Nokia's step away from Symbian and relaunch with the Lumia 800 running Windows Phone didn't impress us quite as much as we were expecting. But one feature of the new handset was a particularly welcome return to form - the rebirth of the previously award-winning Ovi Maps as Nokia Drive. Its predecessor was so good, we felt Nokia Drive deserved its own individual review.
Ovi Maps particularly impressed us with its map coverage, and its ability to download maps to local storage. So you could still use your phone as a sat-nav even when out of data coverage, and you could avoid pricey data roaming. The Ovi Maps service started off being a premium add-on, but Nokia then began giving it away for free. This ethos has carried forward to Nokia Drive, but otherwise the app is a completely fresh piece of software designed to fit in with the interface conventions of Windows Phone. An equally important shift is also that, where Ovi Maps was tied to a desktop app for downloading of maps to local storage - something we found could be a bit fiddly - Nokia Drive does everything within the handset.
You simply go into the Manage maps section in the settings, and choose which maps you want to download. Unsurprisingly, this is best performed where you have a WiFi connection, as the data requirements can be huge for countries with extensive road networks. The choices are vast, too, and cover most of the globe. The Europe section doesn't just consist of the main Western European countries, but Eastern Europe including Russia. The America section includes a lot of South America and the Caribbean, although not Cuba, as well as Canada and the USA. The Australia / Oceania section incorporates New Zealand, and Asia has a fair portion of the Middle East, although not Israel. Finally, most of the major countries in Africa are available, although quite a few smaller ones are absent, such as Mali, Liberia, or Ivory Coast. Ethiopia and Eritrea are missing, too.
This sounds like an idyllic situation, but it does have one drawback to do with the Lumia 800 itself. The phone comes with 16GB of local storage and no MicroSD slot for upgrade. So you won't be able to fit all the maps on at once, particularly if you've got a healthy music and movie collection on board as well. So some judicial pruning may be required from time to time. It's possible to download only portions of countries, which is handy if you find yourself forced to grab a map whilst data roaming, and of course you don't have to download maps at all, as the portions you need will be pulled down as required dynamically, if you navigate to a location for which you haven't obtained a map yet. You will also need to download a voice for the verbal commands, although this doesn't take up a lot of space, and only needs to be done once per voice.