Mobile Navigation Options in India

Best part about driving on chaotic roads of Delhi (and India) is that you will never get lost. Okay you will – but there are so many people out there that you can always stop anywhere and ask for directions. But if like me, you don’t like stopping every 100 meters to ask an auto driver for directions, you  have quite a few options now as the GPS navigation scene has improved quite a bit.

I’ve been using many such options for a while and here’s a summary. If you get lost or are traveling to India, this would be of use.

Google Maps: I’ve used it the most, primarily because till recently, it was the only free option available. The directions are quite accurate although the routes are not always the best (or the shortest) ones. But then who cares as long as you get to your destination? The search is obviously the strongest aspect of Google Maps and it is usually able to search whatever destination i try to find. On my blackberry, it would show my location within 3 meters but on a Nokia handset, it can only show the location within 20 meters. I am not sure if that is a handset issue or something else. 20 meters is also not too bad unless you are on a round about with six exits! There are some other problem as well. If you take a route which is different from what Google shows, it won’t recalculate. So you’ll need to manually do it. Also,  there are no voice  prompts to guide you. Google Maps also integrate with some other google apps like Buzz.

Nokia (Ovi) Maps: Nokia has changed the game by making navigation free (for Nokia handsets). The maps are good and voice navigation is quite helpful. You can even chose to have the voice in Hindi. The problem is that half the time, you’d be unable to search the destination. If you can’t find the destination, you can’t obviously get driving directions. I wish it was possible to search in Google and use Nokia Maps for directions. Maybe it is possible but i’ve not been able to explore that. The other problem is that the directions are sometimes “technically correct” but “impractical” – like it  asks me to turn right when there’s no way you can do that on a flyover. The reason it shows that is that there is a road below the flyover which goes to your right! They don’t support all the handsets and getting maps to work on your handset is like black art – just like Nokia messaging.  The good thing though is that you can transfer maps to your mobile via your computer and so it can be light on your data costs. The other advantage is that if you take a different route, it automatically recalculates  directions from your new location.

SatGuide is another option. The website mentions FREE license for Nokia but i’ve not been able to figure out how to get that. My emails did not get any response from them.

In the past, i’ve also tried mapmyindia. It was pretty good in terms of accuracy and search results but then it’s not free. I actually found it to be much more accurate than others.

Here’s a list of GPS maps (thanks Lokesh) but i’m not sure if they have the ability to show you driving directions as well.

Have you used any of these or something else? what’s been your experience?

7 thoughts on “Mobile Navigation Options in India”

  1. Great Analysis Apoorv. Infact i have had similar experience with OVI Maps as you mentioned, making the Maps application work on Nokia E72 itself was a challenge.

    On the contrary Google maps provides a seamless experience across devices with or without GPS capabilities. It uses the positioning from the nearest Mobile operator’s tower, which i thought was very smart thing to do. Google could do with enabling voice and few other interactive services on the Maps platform. Google Latitude is catching up quiet nicely where friends/colleagues can locate each other without having to make a call 🙂

    The way Nokia and Google are positioning their Maps offering, i recon subscription based Navigation tools will be thing of the past. Good for us, i must say 🙂

  2. You don’t need any of the above provided the phone has (a)gps. Just download Garmin free – the mobile version is free. Satguide and MMI sell maps as well as Garmin. The Garmin map is amazing and has turn by turn directions for all cities in India – yes it works in the interiors, but it still misses 30 yr old routes in CP! 🙂

    But you can’t beat it for the awesome interface and the user experience. if you don’t wanna spend money!

  3. Now, you might try to take it off Google Earth or so. Well, good luck to you: their map overlay for these regions is either totally absent, or it sucks! And ever tried to put a sat image on your GPS device (that is IF there’s a good coverage of the area, and IF you get it calibrated accurately)? Well, I assure you, once on the road, you’ll see next to nothing on your screen, particularly in full sunshine. Remember, there’s not much shade in Ladakh. You NEED an accurate and contrast-rich map, nothing less will do.

  4. Hey, I found your blog on yahoo and read allot of your other posts. I like what you have topost. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good job. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Comments are closed.

If you would like to get short takes directly in your mailbox, please do consider subscribing to my newsletter. I won’t spam you and your information will be safe. I usually send it like once a week (or once in 15 days).