Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Google Maps for Blackberry

We know some of you, readers, would be wondering why our App reviews have always been for Apps on the Android platform. Frankly, there is no reason for that. So congratulate us today, as we publish our first review of a Blackberry app. We know that Google Maps isn’t something very catchy, or even drool-worthy. But it’s a must-have for any smartphone platform (for which it is available), and in some cases, like the Nokia N8, it works better than the platform’s native map application.

Obviously, as everyone knows, Google Maps has a full-sized browser-based version. We prefer using the mobile version of Google maps, as we find it to be more useful when we’re out and about. It can be downloaded for free on m.google.com/maps. If you want to use some extra functions (which we find to be really cool), then you would need to sign in with your google account, but this is purely optional. The two features that we find most useful (especially for people like this author who have a poor sense of direction and could get lost in their own front-yard) are the My Location and the Get Directions features (more on that below).

Note : In this review, we are focussing mainly on using Google Maps for Blackberry on non-touch Blackberry devices, since they form a wider swathe of our audience.

Look and feel

The Google Maps for Blackberry app has crisp text and graphics which make it easy to use. If you’re looking for mind-blowing graphics and UI enhancements that appeal to the highest levels of aesthetics, look elsewhere. Moving around and navigating Google Maps on a Blackberry is like second nature for an existing user of a Blackberry device. If you’re thinking of upgrading from an iPhone or an Android phone to a Blackberry, you might miss the larger screen and the swipe/scroll functions.

General Usage

The Blackberry version of Google Maps is quick enough to be used over a GPRS/EDGE connection in India, if you’re trying to find your way to a spot that you’ve never found before. But the lack of 3G in India (this should be resolved really soon - with every major Operator launching 3G) is a huge downer (which is the case for every version of Google Maps, except the latest version of Google Maps for Android, which caches map tiles). We’d now like to dive into a few features of Google Maps for Blackberry (some or all of which are available in the Google Maps app for other mobile platforms).

My Location

My Location, as the name suggests, shows the phone’s current location on the map; and it can do this even without GPS activation. This helps to conserve battery. When you start Maps for the first time, it takes a while to get oriented. Although this is precise most of the time, we have had rare instances where this showed “My Location” to be in a completely different city altogether. But on refreshing the map, this was set right. The blue dot on the map (which denotes your location) even moves as you walk. This can be very useful if you have no sense of direction at all.

Get Directions

This feature is exactly like that on the desktop version of Google maps. You enter your start location (options include choosing a point on the map; keying in the address, pin code, whatever; or just use “My Location”), your destination location and selecting your mode of travel (walking, driving or public transport), and it shows you the route. This isn’t very precise either. Most of the time, the driving and walking directions it shows are the same and often it is a pain to walk along driving routes (when obviously you can take short-cuts by foot). The public transport option is the most inefficient feature of Google Maps, but I guess this varies according to the country you are using the maps in. How useful this would be if only it worked in India! (The day Google can figure out every single bus route and Metro/commuter train route in India and put that into Google Maps is the day we all can officially state that Google has taken over the world. You heard it here first, folks).

Layers

We haven’t explored this feature thoroughly ourselves, and to be honest, we don’t think we ever can or will. There are loads of things that can be done with Layers. What are Layers, you ask? In simple terms, Layers are specific types of information that can be overlaid on the map view. The Layer that we find ourselves using the most is Wikipedia, especially when travelling. It finds and displays Wikipedia articles on places nearby on the map, and you can read the article to increase your knowledge. We find this very interesting whilst doing touristy things in places, and we’re sure that you can put it to use differently (for impressing girls with your dazzling knowledge about the places you’re visiting on a college tour, perhaps). There are many more layers that you can add to the default Maps view. Terrain (view), satellite (view), Buzz (we don’t use Buzz much, but we can still see what others are buzzing about in a given area on the map), traffic, etc. but most of these haven’t been very useful in day-to-day life. Terrain and Satellite views, as their names suggest - overlay the terrain or satellite views onto the map. This is cool to see, but not too useful. Buzz can be useful if you’re really dying to know what some random person is saying about some random location. Traffic just does not work! Come on, folks - get real. In India, if we can get anything to predict traffic and provide updates about traffic jams, that would be the pinnacle of technology.

Latitude

With the advancement of technology comes the lack of privacy. Latitude is a classic example of that. It lets you add friends and share your location with them. Good news stalkers: you can also view your friends’ locations once they accept you as their friend on Latitude. This author has a friend who works on a ship and travels around the world and is often unreachable. It is quite interesting to log in to Latitude and find out where he has been last. The down-side of using Latitude is.... Any of your friends will know where you have been (and possibly, where you are right now) and that is a scary thought. So the trick is, don’t log in to Google maps with your Google account when you don’t want to be tracked. You will still be able to use the “My Location” and “Get Directions” features when you’re not logged in, and that’s all you really need to find your way around in a new place.

Final thoughts

Don’t think. Just get the app!!

2 comments:

Shruthi Kanna said...

Hello friends, excellent mobile app for shopping- Enjoy Blackberry and Android  Users
I have been using MintM mobile app for my shopping and was quite impressed. Thought of sharing with you guys. Freely available at


Free download URL : mintmapp.com/mobile  

Madhu Sinha said...

hello friends,
Just came across an excellent mobile application !!!

I have been using MintM mobile app for my shopping and was quite impressed. We can find shopping list with the relevant discounts& offers of the shops which we are entering in.

Free download URL : www.mintmapp.com/mobile
 
This application REWARDS FOR WINDOW SHOPPING TOO ....... :)This application reached top 16th rank in Google play especially in free shopping category....

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