract (this also applies to SIM only contracts).

Thanks to Ben Smith at Wireless Worker for spotting the new tariffs.


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Mobile Operators implementing content control, but in different ways

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Some networks, such as Vodafone, have had content control systems for some time, but due to new regulations (see here), some of the UK mobile networks have had to implement content control over the last few weeks.  O2 came up with an interesting solution, but not one that has worked well, whereas 3UK have shown some sense in their handling of a content control system.

O2 put the content block onto all contracts, forcing all traffic through a content control server.  If you pay them £1 on your credit card, they will open up the content control, and then credit your account with £2.50.  This is similar to a similar arrangement on Vodafone, but caused a lot of fuss when introduced.  However, what’s now transpires is that if you don’t pay the money, the content control server sometimes struggles to work, and a few people are reporting a worse browsing experience.

3UK went the other way; although they have enabled the content control as standard on all PAYG phones, they have not enabled it by default on any contracts (given the contract often needs a credit card to purchase the contract, and a bank account to pay the direct debit, this makes a lot of sense); if you have passed a phone contract onto someone below 18, you can contact 3UK and ask them to enable the controls though (simply send a no-cost text with the word ‘Filter’ to 33333).  In a similar way, for PAYG users you can “prove” your age by using a credit card, but another option is to go into a store and show ID proving your age; a nice sensible option and shows a little joined up thinking.

It’s important to realise that all mobile networks must implement a system, but it’s interesting to see the different implementations.

Minor update: 3UK have said the removal of the existing content control options will take up to the end of June to remove for all existing accounts.


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Ovi Store now support mobile billing

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Something not many people seem to have noticed, but Nokia have announced that many of the UK networks are now supported for billing within the Ovi Store; before, you had to either strike it lucky with your network choice, or use a credit card, but Nokia have confirmed that if you are a customer of T-Mobile, Orange, 3UK, O2 or Vodafone, you can now select to have any purchases added to your mobile phone bill instead.  It’s not clear if this agreement covers the smaller virtual operators such as Virgin Mobile or GiffGaff, but it’s certainly a good start, and adds an option commonly not available on other platforms.


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TomTom make Live HD Traffic data available on desktop

Monday, March 21st, 2011

TomTom are now providing access to their HD Traffic data via a browser, allowing users access to the data without being in the car, and allows potential new customers to see how effective their data is before becoming a customer.  The data is available here, although you’ll need to select your country, and then zoom in to see how accurate it is.  Certainly local to me something seem very accurate, with local rush hour hotspots being picked out (presumably via their link with Vodafone allowing them access to anonymised mobile speed records), although some things (like a 3 month road closure for roadworks) don’t appear.

In the face of stiff competition from the likes of Nokia’s Ovi Maps and Google Maps for Mobile, it’s nice to see TomTom trying new options to support and encourage users.


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Samsung Galaxy Tab updates

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Whilst Mobile World Congress is going this week, many manufacturers will be launching new phones and devices, and Samsung is no exception.  Along with the Samsung Galaxy S2 (Android phone), they have announced their new tablet; the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. This has a large 10.1″ 1280 x 800 screen, and runs Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). The features include:

  • 1GHz Dual Core Processor
  • Dual surround sound speakers
  • HD recording and Full HD playback
  • 8 megapixel rear and 2 megapixel front cameras
  • 599g
  • Google Services (including Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Latitude, Google Books and Google Talk video chat)
  • Flash support
  • A-GPS (Google Turn-by-turn navigation)
  • WiFi (802.111 b/g/n)

This is a nice high tech device.  Of course, for many, a 10.1″ device is just too big to carry around, and for those, the existing Samsung Galaxy Tab should suit just fine (with the smaller, but still impressive 7.0″ 1024 x 600 screen).  The smaller Tab is also lighter (380g), but is “only” running Android 2.2 (Froyo).

If you are interested in the existing 7″ Galaxy Tab, then 3UK announced on Friday that they are now selling the device with a very competitive data contract; for £25 per month (24-month contract), you’ll get 15GB of data each month to use on the device (there is also an upfront cost of £199); however, compare that to say, Vodafone, who would charge £25 per month (18-month contract) plus £499 upfront, and you just get 3GB of data each month.

