I was thrilled to hear Google was offering Google Maps For Windows Mobile recently. I’m a big Windows Mobile user, and I’ve often felt abandoned by Google on my device. But actually finding that app using my Windows Mobile device turned out to be an incredible challenge. The same was true trying to find Microsoft’s corresponding app, Windows Live Search For Mobile. A look at that nightmare, below — but some good news for UK residents. Windows Live Search does support your mapping needs, unlike Google.
I was stuck on a slow moving train to London last night with no laptop, only my Windows Mobile phone and a 3G connection for much of the way. I also needed to find something in London, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to load up the Google Maps app. But where was it to be found?
First I tried the Google Maps site. No sign of it there, other than a message saying:
Your web browser is not fully supported by Google Maps. More information
The "More Information" link first gave me a security certificate warning, then when I went past that, I got a page talking about web browser issues. There was no mention of mobile download apps being offered.
OK, how about the Google Mobile site? That came up with a special page (not what you’d see using a regular browser) telling me:
Google services for your T-Mobile MDA Compact
Hmm — I actually have a MDA Vario II (which rocks, most usable Windows Mobile device yet!). I love that Google’s trying to get me to the right place, but a page like that leaves me worried it’s not figuring out things correctly.
More important, the page lists only these services:
No Google Maps. What next? I tried actually searching on Google itself to see if I could find it:
That led me to the Google Maps For Mobile page, which was NOT listed at all on Google Maps home page, as you might expect. Then I can’t find a download link for the mobile app itself, only information about it.
The download links are present when visiting the page using a regular web browser — big links at the bottom saying how to get the app for Windows Mobile or Palm OS. But they’ve not been put on the page Google automatically shoves down the throat of those it detects using mobile browsers.
I do see this at the bottom of the page:
on your mobile web browser
That confused me, because many people familiar with web sites will realize that these two URLs:
could easily be mistaken as one and the same for many web sites. They aren’t (if you use a mobile browser, that is — use a regular browser, and you get redirected from the first to the second). So I took a bit until I tried copying and pasting that special URL (which wasn’t hyperlinked).
Visiting that special page finally got me to the download link. The app fired up and looked promising. Greg Sterling’s already reviewed it here, and I might revisit it myself. But since it was only for the US and Canada, I didn’t play with it much. I needed to find something in London!
Two weeks ago, Microsoft was showing me their own maps app for Windows Mobile, which was fantastic. It launched at the end of December. Time to load it up, since I still had plenty of train journey left.
Again, where would I find the app? First I tried the local area at Live, Live Local. No mobile app links there. Live.com itself? That automatically kicked me into a special MSN Mobile page. You can’t see this on a regular browser (what you get has Windows Live For Mobile branding – on my mobile browser, it’s still all MSN). Services listed are:
- Messenger beta
- Live.com beta
- MSN.com beta
- MSNBC news
None of these leads me to the mapping app that I knew is out there. But since I could search, I tried a Live.com mobile search for it:
The second link is the Windows Live Ideas site. This new app is in beta, so that’s where it lives. Of course, Messenger and Live.com are also both beta products at ideas but get on that special MSN mobile page. Maps should be there too.
I clicked on the link listed in the results, taking me to a page with all the apps shown for download. Then I couldn’t download it. Why? Because the Live.com search results take you to a proxy service that breaks apart pages into more mobile-friendly chunks. When I tried to download the app, it came back with an error.
Fortunately, the direct app URL was listed. I copied and pasted that, which finally got me the app. Soon I had the traffic information for Orange County, which was neat. And as with Google, I might do a larger review in the future of the Microsoft product. But for London maps — sadly, it’s US only.
Well — hang on there. I thought it was US only. Certainly it was only US information that was listed in it. But in writing this up, using my regular browser, I read on the Windows Live Search For Mobile that the app is supposed to be for either the US or the UK.
Maybe I downloaded the US version by mistake. So following the links, I went here to a page I’d never seen before on my mobile device, giving me a choice to download for the United States or the United Kingdom.
I downloaded the app today using my device. It overwrote what was already on my phone, then loaded to show me the last place in the US I’d looked up. Ugh, no luck. But then I tapped on the words "United States" at the top of the screen. That changed to say "Regions," where below it both the US and the UK were listed. Great! I shifted to UK information, and then I found in a few seconds the exact place I was trying to locate last night.
Sadly, of course, I couldn’t find the UK download. I’m also still confused as to whether what I just did actually downloaded a UK version or simply somehow added the UK to my US version. I’ll explore this later.
How about Yahoo? Well, the Yahoo Mobile site thrilled me by pitching me to Get Yahoo Go pretty clearly via my device. Well done. Of course, then it disappointed me by saying it wasn’t available for Windows Mobile 5.0. C’mon, Yahoo — support the few of us that beat ourselves up with these devices!
Moreover, there was a suite of Yahoo Go that did support Windows Mobile. I know, because I put it on my phone back in December. That Yahoo Go 1.0 version now appears to have been yanked, leaving Windows Mobile users completely cutoff from Yahoo Mobile app support.
Overall, I love seeing these apps emerge. But I think both Google and Microsoft especially seem to need to spend more time actually using mobile devices and pretending they are consumers trying to download from them. Maybe my experience is completely out of the ordinary. But I don’t think so. As for Yahoo – either support Windows Mobile quickly or put Yahoo Go 1.0 back out there for those users.
Finally, a last plea to everyone. My "mobile" Internet Explorer browser is pretty much capable of doing what most browsers can do. Give me an option to escape out of the customized mobile experience you sometimes force me into, which often makes my life worse.
Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile | Microsoft: Bing Maps & Local | Microsoft: Bing Mobile | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | Search Engines: Mobile Search Engines | Yahoo: Maps & Local | Yahoo: Mobile & Go