Nokia Maps is a beautiful and light alternative to Google maps that has only so far been available on the Internet as a web application and on Nokia smartphones. This however changed yesterday when Nokia launched a mobile web version of the application that runs on HTML5 and is compatible with Android and iOS phones. The application demonstrates some of the powerful capabilities of HTML5 to deliver native-app like features and performance over the Internet.
One of the dramatic features of the application is the menu interface. Traditional sites have a menu system that remains a distinct part of the navigation menu but what the menu on the new web app does is to overlay menus on the home screen in seamless transitions, which can very easily pass it off as a native app.
The mapping app has three views, satellite, street view and public transport view. Nokia has been especially pushing the mapping app as a commuting tool with the map having commuter routes and real-time bus schedules for a number of major cities across the world. The map also has an “Edit Your Map” feature that allows you to add roads and other features such as locations onto the map.
One unprecedented feature of the HTML5 mobile Nokia Maps is its ability to deliver voice directions. Before, it was previously thought that only native apps could provide real-time voice directions owing to the native nature of the apps and the fact that the information is cached on the phone and can be readily synthesised to give voice directions.
But Nokia has circumvented this in a rather genius manner. When you ask for directions (this is of course when your geolocation is activated), the mapping app prompts you to download a 2MB packet that contains your directions in voice format. This nifty trick shows that the gap between HTML5 and native apps is closing fast. I have tested the Nokia Maps app on Android and I must say, it’s a very different experience from Google Maps. Go to m.maps.nokia.com and share what you think of the new HTML5 Nokia Maps.