Quick app review: Nokia Drive 3.0 for Windows Phone

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Announced at the Windows Phone Summit a few weeks ago, Nokia Drive 3.0 takes the Finnish company’s turn-by-turn app to the next level with a new feature called My Commute. The app also has a few nice improvements, including favorites, a slightly improved UI, and much more.

When you start up Nokia Drive 3.0, the app will prompt you to provide details about your daily commute. Particularly, your origin and destination, as well as what time you usually leave for and depart from your destination. Once the Quickstart process is complete, it’ll prompt you to pin a Nokia Drive live tile to your start screen. If it’s already pinned, you’ll end up with duplicate live tiles. You’ll also find a new section in the navigation options: Commutes.

This is where things get a little strange. The app only supports a single commute at this point, but below Commutes it says “1 commutes from here,” implying that you can have more than one. Drilling down into Commutes, you’ll find a simple commute summary not dissimilar from the standard route summary. More frustrating is that there’s no apparent way to edit or remove a commute. In fact, you can’t edit a commute at all. To do that, you’ll have to go into the settings, select clear history, and choose the option to delete your commute data. Not cool. To create a new commute – or to disable the commute live tile and routing info – back out, choose My Commute, and perform the Quickstart setup again. It would also be nice if you could customize your commute with more granularity, like different arrival/departure times for each day of the week.

Thankfully, the rest of the experience is much better. You can start your commute at any time from the Commutes section of the app, but the live tile is what makes it truly special. One hour before your scheduled departure time, the Nokia Drive live tile will light up with the current traffic conditions, including the estimated driving time and suggested route. Rather than launching the Nokia Drive main menu, tapping on the live tile will immediately begin providing you with directions.

Once you’re in the car, Nokia Drive will monitor your commute and provide you with alternative routes if traffic is detected ahead. The app is constantly learning about your driving preferences, so alternative suggestions are often based on past driving history. Features like this can be difficult to test immediately, so I plan on writing a follow-up post at some point about my routing experience. The previous version of the app was pretty good at directions, but it would occasionally attempt to take me on a different route than I’d prefer. Hopefully this will improve over time as it learns my preferences.

Nokia Drive 3.0 also adds favorite places to the app. You still can’t pull in contacts from the People Hub, but it’ll let you save your current location and any search results. Favorite places can be renamed – this is how you change the “Work” commute to another name – or pinned to the start screen. Strangely, Nokia Drive still doesn’t support App Connect, the Windows Phone feature which lets you quickly launch app features, like driving directions, from business listings in Local Scout or search results.

Finally, Nokia has updated the navigation UI slightly, making it more readable and user-friendly. The map will also change between day and night modes automatically, rather than forcing you to manually change it in the settings.

Nokia Drive 3.0 is a great update to the best-in-class Lumia-exclusive Windows Phone app, but it’s just a start. I’d like to see Nokia improve the My Commutes feature in the coming weeks and months, allowing you to edit commutes with greater detail (or, heck, just at all), create multiple commutes, etc. But I’d still recommend the app, despite the frustrations surrounding editing or removing commutes. It will take some time to determine just how good Nokia Drive 3.0’s improved routing features are, but for now, head on over to the Windows Phone Marketplace and try it for yourself.

[Windows Phone Marketplace via Nokia Conversations]
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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

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