Saturday, March 27, 2010

Travelling with N96 - pleasure or pain?

"Is it possible to use a phone as a hardcore travel assistant which does basically everything for you?" This was the question before I went for a short holiday. Before the holiday started I created a quite long list what I could do with my phone when abroad (thanks to Petteri and Jouni for additional suggestions).

When I was driving in Spain and using Ovi Maps as a navigator, I totally lost my mind because N96 rebooted itself numerous times and Ovi Maps failed to give me good directions. I even buzzed about this. After the buzz, I started thinking that I shouldn't make that strong assumption, which is based on few failures. I decided to create a list of pleasures and pains about using N96 (or any device) as a travel assistant. I made this list during my holiday, without any further planning, so the list is authentic and not made up.

Like everybody knows, these things aren't black and white so it is little difficult to make a final decision. I thought that I'll give one point (+1) for each pleasure and one minus point (-1) for each pain and then sum them. If pleasure wins, then it is a pleasure to travel with N96 or if pain wins, then it is a pain travelling with N96. I'll also add some suggestions in the end which could help travelers (or frequent mobile phone users) in the future.

Test equipment
  • Nokia N96 v.30.333
  • Ovi Maps v3.01 09wk44 b01 with drive and walk license and downloaded map of Spain.
  • A car
  • A 31-year-old male
  • Downloaded maps to your phone before travel.
  • Got drive and walk guidance relatively cheaply, only 9,99€ to N96. Although this hasn't been advertised anywhere. I noticed this from
  • Saved GPS coordinates to some pictures which I took.
  • Sent an unique postcard with a picture taken with N96 using 3rd party software from Finnish Post Office.
  • Transferred podcasts and music before the trip to the phone.
  • Installed 3rd party software during the trip to get information about Alhambra. Download was done using bluetooth in Alhambra. More information about the software.

Picture 1 & 2. Information of Alhambra in your phone
  • Used Opera Mini to cut down the amount transferred data while browsing abroad.
  • Recorded my running routes using SportsTracker and didn't use any data connection. Uploaded them to SportsTracker site when I came back from holiday.

Picture 3. One recorded running route, used only GPS, no data connection.

Picture 4. Uploaded route in SportsTracker.
  • Saved the place to Ovi Maps where I parked the car in Malaga.
  • Ovi Maps walking guide worked in Malaga and I found the place where I parked the car.
  • Saved my thoughts about this blog post to Notes on holiday.
  • Sometimes Ovi Maps didn't find anything, re-booting helped.
  • Ovi Maps drive guidance was guiding in Malaga differently than it was showing in the map. Guidance told "turn left" but map showed "turn right". This happened more than once.
  • GPS signal lost three times during trip from Alhambra to Benalmadena. Phone was all the time in the same place. Restarting of Ovi Maps helped.
  • While driving to back from Alhambra to Benalmadena, N96 restarted numerous times, something like 5-7. Luckily my wife was able to operate N96, otherwise it would have been really difficult and dangerous.
  • Ovi Maps didn't find "Calle de Noruega" street in Benalmadena. It seems that Ovi Maps thinks it is "Calle Cinoroega" like seen in picture 5. Also "Calle Italia" should be "Calle de Noruega".
  • Ovi Maps gave totally wrong driving guidance near where I was staying.
Picture 5. Map from Benalmadena where driving guidance in Ovi Maps didn't work so well.
  • I noticed after the trip that some of the pictures didn't contain GPS coordinates, although I'm really sure I had that feature on.
  • There weren't any good place for placing N96 in the car. This makes navigation more difficult.
  • While I was driving, Ovi Maps showed useless information about roaming charges although I had accepted it previously.
Picture 6. Ovi Maps showing useless information while driving.
  • While I was driving, Nokia Messaging popped up numerous times. I don't know what initiated this.
Picture 7. Nokia Messaging popped up while using Ovi Maps.
  • Ovi Maps didn't seem to be accurate enough, if there were two (or more) ramps which were taking you off the highway, it wasn't clear which one to take. I've been using TomTom XL in Finland, and it guides you really clearly which ramp or lane to take.

  • It would be really helpful if Nokia (or someone else) would be selling "one-size-fits-all-Nokias" car kits where one could place phone while driving. This could be also used for watching videos in the plane.
  • There are still space to improve Ovi Maps' user experience.
  • I think navigation using phone is little like comparing taking pictures with phone and taking pictures with "real" camera; it is in a way OK, but not really good.
  • Search results in Ovi Maps aren't as good as in Google Maps. Biggest two problems with Google Maps is that you cannot download the maps to your phone and you can't get drive guidance to Nokia phones.
  • As you can see, most of the issues were caused by Ovi Maps. I wasn't using the newest version, so I really hope it works better.
  • I didn't use Foursquare or Gowalla during my holiday because I was lazy. I checked few times if something could be found from Foursquare, and it was basically empty. After the holiday, I noticed that Gowalla is more popular in Benalmadena area. Also Dopplr were quite empty, although I decided to add few hints there after the trip.
  • When you are travelling battery consumption is really an issue. Luckily I had my Nokia DC-11 which gave the external push for phone's battery when needed. It would be really useful if one could define which features will be left on when battery is about to die, I mean now some Nokia devices have power saving option which dims the screen light, but it could be used for example shutting down Bluetooth, WiFi discovery, unused open applications, etc. and reserve the rest of the battery for the most important, e.g. sometimes for Ovi Maps.
So, here is my verdict: it is a pleasure to travel with N96 but Ovi Maps can cause you to lose your mind. What do you think? What kinds of experiences you've had with your personal travel assistant?


arshad said...

Teppo said...

I noticed that is selling "one-size-fits-all" car kit (in Finnish).

Teppo said...

I forgot to mention (at least) one thing:

when you are using navigation and you've set up the backlight usage to optimal, your phone screen can still go off. I think this is dangerous, because driver can loose his concentration and start checking what is happening to his navigator. Ovi Maps could indicate this somehow, for example saying 'I'm turning off the screen but I'll continue guiding you, just concentrate on driving.'.