Mobile Google Maps: First on Treo with KMaps!
By now most every Treonaut will have used Google Maps at least once on their PC and wished that they could have the same on their Treo while on the go.
Well, one passionate, dedicated and resourceful Treonaut did a little more than wishing and went out to develop the first (as far as I know) Mobile Google Maps application to easily view them on his own Treo.
In his words, he did this because “Since I use Google Maps often and I use my Treo 650 all the time, I thought it would be nice to have some of Google Maps on my Treo. Google Maps implementation is heavy on AJAX and no Treo 650 web browser to my current knowledge is able to handle Google Maps the way they are handled in PC browsers (at least my Xiino and Blazer aren't able to handle them). So, I decided to add some of Google Maps’ functionality on Treo 650.”
The early result of his work is extremely exciting with his free application – called KMaps – an excellent tool to quickly deliver Google Maps to your Treo (it will soon also support satellite images).
Personally, I am keen to use Google Maps on the go to look up shops and restaurants on the one hand but also to simply have a map of an area where I need to go to for a meeting or visiting friends on the other. In a mobile situation where time is of the essence, one of the great things about Google Maps is its ability to deliver results based on less than perfect queries. For example, a simple “94108” zip code entry conveniently brings up the relevant map for “San Francisco, CA 94108 USA”.
KMaps’ installation is straightforward with a single 108k .prc file. However, as it was developed as a Java mobile application (possibly for porting to other platforms in the future) it does require the separate installation of IBM Java WebSphere Everyplace Micro Environment (available for free to Treo 650 owners) which occupies a rather more hefty 1.6MB of memory. Having said this, I really believe that KMaps is worth it and so I put aside my Java reticence and finally installed on my Treo.
Before launching KMaps for the first time you’ll need to open the separate IBM Java VM application. At startup, KMaps will present you with a Settings page where you’ll choose the maps’ Distance Unit (miles or kilometers), Average Walking Speed (there’s a little guy walking on the maps as you navigate), the size of the maps that you’d like to download (I recommend 3x3 to speed the download and max is currently 5x5 as a full Google Map page can run up to 1MB in size), the map’s default Zoom as well as option to Show Latitude and Longitude. Once these setting are saved you’re ready to start your first map search.
As per the previous example, I did a search for “94108 restaurant” and promptly received 10 results for restaurants in that zip code from which I could choose. I selected the first and clicked on Map. After about 30 seconds the map with the restaurant’s location – highlighted by the now familiar red balloon – appeared.
Additionally, if you’d like to quickly repeat the same search in the future you can select Menu > Save Address. This currently only saves the search query and business contact details but a future version (perhaps next week) will include the saving of maps to your SD card. Additionally, there is also a plan to include integration with your Contacts.
Using the Up/Down or Left/Right on the 5Way button allowed me navigate (with the little walking guy that I mentioned earlier) across the map with a bricks pattern marking the maps limits. If you need to download a larger section of the map simply use the 5Way to move in the required direction and when the ‘little guy’ hits the limit a new map ‘tile’ will be downloaded.
Clicking on the location’s balloon will bring up the full address and contact details. There is no Menu access from the maps and so you’ll need to know that the Center 5Way will take you to the Zoom adjustment page while clicking ‘B’ on your keyboard will take you back to the initial search page.
KMaps has only been out for a couple of days and there are still a few minor bugs but the application offers much potential for further improvement which after exchanging emails with the author I have no doubt will be forthcoming very soon. Some ideas about how I envisage that KMaps could be further improved include:
- Currently KMaps does not have a cache of previously viewed maps and so I would like to see maps remain in memory after exiting the application instead of currently requiring the search to be repeated. In this same vein all maps should be able to be saved to card so as to allow for offline browsing –perhaps even a conduit could be created to download maps via the web to our Treo.
- Integration with Contacts (forthcoming).
- Direct dial of numbers from within KMaps + save address to Contacts
- Integration with 3rd party traffic information data
The possibilities are virtually limitless and the developer, Ivan Mitrovic, is keen to get your own feedback so please make sure to share it with him so that he can continue to refine his already very good application. At the same time, please note that he’s using Google’s proprietary maps and so cannot sell his application but will instead rely on your donations (which he undoubtedly deserves).
Treonauts are always on the map…