How to set up and use BlackBerry Maps

User guides 12:38, 26 Oct 2009

With BlackBerry Maps and GPS you can get a comprehensive mapping application with location-based services for free - if you have an unlimited data plan

With BlackBerry Maps, you can pinpoint your location via GPS, source nearby businesses, restaurants and other places of interest, and then get step-by-step, visual directions to those places.

Rather than being stored on the handset, the maps are downloaded each time you fire up the application, so an unlimited data plan is advisable if you want to avoid a massive bill at the end of the month. You will also need to be connected to the network to use the service, but you’re guaranteed to always get the very latest map data.

The Blackberry Maps icon will be in your handset’s menu, in the guise of a compass. If it’s not there, and you think it should be, give your network provider a call – they may need to activate it.

Coverage

BlackBerry Maps is available across the US, Canada and most of Europe (including the UK), and – if you head to South America – you will be covered in Brazil and Argentina.

Using BlackBerry Maps

A good place to start is to find out where you are on the map. Once you have fired up BlackBerry Maps, press the menu button to bring up the context menu. Select Find Location and the top entry should be Where I Am.

Press this to get a map of your current location. The device will bring up a ‘Searching for Satellites’ message, so it will work best if you are in the open, with a good view of the sky.

If you want to find a particular address, choose one from your contacts book, from a list of recent contacts or from a list of favourites (this is handy if you tend to search for the same things).

Another option in the menu is Local Search, which lets you enter a keyword, such as coffee, restaurant or hotel, and then searches for the locations of these services around the map’s centre, up to a distance of 30km. This is known as a location-based services search.

Searching for ‘petrol’, for example, will bring up a list of petrol stations and the distance to them from the centre of the map. Select one of these stations and you will be given the address and phone number. Select the address and it will appear on screen; highlight the phone number and the device will offer to call it for you. If you later search for the same thing, your previous search entries will appear.

Select Get Directions and you will be prompted to choose a start point and then enter a destination, which you can do using any of the methods above. You will then be asked if you want to plot the fastest route or the shortest route, and if you want to avoid highways (i.e. motorways) or tolls.

You can also send your location to someone else. Simply select this option from the menu and the device will create an email, containing your co-ordinates, to which you can attach a message. This can help to prevent those confusing “I can see a post office/blue fence/tree” conversations when you are trying to meet up with someone.

When viewing the map, switch between pan and zoom mode by pressing the select button. In pan mode, using the trackball will move you around the map; in zoom mode, rotating the trackball will enlarge or reduce the image.

Remember, the data comes over the network, so if you are not in an area with good 3G connectivity, this process could be a bit sluggish because the device has to request the data, receive it and then display it on the screen.

To orientate yourself, choose North Up, which puts North at the top. Alternatively, choose Track Up to put the direction you are heading at the top. Once you have plotted a route, each stage of the journey will be presented in a numbered list – pressing a stage will bring up an image of it. You can bookmark your favourite locations to save having to enter the information again.

There is no voice navigation with BlackBerry Maps, so it’s less suited to in-car use than other third-party applications, but such use is possible. Buy a holder that mounts on your windscreen or dashboard; this will ensure clear line-of-sight between the handset and satellite, and will let you see the screen without turning away from watching the road.

BlackBerry Maps’ strengths are its local-search capabilities and its handiness for walking directions. If you are with clients and want to find somewhere to take them for lunch – or if you simply need a cashpoint – this free application does the job.

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