I must admit, I do like Nokia Maps, I have really got used to having some navigation software on my phone. If i’m ever lost, either in the car, or walking I know I can fire up Nokia Maps and I’ll be alright. Don’t get me wrong I love Google Maps too, but I love the turn by turn navigation that Nokia Maps gives me, the thing is Nokia Maps isn’t perfect. Not at all, the routing is fairly good to it’s credit, but I find it a bit ‘naggy’ – it’s telling me to do stuff when I don’t need to know. It can be prone to crashing, searching on it can be very hit and miss, the UI is appalling and annoyingly on the 5800 – there is no landscape mode and the ‘touch’ aspect is decidedly lacking.
I’ve spent some time with a new piece of navigation software that is available on S60 3rd and 5th Edition (also Windows Mobile), called NavMii, and i’ve been pleasantly surprised.
NavMii is Sat Nav software that has a ‘GeoFriend’ capability, meaning you can send your friend your location and their NavMii will navigate them, or vice versa. Obviously this is fairly dependant on your friends having NavMii installed. But an interesting touch never-the-less.
NavMii is available for £45.99 and this entitles you to the software, support and one years worth of updates to the software. A years licence for Nokia Maps (at time of writing) is around £52.00, so it’s cheaper than Nokia Maps, but is it better than Nokia Maps?
The short answer is yes, and i’ll explain why
The important fact is NavMii is very similar to a stand alone Sat Nav in terms of usability – it is something very separate from the standard UI of the phone which is good, as phones aren’t really designed for use in the car. You need quick search results with as few key presses as possible . The onscreen keyboard isn’t a standard Nokia UI one – it’s similar to the iPhone one, but smaller. It works fairly well, but is a little fiddly in portrait mode, flip over to landscape and it’s very finger friendly. The only issue with using the portrait mode when searching is you only see one result at a time, and you’re not able to scroll up and down to choose different ones (bad design!)
The layout of the navigation screen is similar to most Sat Nav software. The map looks sharp and bright, road names are easily readable, with a bright sunny sky in the horizon, night mode works well too with a starry night sky. It would be fantastic if it switched to Night Mode depending on the time of day instead of having to scrabble in the preferences menu. It displays your ETA (which is fairly accurate), distance remaining, what road you’re on, which road is next, and how long until your next manoeuvre. I would have liked to see the current speed, and perhaps current time too, which is fairly standard elsewhere. There are buttons to Zoom In and Out, Switch to 2D and to go to the Menu. You can tap the screen to put a pinpoint on the map and choose to route there, send to a friend, or add it to favourites. You can have the screen in Landscape or Portrait and the display adjusts accordingly – Landscape looks very swish whilst driving along.
The voice commands are very concise and LOUD (perfect for motorway driving), I found NavMii to give the perfect amount of guidance. It doesn’t bleet on over and over again, you get exact and detailed instructions, i’ve found it less annoying than others. Something missing from Nokia Maps but in NavMii is the fact it will also ‘speak’ the names of A and B roads and motorways too eg. ‘Take the 2nd exit onto the B1007’. Which means you are less likely to be looking at the Sat Nav and more likely to be looking at the road and roadsigns, much safer. NavMii also nags you less as you drive, if you use Nokia Maps up a long motorway you’ll be nagged to ‘keep right’ at lots of junctions (it’s helpfully trying to tell you to stay on the road) NavMii doesn’t do this – it trusts you understand to stay on the road. Also nice to see (well hear!) is NavMii works nicely if you’ve got music playing in Music Player, the volume of the song is reduced slightly and the command is given. Perfect! My only issue with the voice commands is that the sound files that NavMii uses go into the library of the Music Player app – so if you’ve got your music on Shuffle you’ll have it interrupted with random snippets of NavMii sound. NOT good.
Onto the routing itself, it feels a little bit slower than Nokia Maps when calculating routes ‘from cold’ especially on longer routes. Once the route has been calculated i’ve been mostly happy with it, I tested it on local trips and a 500 odd mile trip. Locally it seems to use sensible routes which i’d normally take rather than dragging you off round the houses. On my trip up North it took me the way I would normally take, weirdly enough on the way home it seemed to want to take me a bit more ‘cross country’. Even when I tried to get back ‘on track’ it wanted me to turn round and do what it wanted. Only after a good few miles driving it gave up and routed me home. Something else that is missing from routing is a method to route around traffic or blocks ahead, such a facility is handy if you’re a few miles away from heavy traffic allowing you to divert around it.
Other problems I’ve noticed that NavMii is missing is a ‘home’ button, security aside it would be nice to have a button that just routes you home, obviously you could add your home address as a favourite but a little button would make it a little quicker. The menus could also perhaps have smaller icons shown on them meaning less switching between screens, there are currently only six icons on the menu, you could easily fit 8 or more with some tweaking. Also it would be good if the volume of the voice could be controlled with the volume control on the phone rather than navigating into the settings menu, or even have intelligent volume that increases or decreases depending on speed. Also NavMii needs to intergrate with the landmarks and favourites stored in the phone, Nokia Maps and Google Maps share them, NavMii should do too.
Niggles aside NavMii is a great bit of software, it does need some work here and there but with a years worth of updates included those should been ironed out. It certainly seems more like a ‘proper’ navigation system rather than a bit of software for a phone, I believe it is also more value for money than Nokia Maps. After paying your licence fee to Nokia you’re unable to use Maps for turn-by-turn routing after the licence has expired, NavMii is a one off cost and you have a working bit of Sat Nav software that is yours to keep.
With some further tweaks and development NavMii really is ‘one to watch’.
nokiAAddict rating : 90%
Kip Hakes – 25th May 2009