Earlier today Nokia Beta Labs released the beta version of City Lens, a local search engine with augmented reality. We took the beta app out for a brief test drive and it's an impressive little app. City Lens has some really nice features, a simple interface, but we could tell it was still in the beta stages with the augmented reality portion a little shaky on tagging businesses.
Head on past the break to read our first impressions on City Lens.
When you first run City Lens you will need to calibrate your Lumia's compass (move the phone in a figure eight pattern until it calibrates or your arm falls off). From there City Lens' main menu will offer you eight search options; Nearby Establishments, Food, Hotels, Shopping, Famous, Fun, Sights and Transport.
There is a three-dot menu to the side that gives you access to settings (distance measurement choices and turn on/off location services), a link to send feedback to Nokia, and access to the About Screen. Additionally, if you want to search for a specific location or service there is a keyword search button just above the tiles.
Once you choose a tile, City Lens has three modes of operation. Lying the Lumia Windows Phone flat and you will see a road map with the nearby locations mapped out. Hold the Lumia upright and the locations are displayed in list view. If you hold the Lumia horizontal, like you're going to take a picture, the camera turns on and the locations are flagged based on the your location and the camera's view. It gives you a physical landmark to match up against what you are looking for.
From any of the City Lens modes you can tap on a location to get more information on the business including driving directions, contact information, and other businesses nearby. Locations can be pinned to the Start Screen for easy access and shared via email or text messaging.
In just a short time with City Lens, the app has potential. I really liked how the display changed with the orientation of the Lumia but also wouldn't mind seeing a way to turn that feature off. All in all, Nokia Beta Labs is moving in the right direction with City Lens.
City Lens is only available for Lumia Windows Phones. It isn't listed in the Nokia Collection but if you scan the QR code below or open this link from your Lumia Windows Phone you will be sent to City Lens' Marketplace page to install the app. Remember it's a beta application so don't be surprised if there are a few bugs present.
If you've tried City Lens, let us know what you think in the comments and share your thoughts with Nokia through the app's feedback link.