How your phone can be your compass
Gaurish Sharma - a web developer and frequent traveller based in Jaipur - gave up on huge, foldable maps a few years ago. Now, whenever he is in an unknown city, he navigates its streets with the help of his smartphone. "I rely on my mobile for directions; of course, I also double-check by asking passersby to confirm if I am on the right track. But yes, these digital map services are easy to follow and quite wonderful," he declares.
Manik Kalra, a blogger from Delhi, meanwhile relies on services such as Google Maps to find his way around "the not-so-familiar part of the capital" .
Sharma and Kalra are part of a growing number of travellers who have ditched their maps after discovering the potential of GPS that is inbuilt into almost all tablets and smartphones (including those cheap Android handsets selling for less than Rs 10,000).
So, if you have a smartphone and are still relying on the 'paper trails' whenever you travel, we certainly believe you need an upgrade...
Google Maps and Navigation
Take Google's Android OS and marry it to its Maps service. The result is a tightly-integrated package. Unlike in the US, however - where Google Navigation is officially available - there is no turn-by-turn navigation in India. This means you can't place your phone on the dashboard, state your destination, and then wait to hear exacting instructions - turn right, turn left - as you drive. But short of this feature, Google Navigation works amazingly well in this country of ours. You just need to specify your destination, and you're set to go.
The app uses the GPS feature in your phone or tablet to find your location and give driving or walking directions. If you are up to it, there is also a hack available that enables turnby-turn voice navigation on Android phones.
If you don't like Google Navigation or if you are not an Android user, you might want to consider Waze (pronounced Wayz) - a free app available for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian (read as Nokia), and yes, even Android smartphones.
In India, Waze relies on maps provided by SatNav and is pretty accurate. As an added bonus, it offers turnby-turn navigation as well as real-time updates on traffic , based on feedback from its users, and a quick analysis of how fast they are moving on the road.
For all its features , map-based navigation is one area where Apple devices lack in India. But that doesn't mean you can't use those glitzy gadgets on your travels. We've already mentioned that iPhone owners can use Waze. But if you're looking for an option, you might want to consider FreeNav from Navmii.
The app uses Open-StreetMap - a wiki service that's made up of maps annotated by users. These are mostly very accurate, but there could be some discrepancies. Still, the FreeNav is constantly being improved, especially since OpenStreetMap allows you to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth.
Nokia Maps and Drive
If there is one area where Nokia still trumps the competition in the Indian smartphone market, it has got to be its inbuilt navigation features. Over the years, the Finnish company has painstakingly built very elaborate and detailed maps of Indian cities and now offers them through its Drive and Map apps on its Symbian and Windows Phone devices.
Nokia Drive, which features turn-by-turn navigation, is the gold standard in GPS apps in the country. It is accurate and covers almost all major roads and cities. So if you have a Lumia series phone or any Symbian smartphone - Nokia 701 and Nokia N8 etc - this is the app you need.