Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ovi Maps vs. Google Maps

It's been a while since last blog post, or actually even longer than a while. I could give a blog post full of reasons, but I'm not. After all, when we started this blog, we agreed that we write stories that are interesting for us and if we have time.

Now to the real topic: Ovi Maps versus Google Maps. Like you probably know, Nokia announced some time ago that they are offering navigation for free starting right now with limited number of devices. They also promised that they will add the support to some older models as well as to all new phones shipping with Ovi Maps. Google is already offering free navigation to Android phones, and bunch of different location-based services to other phones.

I must agree with most of the people and say this is an interesting decision from Nokia. I'm guessing that they are trying to get some profit from in-device advertising as well as increased phone sales. In-device advertising is a challenge for both Nokia and Google and we (or at least I) haven't seen any good results from this. One could say the winner of this battle is the one who gets more users to the service and offers better search results. Good search results are vital part of the Ovi/Google Maps usage, because why to use a service, even for a navigation, if it doesn't find anything? This gave me an idea of comparing these two map products. I've been using both of them, so in the following tests, I'm re-creating some of my recent searches .

Test equipment:
  • Nokia N96 (v30.333)
  • Ovi Maps (v3.01 09wk44) (Not the newest version, v3.03, because it is not available for N96 but I'm assuming that both versions are using the same data.)
  • Google Maps (v3.3.1 (#0))
  • Location: Espoo, Finland. Near Helsinki (and Nokia HQ)
Test cases:
  • R-Kioski (a popular kiosk)
  • Apteekki (pharmacy)
  • Nordea (a bank)
  • Otto (a brand name for ATMs)
  • K-Rauta (a hardware store)
  • Rautia (another hardware store)
  • Bauhaus (another hardware store)
  • 1 point from a good result.
  • ½ point from a result that could be improved.
  • 0 points if there are no results.
1. Search - R-kioski

Picture 1. Ovi Maps doesn't recognize "r-kioski".

Picture 2. Google Maps shows the nearest R-Kioski.

Picture 3. You can all search results a list, nearest place is on top.

Picture 4. Google Maps, you can see search results also in the map.

Result: Ovi Maps 0 - Google Maps 1.
It is really disappointing if you cannot find anything.

2. Search: Apteekki

Picture 5. Ovi Maps knows how to suggest search results.

Picture 6. Ovi Maps lists nearest results and also shows them in map (picture missing)

Picture 7. Ovi Maps shows coordinates, phone number and even weather of a search result. Phone number being one to most important.

Picture 8. For some reason Google Maps doesn't show the nearest pharmacies.

Result: Ovi Maps 1 - Google Maps ½. You shouldn't need to choose the nearest place by yourself, especially if you are in unfamiliar place.

3. Search: Nordea

Picture 9. Ovi Maps doesn't find a single Nordea from Finland, only ATMs in Estonia

Picture 10. Google Maps finds some Nordea's but not all, there are also places that doesn't have branches, only offices.

Picture 11. Nordea's listed. Results could be better.

Result: Ovi Maps 0 - Google Maps ½. Really poor results from Ovi Maps, but Google Maps could also improve.

4. Search: Otto

Picture 12. Ovi Maps suggesting results, actually nice and convenient.
Picture 13. Ovi Maps shows search results in map, just like described in picture 6.

Picture 14. Poor results from Google Maps, not even one real hit and others are totally wrong.

Result: Ovi Maps 1 - Google Maps 0. Totally wrong results give bad impression.

5. Search: K-Rauta

Picture 15. Ovi Maps doesn't find anything and suggest wrongly.

Picture 16. Also Google Maps shows phone number.

Picture 17. Google Maps shows sometimes also result's homepage.

Result: Ovi Maps 0 - Google Maps 1. Totally wrong results give bad impression.

6. Search: Rautia

Picture 18. No results when searching Rautia with Ovi Maps.

Picture 19. Google Maps finds "Rautia", but most probably doesn't show the nearest first.

Result: Ovi Maps 0 - Google Maps 1. No results, no points.

7. Search: Bauhaus

Picture 20. Ovi Maps suggest that I should head to Germany...

Picture 21. Google Maps shows reviews in some results.

Result: Ovi Maps 0 - Google Maps 1. Totally wrong results, no points.

Final result: Ovi Maps 2 - Google Maps 5. These result show that Google Maps is better in finding places, which makes sense because Google is so big in search area. This also indicates that Nokia needs to improve it's company database, because companies are usually searched; address, phonenumber, etc. I still keep on using both of them because in some cases Ovi Maps gives better results.

There are lots of areas that makes a difference when these two companies are fighting for the users and their money. Just to name few, these are:
  • Sociality. Social services are also important in search business, because users want to see where their friends are and if they are suggesting some places. Google Maps has Latitude which shows where your friends are, but that's it. New version of Ovi Maps has Facebook-integration which seems interesting, but there needs to be more to come.
  • Tracking. Nokia terminated it's successful Nokia Sportstracker but most probably will add similar features to Ovi Maps, or at least I hope so. Tracking is important for users who are exercising and how they are developing.
  • Sharing data between computer and mobile phone. Most of the users are using Ovi Maps and Google Maps both with their computers and their mobile phones. This is why it important that one can store information using computer and then access the same information with mobile phone. Both companies are supporting this method, as long as you've signed in.
  • Usability and ability to suggest results. Usability is really important in each service, also in Maps. If you are searching something based on the address, Ovi Maps suggests nicely different street addresses.
Picture 22. In Ovi Maps, you need to decide if you are searhing based on address or place.

Picture 23. Google Maps offers only one Search-possibility which makes searching sometimes easier.

Picture 24. Suggestion works nicely in with Google Maps, but it doesn't suggest street names, only recent searches and some commonly known places, e.g. kensington.
  • Downloading maps. When you have your maps in your device, usage can be little faster but the data can be old which results as a poor results. Downloading maps beforehand to your device means that you don't need data connection which means your battery last longer. I hope Nokia would introduce a feature which allows downloading maps to your phone without Map Loader.
So there are lots of open questions who will be the winner in in-device advertising, but one thing is for sure; year 2010 will be interesting year in location-based services.