Mapping India!

The two main reasons (apart from the many usual ones) for which I bought my N95 were its multimedia capabilities and the fact that it had an in built GPS receiver.I had always wanted to know where I was while traveling an unknown route in a train or a bus (especially when the train was running behind schedule and the time table could not be relied upon). I wanted to be able to drive around India without having to stop and ask for directions at every crossroads, being able to roam around new towns (where people don’t understand English or Hindi) without getting lost and so many other things which a well implemented GPS solution promised to solve.

I must say I was very disappointed with the bundled Nokia Maps and started looking around for other solutions. At the time google maps was not available in Symbian and it also didn’t have support for GPS. So I turned to MG Maps. Now this was not a Symbian application and was prone to crashes due to memory leaks and other issues unknown to me but it had support for Google maps and GPS and that is what mattered. It also showed me other info like speed, heading etc. on the main screen. So it worked for me for a while, but then good old Google decided to withdraw support to the application and Google maps were no longer supported with versions released after Jul 2007 (v 1.36 to be precise). It did have support for Windows Live Maps, Yahoo Maps also but their coverage of India was even worse than Nokia Maps.

I continued to use MG Maps (the older version) for a while and immediately shifted to Google Maps for Symbian when it was released. In the mean time Nokia also updated the India Maps ( Although I don’t consider an increase of 2MB of data as an update). The Nokia solution did some good things to bigger cities in India (they claim to have maps for 8 cities now including Delhi & NCR, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad) but shockingly left out even the major highways for other parts of the country. I am sure there are many disgruntled N95 owners out there in India who only see a green blank screen as their location on Nokia Maps.

Nokia MapsNokia Maps Zoom

See, thats what I mean!

So I had been using Google Maps Mobile for my N95 till yesterday ( I’ll tell you what happened yesterday, later in the post). It is a very good application, gives me much more detailed maps, has GPS support, is quite fast and has also recently added a feature where you can know your location without the use of GPS based on the information from the mobile towers near you (accuracy can be within a few metres to 1700 metres depending upon the number of towers near you) you can read more about it here.

Even after getting so much from the application I was not fully satisfied as I wanted it to do more for me, I wanted it to tell me my current speed and heading, I wanted to able to control the back light to remain on while I was using the maps and I wanted even more detailed maps of my vast country. Why? See this.

Shimla Google MapsJalandhar Google Maps

The first one shows the place to which I belong and the second is the place where I currently reside (no details for any of the two). So Google maps was still not doing me much good in day to day life.

I was very hopeful of Yahoo coming to my rescue with Yahoo Go! I know its another Java application which is very slow but I still hoped that with Yahoo Go 3 beta, They would implement better maps for India. I waited hard for Yahoo Go 3 to be released, downloaded it and was again disappointed.

Jalandhar Yahoo GoShimla Yahoo Go

So my quest to have better maps for my cities was still on.

Now coming to yesterday, I read this on Tech2 while surfing the site for updates. I immediately logged on to Yahoo Maps India and noticed the left lower bottom that the map data was being provided by CE Info Systems I also noticed that the maps were more detailed as compared to Google Maps. This is the same company which according to me has the best online maps for India at MapMyIndia. On searching the internet I found out that Yahoo maps India has been sourcing maps from CE Info Systems since April 2007, read more about it here.

The question which came to my mind was how can Yahoo be so stupid so as to have such good maps for India and still not implementing them in Yahoo Go! I mean, the application does ask for user location on its first startup so as to localize the content. Why couldn’t they include maps from this database. Why Yahoo? Why?

Yahoo’s oversight could not be all pervading I thought and I was sure that there must be some application making use of these maps. So I turned back to MG Maps and found this. It was bliss, v1.36.02 dated 22 Aug 2007 had added support for Yahoo Maps India. After cursing myself for having missed this for so long, I downloaded the latest version here and got to work.

See this!

North India 50 km North India 30 km

MG Maps turned out to have the following feature that I liked:

  • Support for Yahoo Maps India
  • Ability to show current speed and heading
  • Customizable (to a great extent)
  • Ability to download and cache maps
  • Online Tracking feature

These were only the major ones, there are many other which I’m sure people may like.

Now I had to compare the maps for the two cities that I had mentioned in the beginning. See for yourself!

This Is Shimla on MG Maps using Yahoo Maps India!

Shimla 1 kmShimla 200mShimla 50m

Now for Jalandhar!

JalandharJalandhar Windows Live Maps

The second picture is for comparison with the Windows Live maps.

I also tried other cities and found that although the Map data for cities like Chandigarh and Pune is comparable in Yahoo India and Google (with Google being better at some), the ability to give good maps for rural India along with other features which I had mentioned earlier makes Yahoo Maps India on MG Maps a clear winner for me.

Coming to the downsides/ drawbacks of the application.

  • Google Maps are no longer officially supported, read here, and I’m sure the day Yahoo releases a mapping application for mobiles in India they will withdraw their maps too. It is not that bad though since then we can expect Yahoo to have something for us from their stable. I also hope that since Yahoo Go 3 is still not officially available from Yahoo India’s wap portal, it might include India maps once it is released.
  • The driving directions/ routing feature still doesn’t work for India since it uses Google maps for search and not Yahoo India maps. I will post a request to the developer and hope that this is included in future releases.
  • Some features like caching of maps are still too tough for the common user to understand and implement.
  • Its not Symbian. I know many people don’t like Java applications but this the best that we have for the time being.

There are many more features and drawbacks which can be talked about in detail, as I mentioned web tracking, caching of maps amongst others and I could’ve compiled a more detailed blog talking about them, but I just couldn’t resist the temptation of letting this out.

Try it, and have fun exploring India! We can discuss more later!

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5 thoughts on “Mapping India!”

  1. As I said in the post….. I cursed myself for missing this for so long. The reason is simple I switched to Google maps when Google pulled the plug on MG maps, and MG maps hadn’t added Yahoo India maps that time and I didn’t bother to check back till I read the article on Tech2.

  2. I share your pain. I currently live in a small town called “Udipi” right next to manipal , and while the old Nokia maps had atleast one highway passing by , the new version of nokia maps that came with my v20 firmware upgrade for my N95 , does not even have that ! All it has is a nice green background which leaves alot to the imagination.Sigh.One can only hope.

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