I’ve had my Samsung Blackjack II for a few months now. One of the things about this phone that excited me the most was the integrated GPS. I unlocked the GPS receiver (follow the instructions on that site verbatim to unlock your GPS*) to work outside of just TeleNav. Unfortunately though, I couldn’t get Windows Live maps to detect the GPS. So I decided to download Google Maps for Mobile and started using it exclusively.
The one thing to keep in mind is that the Windows Live App has more than just Maps to offer. It’s a full fledged ‘search’ application with Maps as one of the features.
A couple of weeks ago, I found the patience (and the time) to startup Windows Live for mobile again to see if I can figure out why exactly the GPS wouldn’t work. Turns out, it was working just fine. Since, I’ve started using Windows Live Maps for Mobile and I thought I’d chart out my comparison between the 2 products. Overall, feature wise, Windows Live Maps for Mobile wins. User interface wise, Google Maps for Mobile wins.
|User Interface||Google Maps for Mobile has a very clean, intuitive, usable, simple and pretty-looking interface. It’s looks like a trimmed down version of their regular browser client which makes it familiar. Even when you punch in to get directions, the simple “Show Route” and the “Next” and “Previous” commands on the map are very easy to understand and use. When you hit “Next” for example, the map zooms out and starts moving to the next turn or exit that needs to be taken and then zooms back in to the location where the action needs to be taken – it kinda jumps to the next action that needs to be taken. That is a pretty neat interface for a phone.
I really like the simple blue dot on Goog Maps for mobile that indicates your current location. The Windows Live Maps equivalent is not bad in that it actually gives you the direction in which you are headed. It’s not a dot. But it’s bigger and not as simple or pretty.
I also like the fact that when you have to look up directions, you can enter your current location in just the one single box in Google Maps. Alternately you can check the box that says use your current GPS location as your starting or your end location.
The UI on Windows Live Maps needs quite a lot of work. It looks like a bunch of interns put it together over the summer. 😐
|Turn by Turn directions||Windows Live||Yep, clear winner here. The GPS helps you stay on top of where you are, but as you approach a location where you need to veer from just driving straight, the phone makes a ‘beep’ and indicates that you need to do something here.
Surprisingly, Google Maps for Mobile (the version I have) does not give you live turn by turn directions.
|Misc. Features||Windows Live||Windows Live definitely has a lot more features, like finding movies or finding gas prices. These are really easy to pull up using the interface. Windows Live definitely kicks butt feature-wise.|
|Application Startup Time||Google Maps||Google Maps starts up in about 2 seconds. Windows Live seems to take anywhere from 8-10 seconds on my phone.|
|Rerouting from your current location||Windows Live||Lets say you’re driving along, and you miss one of your turns. Windows Live will prompt you for the option to reroute you to your destination. It’s almost like a full-fledged GPS.|
|Current Traffic conditions||Windows Live||I’ve used both applications on multiple instances and I’ve found WL Maps to be consistently accurate. This could be related to the data sources that each of these applications use to check traffic conditions.
For example, I was stuck on the 101 for a longggggggg time the other day. I think there was a high-speed car chase or something that had ended up badly. The 101 was like a giant parking lot. So I pulled out the phone to check traffic conditions. Windows Live gave me dead accurate traffic conditions whereas Google Maps was not even close. In fact, Google Maps told me that everything was a green, when I’d been averaging 0.05mph for the last 30 minutes.
|Finding Businesses||None||Although Windows Live Maps has a better set of features overall, neither of the two applications are consistent when it comes to finding certain businesses.
For example, I remember searching for “Jamba Juice, San Mateo, CA” on Google Maps for Mobile, and it didn’t yield anything whereas Windows Live Maps for Mobile did. In another instance, I’d searched for another business (can’t remember which one), but Goog Maps pulled it up when Windows Live Maps didn’t.
|Find your current location without GPS||Google Maps||This feature gives you somewhat of a current location for a given radius (don’t ask me what the radius is) without using your GPS. I think you’ll start to realize sooner than later that this feature is really quite useless. Because when you’re lost, you don’t want to know that you’re somewhere in 2 mile radius of something – that is just pointless. Worse, it can’t tell you which direction you’re headed in.
I admire that Google Maps is trying to something innovative, but the feature is really not as useful as it is fancy.
In spite of all these features, I’d warn you to consider charging your phone while you’re using the GPS. On average, I’ve noticed that my fully charged phone runs out of juice in about 45 minutes when I have the GPS turned on. Yikes!
I can’t wait for the next version of these apps. I think they’ll try to outdo what they have currently, which means we win!
PS: Please do not use your phone while you are actually driving.
* – Neither Microsoft nor I take responsibility for this patch on your phone. Use it at your own risk.