Nokia Maps v3.08 (beta) versus Garmin MobileXT v5.00

After using Nokia Maps v3.08 for a few days, I decided to share my experiences regarding a comparison of the two navigation systems loaded on my Nokia N8. To begin, I remind readers that Maps v3.08 is a beta release and I have found the following errors:

  • The Bluetooth is currently off. Activate? message pops up more than once.
  • After closing Maps, the Smart2Go.exe task (C:\sys\bin), which occupies 6.1 Mb of RAM, remains running in the background.
  • Map Loader starts up with error (-1, 100002) and fails to execute properly.
  • The Speed display is frequently lost whilst driving and displays ““.
  • The 3D display option defaults back to 2D each time Nokia Maps restarts.
  • When the Weather app is run for the first time, the following error occurs: Sorry, we could not update the weather at this time. Please be patient as the forecast may change.

A perusal of the Bug Reports for V3.08 revealed that other users have also found the above-mentioned problems, as well as many others. One of the biggest complaints appears to be the drain on battery life. This could be related to the Smart2Go.exe task that remains running after Nokia Maps has closed. The Map Loader error has also been reported by numerous users, with no apparent solution offered by Nokia support staff. The error that appears when Weather is run for the first time was resolved by Nokia support. This error is probably related to the need for the Weather App to obtain your current location from the Maps app in order to determine which weather station will be used for your locale.

I found the user interface neat and easy to use. The Just Drive feature is most useful, as well as the Drive Home option. It is simple to toggle between the various destination arrival options, either in minutes to reach destination (time), or kilometers remaining to destination (distance) or estimated time of arrival (ETA). In my opinion, the user interface experience of Nokia Maps is far superior than that of Garmin’s MobileXT app.

The live traffic update feature is handy, and I will always rely on this feature when driving to the airport to catch a domestic flight. Although Garmin also offers a live traffic feed service, it is not free and requires an annual renewal subscription of R299-00. However , I have been somewhat dissapointed with Nokia’s live update feature, especially driving on roads marked red (i.e. highly congested) at the recommended speed limit (when the road should be grid-locked)! I guess no service offered in South Africa is perfect.

Having mentioned Nokia Maps impressive new features and awesome user interface, I still prefer using Garmin MobileXT for turn-by-turn navigation for the following reasons:

  • Garmin’s online services also include weather as well as flight status (arrival and departure times for airports in the current vicinity).
  • Garmin’s customisable point of interest database contains the location of fixed and temporary speed traps, speed humps, toll plazas with associated fees, road hazards, roads under construction (i.e. one way stop-go lanes) and many, many more.
  • Location of nearby emergency services (e.g. police, hospital and petrol stations).
  • Ability to easily switch between the internal and an external bluetooth GPS receiver (the internal GPS receiver drains the N8’s battery substantially).
  • Satellite info showing the accuracy of the current GPS almanac as well as elevation.
  • Navigate to a known GPS coordinate which the user can input, then save to favourites.

Garmin MobileXT’s search function is far superior to that of Nokia Maps. For instance, the search function attempts to find your requested point of interest within 50 km of your current location, then increasing the search radius by a further 50 km if unsuccessful (to 100 km), and so on until a maximum search radius of 500 km is reached. This vastly decreases the time to correctly locate your intended destination. This can be further explained by considering a search for Chapel Street. Many towns have a street called Chapel. In a typical navigation scenario, I am unlikely to want to drive to Chapel Street in a town located over 500 km from my current location, but rather a street in a nearby town. It is quite frustrating when an online search for Chapel in Nokia Maps shows points of interest located in the United States and Brazil. After all, Nokia Maps is a turn-by-turn navigation system which expects me to drive on roads to the intended destination, not fly to another continent! In addition, Garmin’s point of internet database is stored locally on my N8, negating the need for an Internet connection (with  associated data costs) to find my intended destination.

To conclude, the ultimate turn-by-turn navigation solution for Nokia smartphones would utilise the best features of both Nokia Maps and Garmin MobileXT as follows:

  • Nokia Maps’ awesome user interface (MobileXT has no “long press” features, pan or pinch to zoom),
  • Nokia’s free map database (Garmin mapsets are not free),
  • Nokia’s free live traffic feed (Garmin’s traffic service is also not free),
  • MobileXT’s customisable point of interest database for South Africa,
  • MobileXT’s ability to navigate to street number as well as street name,
  • MobileXT’s feature to navigate to any coordinate input supplied by the user (e.g. from a company’s website),
  • Garmin’s roadmaps offering nearly 670,000 km of routable roads in South Africa (Nokia Maps reports 554,239 km of road coverage),
  • Garmin’s point of interest database containing over 255,000 entries which are stored locally on the device (i.e. no Internet bandwidth consumed in searching an online database).
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