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Google Maps

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Sales of A-Z maps went down when Google Maps came along – and sales of printer paper went up, with people printing out a map of where they were going, throwing it away when they got there and printing the same map a month later when they went back… You can save paper and stop getting lost by putting Google Maps on your BlackBerry, and the latest version lets you tell friends where you get to.

Google Maps starts by finding out where you are; how accurately it manages this does vary, though. If you have GPS on your BlackBerry – and you’re not indoors where the phone can’t see the satellites – it can pinpoint you within about 50 metres. If not (or while you’re waiting for GPS to get a fix), Google Maps uses the mobile phone network to work out where you are.

In a city, that can be pretty accurate; on a Curve 8310 on Orange it put us in the right block of the right street (and claimed it was within 100 metres of my actual location), although on a Storm on Vodafone it put me over half a mile away and only claimed to be within 600 metres. That’s fine if you vaguely know where you are, but you might not trust it for getting off the bus at the right stop.

Google Maps might have put you on the bus in the first place; it offers public transport directions alongside driving and walking directions but it only has bus routes, so a one-hour journey to Heathrow by tube turns into a three-hour odyssey on five different buses. Stick to walking, driving or working out the public transport yourself and Google Maps is much more useful.

Search for an address or business and you get the address (and a phone number you can call directly from the app) plus the option to get directions. If you start by asking for directions you can still type in the name of a business as well as an address; if there are multiple matches, Google lists them by distance. It insists on showing them all on the map even if you pick one from the list.

Routes and directions are generally good and scroll as you travel, with the linking blue dot for your location giving you a good idea of how soon you need to turn (assuming you’re walking or navigating – it’s not a safe application for drivers). You can see traffic speeds, but only on motorways.

If you want your friends to see where you are, you can sign up to the Google Latitude service, which lets you decides who can find you and who you want to find; Google Maps will then feeds your location into Latitude. That’s great if you’re meeting friends, or looking for someone to hang out with, but remember to be careful who you share with and when you share where you are; you might not want a friend at work see you heading for a job interview with the competition.

Google Maps is usually reliable, but sometimes it gets your location wrong or claims it can’t get a data connection and the interface can be awkward or fiddly (more so than on other smartphones). Even so, it’s extremely useful.

Google Maps info

Ease of use: [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_60x60″,”fid”:”21627″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”60″,”width”:”60″}}]]
Value: [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_60x60″,”fid”:”21622″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”60″,”width”:”60″}}]]
Features: [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_60x60″,”fid”:”21627″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”60″,”width”:”60″}}]]
Overall

Platform: BlackBerry

Price: Free

Version: 3

Developer: Google

Website/Demo: Google website

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