Apple’s new Maps has managed to irritate a lot of users, and things didn’t get any better when their own CEO recommended other navigation services while they sort things out. Of course, even before Tim Cook advertised rival apps, a lot of people already took the liberty fix the problem Apple created (see a list of Apple Maps alternatives here).
Adding insult to injury was news today that Oracle’s teaming with Nokia for their mapping technology, reiterating the demand for location-aware data layers in the enterprise and beyond. But while Apple seems to be the biggest loser here, it’s actually Google that stands to lose the most. They’ve been replaced by Nokia from partners like Amazon and Groupon, indicating the hard work Nokia’s put into their Maps is paying off.
Let’s take a look at how Nokia and Google’s mapping technologies compare.
Mapping out History
Google Maps Started as a C++ program at the Sydney-based company Where 2 Technologies, where it was first designed to be separately downloaded by users. The program was later acquired by Google in 2004. It wasn’t until 2005 that Google Maps was officially released along with the release of “Hybrid View” wherein the satellite image data was converted from plate carrée to Mercator projection, which makes the map less distorted in the temperate climes latitudes.
Nokia Maps started in 2001 as Smart2Go, a generic 3D-map interface for access to tourist information on mobile terminals, which was developed by an EU Consortium named TellMaris. Nokia gained rights to the software when they acquired Gate5 in August 2006, which made the Smart2Go application free for download. It expanded in 2007 when it acquired Chicago-based digital map supplier Navteq to build further on their Smart2Go mapping application.
Google Maps provides high-resolution aerial or satellite images for most urban areas all over the world, a route planner under “Get Directions” for driving, public transit (see the Google Transit section below), walking, and bicycling.
Street View provides 360° panoramic street-level views of various locations; Aerial View provides angled aerial imagery that offers a “bird’s eye view” of cities; Latitude lets users share their physical locations with other people.
Google Maps allows users to report problems and add map details to improve the mapping service. The mobile version lets users search in plain English, search by voice, view traffic info and search along routes. It also has a car dock mode aside from satellite view and street view.
Nokia Maps features driving and walking turn-by-turn navigation with international voice guidance, live traffic rerouting in some countries, live traffic visualization on the map in some countries, third-party content such as ViaMichelin and Lonely Planet, location-aware social networking to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and many other networks.
Street maps can be preloaded and used offline, and can also be loaded via wifi from the phone. Map Reporter lets users report map errors, while the integrated weather app tells travellers of local conditions by the hour and forecasts for the week. There’s also Night View, Satellite Maps, Terrain Maps, 3D buildings and 3D maps, Public Transit Lines and routing in some cities, and the option to save favorite locations.
Google Maps currently supports Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, but for mobile, their app can be downloaded for Android devices, iOS iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad not running on iOS 6 and not the iPhone 5. There’s support for the PlayStation Vita 3G Models, Windows Mobile OS but not Windows Phone devices, Nokia/Symbian (S60 3rd & 5th edition only), Symbian OS (UIQ v3), BlackBerry, Phones with Java-Platform (MIDP 2.0 and up) for example the Sony Ericsson K800i, Palm OS (Centro and newer) and Palm webOS (Palm Pre and Palm Pixi).
Nokia Maps can be loaded onto the phone with Nokia Ovi Suite, but for Windows Phone only. Most other mobile operating systems would have to utilize their mobile browser to access it. The mobile app provides free turn-by-turn navigation for many Nokia phones. Last year, they released the 3D version of their mapping service, which is said to be the combination of LiDAR scanner data for 3D modeling with HD aerial photos for realistic texture mapping.
So which is better?
If you look at just the features, Google and Nokia maps are quite similar, so it boils down to a matter of preference and access. But both services are constantly pushing updates to improve their mapping apps to stay competitive in a growing market. Google recently spiced up their Street View offering with underwater view, and also added panoramic undersea images of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the waters off the Apo Islands in the Philippines and underwater life around the Hawaiian islands.
As for Nokia, they recently sealed a deal with Oracle, which would increase their userbase and improve their service particularly in the enterprise space. Plus they’ve struck new deals with BMW , Mercedes Volkswagen and Hyundai, as well as with in-car device maker Pioneer and personal navigation device maker Garmin.