Ovi Maps 3.7 now available in Nokia Beta Labs

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Ovi Maps 3.7 (3.07) for Symbian^3 devices is now available for testing via the Nokia Beta Labs website. The biggest change is the modularisation of Ovi Maps into four key components: Maps, Drive, Check-in and Guides. Other updates include improvements to search, a redesign for the Places pages, the addition of location-based advertising, integration of weather into the Guides module, new voice files for navigation and easier view switching in Drive mode.

Modularisation - towards a service layer

Ovi Maps 3.7 sees a significant change in the way Ovi Maps is organised and presented on the device. It moves away from accessing maps and location services through a single application. Instead it splits the application into four interlinked modules: Maps, Drive, Check in and Guides. 

The modules can be accessed either via a dedicated Ovi Maps widget on the homescreen or via individual icons in the Applications folder. This use of multiple icons/modules replaces the internal application grid menu, which has been used in earlier versions of Ovi Maps 3 to access the different functions of Ovi Maps. 

Ovi Maps 3.7
Ovi Maps 3.7: Maps, Drive, Check in and Guides

At first glance this seems to effectively divide Ovi Maps into four separate applications. However, in reality, each part remains closely linked (i.e. each part will access the others where necessary).

The new approach can be best described as a change from an application-centric approach (everything in one) to a service-centric approach (divided into tasks). While this may confuse some existing users, it does offer greater simplicity and more accurately reflects typical usage scenarios.

Moreover, location should not be seen as a single application, but rather a service that is present through out the software of the device and accessible from any number of contexts (search, contacts, messaging, etc.). Ovi Maps 3.7 takes a large step away from the application silo and towards the idea of an omnipresent, service-based, contextual location service layer. 

Additional updates - search, place pages, advertising, weather, voices, drive view

The search functionality of Ovi Maps has been updated so that predictive search, as illustrated below, now works in both online and offline mode. An additional tab has been added to the search screen (far right), for accessing favourite (saved) locations. As before, favourites can be synced to the web version of Ovi Maps (and also between devices).

Ovi Maps SearchOvi Maps Search

The Place pages, which are accessed by tapping the top bar in map view, have been redesigned. The new design incorporates image galleries, user reviews and descriptions from business owners and/or travel guides (TripAdvisor, HRS, Expedia, Lonely Planet, Michelin, WCities, Qype and TimeOut). In general, this gives richer meta-data, across more locations, than was previously available. Places pages continue to provide quick action links: contact (call), navigate (directions), and map (shown location).

Location-based advertising has been incorporated into these pages; an example is shown in the screenshot below. This is the first time such advertising has appeared widely in Ovi Maps, although it does build on the Ovi Maps Offers/Vouchers module that was trialled in a few markets. The adverts take the form of a small image and a line of text, formatted in line with the rest of the Place page. When tapped on, these open up a page with additional information about the advert or offer, along with a number of calls to action (call, web link, location). 

Ovi Places pageOvi Maps PlacesOvi Maps Places

The weather forecast functionality of Ovi Maps has been incorporated into Guides. When opening the Guides module, your location is automatically determined and the available services and guides are shown on screen. These are crowned by weather information; more detailed information can be obtained by tapping the weather area.

Ovi Maps Guides weatherOvi Maps WeatherOvi Maps Weather

The are two notable updates for the Drive module. Firstly, a new set of voice files is available with Ovi Maps 3.7. The major focus has been on improving the accuracy and smoothness of localisations. Secondly, it is now easier to switch between the views (e.g. from maps view to directions view) in navigation mode thanks to the addition of a central on-screen view switch button.

Ovi Maps drive mode

More information on the new version is available on the Nokia Beta Labs website. As with all beta software, you should remember that the software may be unstable and consider this before installing it on to your phone. Those who install the beta version are encouraged to provide feedback and comments via the Beta Labs site (discussion forum, first impressions survey, user experience survey, new voice files survey).

Ovi Maps 3.7 beta is available for all Symbian^3 devices: Nokia N8, Nokia C7, Nokia C6-01 and Nokia E7.

Rafe Blandford, AAS, 14 April 2011