Nokia set to bring some amazing new capabilities to its mapping apps with Windows Phone 8

Yesterday we saw a whole heap of information presented by Nokia covering hardware and services, with so much to get through some things were only touched upon. One such area was of Nokia’s plans for maps and directions. We’d previously covered Nokia’s goal to maintain leadership in location so this segment was of great interest.

During the keynote a much clearer insight into their plans for their location based apps coming in Windows Phone 8 was provided, and we think there will be some exciting advances heading to the platform. Indoor Maps, tighter integration of their current mapping apps and augmented reality improvements are all on the way.

When we heard from Nokia a few weeks back about their plans to become the “Where” company we also quizzed them about the current suite of applications and how well those integrate with one another. Currently there isn’t any cross over between them, they all exist as separate entities.

They made it clear that they were looking to improve those core experiences and in some cases combine features from one app into another and link them more closely by saving key data to the cloud. The keywords we hear concerning their coming plans are “integrated suite” and their opening statement by Jo Harlow, Executive Vice President at Nokia, gave us the first insight into their plans:

“Going places, meeting people, taking the train and driving, these are not discrete unconnected events. On the Nokia Lumia 920 powered by Windows Phone 8, we’re bringing together Nokia’s location based applications to create an integrated suite of location services.” 

The presentation started with a look at their augmented reality app called City Lens, that app looks to be picking up some interesting enhancements. If we gander at the presentation, the names of the shops and places of interest are now accurately superimposed onto the buildings. The app is now aware of the buildings surface and renders correctly. The overall effect is much clearer and easier to interpret compared to the current floating labels.

City Lens Application - labels are now correctly mapped using perspective onto the surfaces of buildings

From that we moved onto their Nokia Maps application, during the presentation they state that it will have true offline capability. We suspect that it will leverage the now deeply embedded “Where” platform to deliver on this promise as that has full offline mapping capabilities that all applications can now take advantage of. Their intention to start intelligently linking these currently disparate apps is then announced by Harlow:

“Because we have increased the integration between applications, when you have found a route in maps you can launch Nokia Drive straight away for free voice guided turn-by-turn navigation, right out of the box.”

A nice example of leveraging Window Phone 8’s app-to-app communication technologies and certainly much more useful than having to complete a re-route using another app depending on your needs. Small but important changes to the way applications work with each other will have a dramatic effect on overall user experience, so that will be a welcomed improvement.

Nokia Maps transition from map to augmented reality mode shown during demo 

We reported yesterday that augmented reality is coming to Nokia Maps, most of us have issues with trying to determine the general direction of what way we’re walking. This looks to help out with that by providing a heading as well as places of interest and even the route itself.

A nice touch that we hope doesn’t lead to armies of people walking around in cities in AR mode finding their way around. Implementation sounds straight forward enough, here’s what Harlow had to say about the new feature in Nokia Maps:

"Once you have set the route in Nokia Maps, pull up the phone at any time to switch into augmented reality mode and see both the direction and the route as well as the points of interest."

We now have official confirmation that voice guided turn by turn pedestrian navigation is also coming to Nokia Maps. This is pretty huge, being able to have our phones in our pocket whilst we walk about being guided along will be really useful, saving on the endless glances at our devices.

Pino over at Nokia conversations has this to say about the new mapping features:

"If you have a car, you can now start Nokia Drive voice guided turn-by-turn navigation directly from Nokia Maps. But most importantly, if you’re on foot, you have now voice guided turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation too. It is important to highlight that our pedestrian navigation is specifically tailored to take into account footpaths, parks, stairs and all those areas that are only accessible on foot.."


Indoor Maps are coming to Windows Phone 8

Nokia are heavily investing in indoor maps, we can already see them being used by their close partner Bing to show inside shopping centers. The announcement confirms that they have every intention of bringing their indoor maps to Windows Phone 8. The context in which they speak about it makes us think it’s likely to be a integrated experience with their Transport app, as Harlow continued:

“Transport not only provides public transport departure times but also route and walking directions, to get you between stops. And since we’re adding “Indoor Maps” on Windows Phone 8 we can get you to exactly where you need to go inside the train station or bus terminal.”

Even though this part of the presentation was quite small we get a great feeling for what’s coming from Nokia with Windows Phone 8 and its formidable application suite. As well as tighter app to app communication between the different apps we’ll get improved walking navigation with the AR mode in Nokia Maps and the addition of the invaluable indoor maps too. Pretty exciting stuff.

Whilst this is currently all for Windows Phone 8, there is some good news for Windows Phone 7 users too. The My Commute feature is going to go live in the coming months in Germany, Russia, UK and Brazil. Also Nokia annouced they will shortly be updating Nokia Transport soon.

We’re keen to hear what you thought of the presentation. What got you excited?

Robert Brand