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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Ironically, You Need A Map To Find Google & Microsoft's Windows Mobile Map Apps

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:

  • Search
  • Maps
  • Gmail

No Google Maps. What next? I tried actually searching on Google itself to see
if I could find it:


google maps for windows mobile

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:

Visit
www.google.com/gmm

on your mobile web browser

That confused me, because many people familiar with web sites will realize
that these two URLs:

http://www.google.com/gmm

http://www.google.com/gmm/index.html

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:

  • Mail
  • Messenger beta
  • Search
  • Spaces
  • Local
  • 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:


live maps for windows mobile

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.


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