Just noticed this post on the Google Operating System blog.
The latest version of Google Maps for Mobile includes an option that was already available in Google Maps: directions for public transportation. Google’s coverage has been continuously expanded in the past months to many US states, Japan, Austria, Switzerland, important cities from Canada, Italy, France, UK and Australia. Google Maps is one of the applications that is very useful when you are on the go and this new feature is a good alternative to the existing driving directions.
Very cool, slightly frustrating bits at the moment include:
- Its not available for Windows Mobile devices like my HTC TyTnII (Kaiser) yet, I’ll try and be patient!
- I thought about writing an app to do this myself about the time I got my TyTnII using London transport data, unfortunatly TFL don’t make a lot of the required data publically obtainable to construct such a system, hence I gave up rather quickly. Frustrating at the time beacuse of TFL’s limited mobile device support.
Glad to see Google have been thinking this one through, looking forward to seeing how well it works…
So I’ve just got around to having a play with PointUI which surfaced earlier this week. The iPhone crowd have come out and laid into it on other blogs, ignoring the fact that the 3rd party apps which have to be bodged into the iPhone are the lifeblood of a windows mobile device and the reason why many choose Windows Mobile over the iPhone.
Anyway, rant over. I must say for a free and from nothing attempt, Pointui is pretty good, its slick for the most part, its let down at the moment on two (significant) counts (imo):
- a) when you want to do anything as it then opens that application in the standard windows mobile shell.
- b) Its not customizable and has no real settings which can be changed for user preference
I havn’t mentioned any of the bugs beacuse its in beta and this is to be expected and I’m sure the features and flexibility will be expanded in due time.
Of course these guys arent the only one creating nicer interfaces for Windows Mobile, HTC for one have for a while been supplying plugins and apps to extend Windows Mobiles functionality although it seems to be a bit of a lottery sometimes as to which ones are installed on your device (down to network whims most of the time it seems). They’re not as slick and iPhone like as Pointui for the most part but they provide added functionality with most of them being finger compatible. There’s a fairly comprehensive list of HTC apps on the XDA Developers site.
The one thing I keep wondering is when Microsoft will catch up, not to mention whether they are always going to be playing catch up with Apple, HTC and the mass of individual enterprising developers around the world.
Windows Mobile 6 was for the most part a let down and not much of a change over version 5, it still has the abomination that is Pocket IE (not a big deal thanks to Opera Mobile), still uses buttons which require a stylus and still looks like all they did was attempt to shrink down the desktop windows interface without any new thought put into it.
Small changes are promised in the upcoming 6.1 and therafter but I for one am not holding out much hope of them making any significant advances. Dont get me wrong, in many ways Windows Mobile is fantastic, as I said before, the plethora of 3rd party applications mean you have a tool for any job and if not then Visual Basic isn’t hard to pick up and develop it yourself .
But they could do better and with 79,000 employees at Microsoft (Source: Wikipedia) its hard in some ways to see why all the interesting things are always coming from small players.
I’ve just taken the plunge and upgraded my HTC Wizard/O2 XDA MiniS to an HTC Kaiser/T-Mobile MDA Vario III.Ã‚Â I changed to T-mobile mainly beacuse of the ‘web n walk’ deals with their overall offer a better option than the competition, plus the added bonus that they don’t mind if the phone is used as a laptop modem (not tested yet).
There are hundreds of reviews around the web so I won’t bother doing that but will note some of my own thoughts, I find bullet point lists for this sort of thing work well:
- Ã‚Â The phone itself is a bit smaller than the previous one,Ã‚Â a testement if ever there was one to the fast moving world of modern technology, the new one packs in 3G,Ã‚Â GPS, faster processor and a tilting screen to boot where as the old one managed GPRSÃ‚Â at a push.
- The GPS is very fast to lock on, even inside buildings! It works very well with Google Maps although occasionally the software seems to forget to ask the GPS to update.Ã‚Â I’m awaiting a memory card before testing TomTom.
- The keyboard is actually slightly smaller than the Ã‚Â old one which is odd beacuse there appears to be space for it to be bigger. Its still perfectly usable although symbols have been moved around quite a bit, having had the Wizard for 23 months I was able to touchtype on it (thumbs only of course!) so this is quite an annoyance although I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
- The phone feels more solidly built, the mechanism for the tilt is metal so should be pretty hard wearing.
