Ovi Maps from Nokia: purely ashaming

Nokia has released own online maps, “maps.ovi.com”. I have tried this, and found them to be so much inferior to the competitors that I even feel ashamed for its home country (which is now my home country as well). I think in this area Google Maps set the reference, so I’ve done a small comparison of the two.

First of all, what I see when trying to access the site, is this great information:
ovi-maps-does-not-work They kindly inform me that it’s “not yet available on UNIX”. And that I should use Firefox 3. Which I am, in fact, using now. But Ovi does not work anyway. Google maps have been working for my platform with Firefox already for years.

The first dumbest thing to do is to use a user agent switcher add-on, which just tells to the server “I’m Internet Explorer”, and see if that works. What a surprise, it does. So, these Ovi maps just check what my user agent is saying and refusing to serve other agents without visible reason. Disgusting. OK, I still continue.

ovi-maps-margins The main screen has… about 1 cm margins on all sides. What the hell. Screen space is a valuable resource, and everybody wants the map to be larger. In fact that’s one reason why I still buy paper maps: there is no screen (and certainly no portable screen) which can show as large area in as much detail, as paper map does. Now, they just made my screen 2 cm less in each dimension. I’m not sure I want to continue. Google does not do that – I come for maps, and I get maps. Not white margins.
These two are the blocking points for me. The Nokia creation is inferior to Google’s also in other ways:

  • The density of the map information is poor. For example, they could put more street titles on the screenshot above, without making it overloaded and crammed. They did not.
  • The routing just did not work for me. Not with the “unsupported operating system” – I tried that under MS Windows. I’m not interested to dig out, what can I do so that it starts working; Google maps work without any tweaks, and I’ll use them.
  • “Satellite” and “terrain” views did not work. Yea, under the “supported” operating system.
  • I do not see an option to provide a link to the map I’m looking at now. And this is my frequent use case – quickly drawing some map and sending it to my companions.

I have found only one advantage of Ovi maps: they have better map material for the small roads in Finland (which I’m mostly interested in for my bicycle rides). Google does not know about track-type roads, Ovi often does. This is an important point for me. Below is the map of the same region from GMaps on the left and from Ovi maps to the right. Note how much more small roads Ovi has. Unfortunately, there is still much to wish; many of these paths are private and closed for access, which it’s not marked in any way.

Checking other places randomly, I found maps of Lithuania and Russia to be even less satisfactory than the Google’s ones.

gmaps-roadsovi-roads

Concerning the mobile version of the application. Nokia is a mobile phone company, so it shall work on phones perfectly, at least on Nokia’s?

  • I have two Nokia smartphones, E61 and E90. Google mobile maps work in both devices. Nokia Maps can not be installed in Nokia E61 at all.
  • Google maps show your approximate location based on the serving cell when the GPS is not available. Nokia maps do not.
  • Google maps start up so much faster than Nokia’s.
  • Google maps have “public transportation” feature. Way cool for me.

To be fare, here is an advantage of Nokia mobile maps, which is important in some cases: maps can be downloaded to the phone and used offline. So, in the field, they work faster, and do not consume two valuable resources: battery power and money for the data transfer. But, what a surprise: you need MS Windows with installed Nokia software for that. So you can’t do it with just a phone, or at your friend’s home. [Oh what a happiness, it fact this can be done, bypassing the official Nokia instructions; read this.]

My message to Ovi managers: you are not only several years behind in time. You are also way behind in the implementation. I don’t see how you are going to catch up.

And, sure, I’m not working on either of the companies I compare.

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