Saturday, 27 February 2016

Windows 10 System Apps Review: Maps

Note: This page is a review which forms part of the post Windows 10 System Apps Review

What’s this app for?

Guess. Ok, you got it right first time. This is an app for viewing maps. No, not Google Maps, but Microsoft’s HERE maps (previously belonging to Nokia). You can find out about locations, street views, traffic and even get directions to places around the world.

Does it do the job it was primarily designed for?

Yes, to a decent degree. The trouble is that most people are used to Google Maps. Anyone who has used Google will immediately feel somewhat resistant to this app and its map appearances as compared to the map market leader Microsoft’s offering is lagging, sometimes literally lagging. It’s not always that bad but it certainly doesn’t feel a fluid as it could be.

The basic controls on the screen at all times allow you to change orientation from a directional point of view and a 3D perspective, which both work very well. You can centre in on your location (which isn’t accurate on my laptop due to a “known issue” with Maps that affect some computers, but you can set a favourite/home location manually) and you can swap between aerial/map formats and turn on traffic/streetview markers on the maps as well as the obligatory zoom in/out controls. For me personally, these controls on a laptop feel slightly more useful than I’ve experience in Google Earth/Maps.

There’s also a wealth of extra information available in the app as opposed to your basic map manuverening, with direction to/from places, a very handy informative panel on places you’ve searched for, streetviews and even some 3D cities:

The 3D views are pretty and undoubtedly handy, but they are not fully polished and rather limited to a select few places. Zooming around can produce some rather convoluted and untidy views.

Settings wise there’s not a lot. You can change the units of measurement, your preferred directions (i.e. walking, trains), download maps (very useful I’d think), set a saved location (very handy if, like me, your laptop tells maps you are 500 miles away from where you actually are) and get access to some privacy related controls.

There’s a lot to the Maps App; some very useful and pretty features which work very intuitively. The downer is that everyone will compare it to Google Maps. It lags at times and has less street view locations than Google Maps. In terms of actually using it in a practical basis to get somewhere, rather than as a glorified atlas, I cannot say how good or bad the app is. Numerous experience online listening to people discuss HERE maps is that they don’t compare to Google Maps. However, using it on my laptop I’ve not experienced anything seriously wrong, but given the choice, I would use Google. But, if I was without any other map service, I think the Maps App would provide a reasonable duty.

What’s the alternative?

Well, we all know about Google Maps which will be the main rival everyone jumps to as soon as HERE or its Maps App frustrates. There’s no Google Maps App of course, but you can get to it via the web. There are also a shed load of Map related apps in the Store.

Hit, Miss, or Maybe?

Maybe; there’s a lot of useful features in this app, although whether I could rely on it if I was out in the wild … I’m not fully convinced.

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