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New Blackberry Maps has miles to go Add to ...

Much has been made of the ongoing reinvention of the BlackBerry brand with the release of the new operating system and Z10 smartphone in Canada, but little was said initially about what the mapping app would offer, and how it would differ from the brilliance of Google Maps or the disappointment of Apple’s attempt.

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BlackBerry’s effort ends up somewhere in the middle, though it’s hard to figure out exactly where.

Apple’s fumble illustrated just how important mapping apps are to smartphones today, and to the drivers who rely on them. The new BlackBerry Maps bears no real resemblance to the previous incarnation, so this is very much a new beginning.

The new app offers turn-by-turn directions, spoken street names and traffic information. It saves your favourites, recent search queries and destinations, and can also tap into your contacts, if you need it to. Searching for an address, place or thing is easy enough through the search bar. On the surface, it would seem that it has the essentials.

Missing from all that are public transportation routes, pedestrian navigation, satellite view and a tie-in to apps that can provide more information on a venue, like Yelp or Open Table, for example. You can’t “pin” a location and points of interest don’t necessarily pop up on the map as you might expect.

And unfortunately, there’s no way to do a search or set a destination and route by using the BlackBerry Z10’s built-in Voice Control. While you could do that with Apple’s Siri, it defers to the company’s own mapping app, which would be a deal-breaker for those who have sworn off it. On Android, of course, it’s a perfect storm because Google Maps is the go-to map on that platform.

Turn-by-turn directions and spoken street names are all fine on BlackBerry’s Maps. It’s also unlikely to get you lost, or at least that was my experience in using it. Once a route is set and navigation starts, you will notice the map isn’t 3D. It also doesn’t let you set a stop or destination in between a route. And for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to go into landscape mode, either.

Swipe down from the top and you can access the settings. Choose between the fastest, simplest or shortest route, and opt to avoid highways, toll roads, carpool lanes or ferries. Aside from that, there isn’t much to change, other than night mode, turning off voice directions and toggling between kilometres and miles.

The app also needs to be updated to better reflect what’s open. Searches found stores that had closed over a year ago, and others within a kilometre wouldn’t come up in results. The overall interface isn’t intuitive off the bat, but it does start to grow on you once you get the hang of it, even if the options are minimal.

This will get you from point A to B, so it does the most important thing a navigation app is supposed to do. It just needs work on doing it all better and with more options to at least be viable in case third-party nav apps don’t come to the new BlackBerry.

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