Over the weekend I have been navigating around Sydney catching up with friends. Although I’ve been to Sydney quite a few times I still have to look up street addresses. So rather than purchasing a street directory I figured I would use some technology and try out Google maps. Now navigating any website whilst on the road is both painful and expensive (see my previous post regarding Australian data costs) but luckily Google have a Windows Mobile client application. Being one of the first client applications that I’ve ever used from the search engine giant I was pleasantly surprised that it installs easily, appears in the programs, loads quickly and is both easy to operate and quick to download maps.
As you can see from the image there are virtual buttons for zooming in and out. Navigation is simply a matter of dragging the screen around with a stylus or your finger. To improve operation the maps are progressively downloaded and cached as you move drag the map.
So why should Google not build client applications? Well, for a long time there has been a clear divide between the Microsofts of the world, who understand that there may not always been a network available, and the Googles of the world, who believe that the whole world is always connected. This is evidenced by what happens when you try to navigate outside the cached maps while not connected:
Not only does the Google maps application crash, if you attempt to restart it, the map will appear for a split second before the application crashes again. Luckily there is enough time to reposition the map so it uses only cached maps which means you can continue to use the application – while you remain on the cached maps.
Another annoying “feature” (actually I call it a bug but hey who’s counting) is that while the application is visible the power button is effectively disabled. I typically press the power button to place the device into standby to conserve power but the Google maps not only prevents the device going into standby, it also prevents the auto-dim of the background light – ensuring maximum power usage – what were they thinking!
I suspect that despite these issues the Google maps application still makes getting from A to B a painless process. Definitely recommend getting it for your Windows Mobile device – If anyone comes across a version compatible with Live Local let me know (I haven’t really taken a look to be honest).