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Nokia Drive

  • Free
  • Available at: Windows Phone Marketplace

Nokia's recent alliance with Microsoft on mobile devices has promised a great combination of hardware and software, and one of the most prominent apps is Nokia Drive for turn-by-turn navigation. Drive is basically a revamp of the old Ovi Maps on Symbian-based Nokia phones, but how does the new-look app perform?

The new Lumia 800 is the first Nokia handset in Canada to run on Windows Phone and offer Nokia Drive, which is exclusive to Nokia's Lumia line until it's rolled out to all Windows Phone devices some time this year.

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On the surface, there's a lot to like about how Drive works. It offers maps of dozens of countries, ranging from North America to Australia and Oceania. A wide range of languages are also offered, including pretty unique ones, like Afrikaans, Basque and Swahili. Some languages offer different dialects or male and female voices for added variety.

You can view maps in 2-D or 3-D and adjust from day or night screens (which you have to do manually). Turn-by-turn directions are basic, so you won't get spoken street names, but instructions are still clear and timely otherwise.

You also have the benefit of using the app without a data connection when you already have the map installed. This is great for travelling, except that a data connection is needed to actually search for a destination or points of interest. That's a problem if you'd rather avoid roaming charges. Your only respite is to set the route from a Wi-Fi hotspot before getting in the car.

Within Canada, you're fine if you have 3G or even EDGE, but you'll run into the same issue if you happen to be in an area with no coverage. It would also help if you could save destinations to a favourites menu, but that's not offered here.

Unfortunately, Nokia hasn't included traffic information either, so if you're looking to use this for your daily commute, you'd be going in blind. Even Google's Maps app has visual traffic information, and it's a shame Nokia wasn't able to include that.

Another oddity is that Drive only gives you an estimate on the time to reach your destination when setting your route, but doesn't display any timing info on the map itself.

The Lumia 800 only has 16GB of storage, and no microSD expansion card slot, so you can't download all the maps and have room for anything else. Unlike Ovi Maps, which required a computer, you can download (and delete) maps at will on your phone, but only via Wi-Fi. Voices are small files and can be downloaded over 3G or Wi-Fi.

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The biggest problem, however, is the lack of true multitasking. While it's possible to play music in the background when Drive is running in the foreground, you lose the map and navigation functions as soon as you get out of the app to change playlists. If you answer a phone call with your Bluetooth hands-free device, the navigation continues but the map might lose its way after the call ends.

It's a shame some of these basic features are missing because Drive looks a lot nicer on a Windows Phone device, and does its job smoothly. With future updates, it could really improve, but for now, it's not yet on par with other navigation apps.

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