Nokia says it's been doing offline maps for years, and that it offers much more than just locally cached maps.
Google has announced that several new features are coming to its Google Maps for Mobile and Google Earth products in the coming weeks. The chief new feature is better offline availability of maps. The new Google Maps will allow users to cache metropolitan-sized regions of maps on their device, which can be then accessed when the device doesn't have a network connection.
Part of the benefit, explained Google, is to help travelers avoid data roaming charges. For example, Americans planning to travel to Europe this summer may incur high data fees when abroad. If those travelers choose to download the maps of their vacation spot ahead of time, they may be able to save some money.
"Offering offline maps is not only about giving the option to cache some data offline for later use, it's a complete experience," the company said in a blog post Thursday. "An offline experience is not only about street maps, it's also about offline available points of interest (POIs) to enable offline search, it's about navigation voices available on-device and offline rerouting."
Mobile mapping and navigation applications have been a core feature of Nokia smartphones as far back as 2006. Though Nokia has switched its smartphones from Symbian to Windows Phone, that hasn't changed its commitment to offering the best mapping products possible. It doesn't hurt that Nokia acquired mapping company Navteq in 2008.
The company offers an entire range of products to its Windows Phone devices, including Nokia Maps, Nokia Transport, Nokia Drive, and others. These services work online and offline to provide point-to-point directions in addition to info about local points of interest.
The new offline capability of Google Maps allows for areas with a 10-mile radius to be cached locally on the device. By way of comparison, Nokia allows customers to download street-level maps for entire countries. Worried about those maps consuming your device's entire storage? Don't. The entire U.S. map, for example, takes up 1.8 GB.
"So now you have all these shiny maps stored offline and you are ready to go. What will you do with them?" Nokia asks. "Most probably you are going to put your smartphone in your car and start navigating. In your home city, in your country, or abroad for vacation. It would be a shame to travel somewhere and discover you couldn't do much with the offline maps because no navigation instructions were available. This is why our voice guided turn-by-turn navigation is not only available for 1, 2 or 29 countries; it is available for over 110 countries."
There's no denying that Nokia has a bit of a chip on its shoulder. After all, it was once the worldwide cell and smartphone leader. It has since lost both titles to Samsung. As good as its mapping products are, the best ones are being reserved for its Lumia smartphones. Google Maps is installed on hundreds of millions of Android and iOS devices. Nokia's Lumia devices have received a warm reception, but aren't yet selling in numbers to cause any concern for Google.
With Nokia and Google making noise in the mapping space, it will be interesting to see what Apple reveals during its WorldWide Developer Conference next week. It is expected to announce its own mapping product so that it can ween itself away from reliance on Google's service.
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