Ovi Maps hits 3.4 - in beta form - Nokia nail it...

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Just released this morning (see my 'Install diary' below) is Ovi Maps 3.4 (build 91, if you're being fussy). This follows up the formal release of v3.3, which introduced the new interface and free worldwide voice navigation. In brief, Ovi Maps is claimed to be faster and more accurate, and, as reported below, Nokia certainly seemed to have made big strides in this area - v3.4 is hard to criticise in the performance department now. It also adds Wi-Fi positioning to the many ways location is determined, though it will take a while before Nokia's servers build up enough data for this to be useful. Read on...

Official changelog:

  • Improved positioning speed and accuracy
  • Map zooming with faster speed
  • Improved search for cities with zoom out to city level

Compatibility hasn't been widened (yet), it still only works with the same dozen or so S60 3rd Edition FP2 and 5th Edition phones originally quoted, i.e. E52, E55, E72, 6710 Navigator, 6730 Classic and X6, N97 Mini, N97 (v2.xxx onwards*), 5230, 5800 XM (v3.1xxx onwards*)

Install 'diary'...

It's a whopping 9MB download, mind you, and you can't "Delete" the previous Maps 3.3 using the 'Organise' system, so I'm trying the installation 'on top' by copying the SIS file to my N97's mass memory, installing from there and then seeing how much extra precious C: space has been lost. It also takes an age to install, hence this blog-like running commentary - there's plenty of downtime!

OK, even starting with 18MB free space on disk C:, the installation of Maps 3.4 failed with 'Disk full, insufficient memory'. You have been warned. I'm now going to delve into the cache and temp folders to clear space and try again. Can't help muttering though. Maybe I should switch back to the N97 mini, which at least has extra capacity on disk C:

It turns out that from Settings>Application Mgr, I can uninstall Ovi Maps (3.3) after all... I now have 31MB free on disk C: - which should be enough. Gulp. Trying again!....

Installation succeeded, with the total 'hit' on disk C: being exactly 1MB more than inflicted by v3.3. I'm now taking v3.4 out for a test drive around Berkshire 8-)

Ovi Maps version 3.4 - Nokia nail it...

Nokia do have this habit of using using the general public as beta testers for their firmware, but in this case this is clearly labelled 'Beta' - ironically, since v3.4 is not only rock solid, but delivers on its promise of better performance - on my test drive, screen and position refreshes were much faster. For v3.3, what I think was happening was that all the NMEA position updates from the GPS chip were being processed in parrot fashion, meaning that on the slowish N97 (and sister devices) it took a few seconds before Ovi Maps had caught up with your actual (latest) position. With v3.4, the extra speed tweaks help to catch up much faster - hopefully there's a healthy degree of common sense being implemented in the code too, throwing away position updates that are more than a couple of seconds old.

Even with the insensitive N97 GPS antenna, I was getting near perfect positioning and real time navigation.

New for v3.4 is a new positioning method, 'Wi-Fi/Network', which triangulates your position Maps Booster/Google Maps-style and adds this position fix into the mix as well. That's the theory anyway - this is just the start of Nokia gathering router position data from user phones (privacy advocates might like to ranting now, but I don't think it'll be a problem - the networks know roughly where you are by triangulation already, and have done for years). It'll take a while before Nokia's servers have enough data to be able to serve up position information - i.e. to go the other way around.

As a result, the old 'satellite status' (green bar) indicator has been removed, since it is seen (by Nokia) as largely redundant, GPS now being only one of three major ways of determining position (GPS, Assisted-GPS/cell towers, Wi-Fi). Maybe a new multi-tier indicator is needed for the future? 8-)

Great job, Nokia, overall. Now get a version of 3.4 rolled out for S60 3rd Edition FP1 (and remaining FP2) devices please - there are millions of N95 and E71 owners champing at the bit to savour the free navigation experience!

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 26 Feb 2010