Also, if you are looking to buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab P1000 (the 7″ device) soon; you might want to hurry up; Samsung UK is offering a promotion whereby they will provide you with 50 MP3s (from emusic.com), 15 movies (from Samsung Movies), 7 Games (from Gameloft, although 2 are pre-installed), and £25 worth of eBooks (from W H Smith); however, you need to register your device’s details with Samsung before the end of this month (28 February 2011). I should point out terms and conditions apply to this promotion, which do need checking before you commit to the device solely on the basis of this offer.

If you already own the Samsung Galaxy Tab P1000, 3UK are now offering PAYG Pre-loaded Tablet SIMs, which have from 1GB to 12GB of data pre-loaded onto them for use with a tablet.


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Vodafone Offer: Free Broadband Dongle with phone contract

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Running until the end of February, if you take out a Vodafone phone contract (some limits apply; see next paragraph), then you can enter the code “PAYGMB” as part of the Checkout process and you will get a free PAYG Mobile Broadband USB Dongle along with your Vodafone phone contract.

To qualify for this deal, you’ll need to select one of:

  • A 18 month contract costing £35 and over
  • A 24 month contract costing £30 and over
  • A 12 month SIM Only deal (£20 and £25 only)

You’ll also need to buy the phone contract online, as this is an online only promotion run by Vodafone.


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Mobile Networks & Coming Soon Mobiles

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

It’s been a week of confirming mobile phones from the networks.  Vodafone have confirmed that they will be selling the Nokia E7 (although 3UK confirmed this a while ago, it’s now explicitly mentioned on the Vodafone website, as opposed to only being covered by the 3UK blog).

In other news, O2, Vodafone and 3UK have all confirmed they will be selling the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc as well, with two operators confirming they will be selling the Arc from April.


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Vodafone improve data roaming deals

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Although some details are still a little sketchy, it appears Vodafone has now launched some much better data roaming rates, and if you are a frequent traveller, then the rates appear to be even better.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that the data roaming rates only apply to certain countries (most, but not all of Western Europe); if you want to know more, then access this map which shows all the details of which countries (and which rates apply).

So, in many countries (including France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Austria) you can benefit from 25MB of internet data per day for just £2 per day.  In most other European countries (including Isle of Mann, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Finland) that same £2 per day gets you 5MB of data per day.  If you are a frequent traveller, then you can pay £10 per month to get the same amount of data per month.

You’ll need to opt in to the Vodafone Data Traveller, although if you are a PAYG customer, you can utilise it for free.  Equally, if you are on a recent price plan that costs £40 or more and get at least 900 minutes, then you can automatically get 25MB of data roaming per day at no extra cost.  For others, you’ll need to call 40062 from your phone to opt in.

These rates and deals will apply from 1 December 2010, and only apply to using your phone to access the Internet; they do not apply Mobile Broadband or using your laptop.

With the proliferation of people using their phones for data, and travelling abroad, it’s nice to see Vodafone offering some inclusive data allowance whilst roaming, which will benefit many people.  Of course, last year we saw 3UK remove their “3 Like Home” offer, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond…


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Vodafone improve PAYG TopUps

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Vodafone have announced a fairly major improvement to their TopUp offers.  Called Vodafone Freebees, you can now get free texts and web each time you top-up with Vodafone Freebees; for example:

Top up                  You get                And you’ll get you this FREE

£10                         £10 credit           300 texts and 500MB of web access

£15                         £15 credit           500 texts and 500MB of web access

£30                         £30 credit           3000 texts and 500MB of web access

These extras last 30 days.

This looks a very nice offer, especially at a time when 3UK are no longer providing a similar range of freebies automatically on TopUp.  Although 500MB of Internet will not be enough for some, it’s certainly should cover the needs of many users, and of course is free.  There are a whole range of other Vodafone Freebees to consider (International Calls, free texts at weekends, and free calls and texts at weekends) but I think many will want the texts and Internet access.

If you are an existing Vodafone PAYG customer, to benefit from these deals you need to:

1. Start by calling 2345 free from your Vodafone mobile
2. Opt in to your chosen new Vodafone Freebee
3. Top up your phone
4. Start making the most of your new Vodafone Freebees


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