“Do not use while driving”

gmm

Many have commented on Google’s new version of Google Mobile Maps, and specifically it’s “My Location” feature.

Carlo Longino homes in on the fact that it provides, finally, a somewhat humane and useful basis for a lot of the location-based services use-cases that mobile service providers and product marketers have salivated over for around a decade.

“I know my own zip code, but I don’t know its boundaries, nor do I know any others here in Vegas. So if I’m out looking for something, I’ve got little idea where to start. That’s the big problem with local search – we tend to spend a lot of our time in the same places, and we get to know them. We’re most likely to use search when we’re in an unfamiliar area – but often our unfamiliarity with the area precludes us from even being able to divine a starting point for our search. You don’t necessarily need GPS to get a starting point, as this new feature highlights.”

GMMv2.0 is sufficiently-advanced technology, not because of the concept behind it (location via cell network is pretty known) but the sheer, apparent quality of execution, simplicity and joy injected into the thing. This is something till now missing from most if not all mobile software, especially Symbian software.

Janne once said to me: “no-one codes symbian apps for fun”, and it shows. It’s enough to get the things working for most developers, and as they’re mostly doing it for a salary rather than fun, they walk away before the joy gets injected, or don’t argue when it gets de-scoped.

GMMv2.0 has some of the lovely touches that we’ve seen from the iPhone implementation carried over – like the location pins dropping into place with a little restitutional bounce. Just. So. It seems quicker and more focussed that v1.0, with location search features working to give the bare-bones info right there on the map rather than breaking-frame to a dialog.

The main, huge, thing though is MyLocation.

Chris gave a talk a few years ago at Etech 2004 called “35 ways to find your location”
, which argued against relying on GPS and ‘satnav’ metaphors for location services.

I don’t know if they downloaded his presentation in Mountain View, but GMMv2.0 delivers on Chris’s vision by not only using cellular location fiding, but how it interprets and displays it. By ditching the assumption that all location tasks are about a -> b in a car, and presenting a fuzzy, more-humane interpretation of your location – it gives a wonderful foundation for wayfinding, particularly while walking, which hopefully they’ll build on.

In other possible advantages that “Do not use while driving” gives you is it become a resource you can use indoors, where I’d guess 90% discussions about where to go and what to do actually happen, and where 90% of GPS’s won’t ever work.

Other contenders in the mobile wayfinding world seem to be pursuing interfaces built on the metaphors and assumptions of the car-bound “satnav” world e.g. Nokia Maps. Probably as a side-effect of most of their senior management driving to work in suburban technology parks everyday!

Actually, Nokia Maps (at least the last version I used, I switched to GMM and haven’t returned) does something even more bizarre when it starts up and shows you a view of the entire earth’s globe from orbit! I cannot think of a less user-centred, task-appropriate entry point into an application!

Very silly.

The Google mobile team are to be congratulated not only for technical innovation in GMMv2.0, but also having the user-experience savvy to step beyond established cliche in a hot area and think in a context-sensitive, user-centred way about the problem.

As Carlo says:

“I continue to be slightly amazed at the speed with which Google gets these apps and services out, and the overall quality of them, though I guess it’s a testament to the amount of resources they’re throwing at mobile these days.”

Can’t wait to see what’s next.

5 comments
  1. And *just like that*, GPS returns to being the niche market “satellite phone” of the mobile world. Good riddance. :)

  2. I’ve gathered the Maps Globe startup animation silliness is the same sort of thing as the N95′s secondary fancy animated app launch menu – in order to sell a project internally at Nokia, someone has had to add junk to the application to pass the project. This of course hurts the consumers.

    Google in the meanwhile seems to have the priorities right and really focuses on the user experience on their apps.

    I wonder if more people would understand the Google frame of mind we started to talk about how there “is no user experience” in their applications. That is, the actual application is hidden so well, the user doesn’t realize he’s “experiencing an application”. In the meanwhile, Nokia, and many other players, seems to think the User Experience means there has to be a glorified Moment Of Experience when a user fires up your app, which of course is 180 degrees from how it should be.

  3. Hugo said:

    “Actually, Nokia Maps … shows you a view of the entire earth?s globe from orbit!”

    A bit like Google Earth, but you can argue different usage (where am I now? vs. look at that cool thing the other side of the world!)

    “?I continue to be slightly amazed at the speed with which Google gets these apps and services out, and the overall quality of them, though I guess it?s a testament to the amount of resources they?re throwing at mobile these days.?”

    I’ve lost count* of the LinkedIn messages I’ve received recently from different Google recruiters building a Symbian dev team in London. Can’t wait to see what?s next either!
    (* well, three)

  4. karl said:

    Everyone is ditching Facebook Beacon about their policies? and nobody is worried about this.
    The world is mad. Hey wake up. Your position Real time, your habits ready to be consumed by announcers.

  5. I used this driving from Ann Arbor, MI to Grand Rapids, MI.

    “Do not use for driving” is actually quite relevant for the cell tower based geolocation, since you don’t get precise enough location information to make sure that you didn’t miss the exit.

    There’s a user interface failure mode where you try to get directions to a nearby place; some combination of search + navigation reset the default zoom level to hundreds of miles, not the two or three miles that was relevant.

    Very nice, very handy. I don’t need to buy a GPS now.

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