One of the much-vaunted advantages Ovi Maps has over Google Navigation or skobbler is that it can be used in offline mode. However, this doesn’t come as standard, unless the maps were pre-installed on your phone to begin with by the provider. Instead, you need to install Nokia Ovi Suite on your PC, and then use this to copy the required maps permanently onto your phone. Amazingly, map availability covers a large proportion of the world, including a few South American and African countries, plus Australia, New Zealand and a fair amount of Asia, although detail is sketchy in some of these areas.
You can still access maps for all these regions if you don’t install them, but only in online mode as they will be downloaded dynamically each time you access them. Another feature you can’t access in offline is the satellite view. It’s also worth noting that using Ovi Maps in offline mode won’t necessarily save you international roaming charges, as you will also need to turn off A-GPS and network-based positioning assistance, since this polls the network to aid GPS satellite discovery.
However, whilst you can run the app in offline and online modes, using the former reduces your options when searching for a destination. For a start, the list of results this provides will be much shorter and confined to the local area. If you want somewhere outside the local area, you will need to input the street, town, and even the country in your search string.
In contrast, when you use Ovi Maps in online mode, the destination search is unified and keyword based. This may not be a particular revelation compared to Google Maps, but few standalone sat-navs let you look for destinations in such a free-form way. For example, search for our favourite “Wembley” and you’ll be offered the geographical middle of that part of London, followed by the Stadium, and then a few other select POIs. Search for an unusual street name and you don’t even have to know which city it’s in. You can also set up a home location and a list of favourites, browse the map to select a point, or choose from a list of recent destinations.
Unlike Google Maps Navigation, which doesn’t have a traditional POI database yet, Ovi Maps lets you look for destinations across the usually array of categories, some of which have sub-categories. As we mentioned before, however, you get the most out of this when a data connection is available, because otherwise the POI search will only include the maps you have pre-installed to the device. POI icons are shown on the map, too, and you can click on these to call up information about them.