- The comms manager button is gone, this is a little annoying, I’m going to consider re-mapping the voice dialling button to do this. I’ve never quite understood the point in these voice dialling buttons, if I want hands free then I’ll use the button on my bluetooth headset to activate it, or else I’ll just use the keypad and dial the number normally.
The XDA Developer forums are as ever a fountain of useful knowledge for Windows Mobile smartphones and very much recommended. One of the forum members has produced a program called TrackMe, this is now being contributed to by other forums members. Its essentially a GPS Logger, it can record to either a local file or send data to a web application as a KML file.
I’m thinking of using this when I go to Cape Town in December to record my track and then use this to geotag my photos when I return. Obviously I’ll use the local file option as otherwise I’ll end up with horrendous roaming data charges! Hopefully the version with support for GPX will be released soon otherwise I’ll write a little converter myself. Then I need to tie this in with the photo exif data from my camera by matching the most recent gps log entry to the exif time stamp.
The contract has come up on my O2 XDA MiniS, its been a good phone to be honest although I wasn’t sure at first, Windows Mobile is not without its issues for me at least, MMS support is woefully poor (in WM5), the integration with Outlook while great for some is not perfect for me, but there are ways around this such as Gmobilesync for the calendar. All the same, the benefits delivered in terms of flexibility, availabilityÃ‚Â of third party software such as Google Maps Mobile, and increased use of the device as a result make it worth while.
A short while ago the iPhone coverage couldnt be avoided, I’m just thankful its over now, every US blogger of note had themselves worked up into a frenzy over this thing (in another news Kleenex announced a record sales increaseÃ‚Â forÃ‚Â theÃ‚Â sameÃ‚Â period (sorry bad joke)). Me, I can’t see myself parting with that much money for a phone, if I had the money I’d could buy a nice big flat tv for that sort of cash. Additionally, having had the luxury of a full keyboard on my current hand set I can’t bring myself to part with it, I prefer the tactile feedback of a real thumb board to a virtual keyboard, whether it has an Apple symbol attached or not. Someone has been quick to conduct research to prove the value of this tactile feedback as well.
In the perfectÃ‚Â world,Ã‚Â a replacementÃ‚Â handset would have 3G, Wifi, GPS, physical qwerty keyboard, touchscreen andÃ‚Â 2 sim card slots so I can ditch the work phone. Closest I can find is the E-ten M700, which has almost everything except the 2 sim card slots. Its either that or the HTC Kaiser which as mentioned on my Google Maps post I have been assured should be released fairly soon on T-Mobile. They both have their positives, the HTC has a better camera, however styling, size and an improved GPS chipset (SiRFstar III) make the E-ten a winner for me, I have a decent camera already. I just need to find a network who’ll carry it now unless I go back on what I said earlier about paying for phones and cough up but its not cheap!
Update (12/11/2007): I bought the Kaiser, click here for the post.Ã‚Â
I had a go at using Google Maps Mobile for the first time yesterday on my O2 XDA Mini S, I must say I was impressed, its interesting to see that this is the only application (that I am aware of) which Google have released as a proper Windows Mobile installer. There’s a java based application for Gmail but its pretty useless for the most part, if they had taken the time to make a full program for windows mobile perhaps it might have had useful features such as integration with the today screen on windows mobile and not such a dodgy connection with the gmail servers.
I digress, anyway, I ended up trying maps mobile on Oxford street in the end after failing to find a particular branch of Maplin, the fact that you can install from the phone without going through active sync is in itself a good thing. I’ve yet to try it out with the bluetooth GPS I use for satnav but I’m impressed so far.
Now the only bad part is standing there thinking of the data costs and cringing, my next phone is probably going to be the HTC Kaiser and with that I think one of the T-Mobile web n walk plans might go down quite well. I’ve been in contact with a couple of T-mobile people via email and have been assured that they will be carrying the phone, although they refuse to comment further on when, they won’t even narrow it down to a month which is quite frustrating. However when it does arrive, with GPS on board this should be quite a decent phone to use with the maps app.
Update (12/11/2007): I bought the Kaiser and yes google maps works very well, click here for the post…