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WoNoBo finally releases an Android app but it still needs a lot of work

wonoboStreet view mapping service WoNoBo which launched in October last year, has launched an Android app that has all the issues its website has and then some more.

The app has a two-pane interface,similar to the mobile website of WoNoBo. It lets you search for locations, get directions and share your location; a very small feature set for a mapping app in this day and age.

When you open WoNoBo it shows the street view from the road closest to you by default. However, if you ask the app for directions the app chokes harder than South Africa in the semi-final of a cricket World Cup. It’s slow and there is a high chance you might not find the location altogether.

Even if you find the location, the load times are terrible making navigation pretty useless. It takes so long that by the time WoNoBo loads each location, you might have passed the turn you were supposed to make. That being the case, you’re better off using Google Maps or Nokia Here for the navigation and using WoNoBo for viewing the street view of the destination to familiarise yourself with the area.


What’s missing: Many features that are part of the website have not made its way to the app. Missing features include walking tours that lets one view the touristy locations in a city, user-generated news stories for each location (is anyone uploading stories on the service any more?) and guides that are supposed to help tourists.

Other issues: The app shows icons in front of buildings to show if it’s an office and even provides contact details if it is one. However in case of multi-storey buildings that have several offices, it is close to impossible to select one office and view its details (see the screenshot above). In case the name of the building is too long, the app even truncates the name; a bad UI decision.

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These listings are a good idea, but the implementation needs to be improved and the company also needs to improve the contacts database it has as of now. May be it could tie-up with a service like Justdial for the same?

Why should you download it: The only reason you should and will use WoNoBo as of now, is because there is no alternative. Indian government does not allow Google or Nokia to create street view solutions citing security concerns and it’s not clear if it will change that policy any time soon.

Google had tried to launch such a service here once, but it had to stop collecting data after Bangalore police refused to give formal approval. However, it started adding street view for private properties last year and even expanded the offering to include monuments and heritage sites. The quality of Google’s offering is much better and once the search giant manages to get a clearance from the government to launch such a service, it is not clear what WoNoBo will do.

While a mobile app is nice, it needs to improve the quality of images drastically, especially since most of the images are more than a year old. It had been incubated with a $35 million investment over the last few years by BSE listed mapping company GENESYS and it’s not clear how much of that funding the company has to go ahead and update the images it has captured.

WoNoBo sent us these updates in response to the review

– We believe our apps should have a sharp and focused feature set and not overwhelm the User; apps for WoNoBo verticals such as ‘Walking Tours’, ‘Guides’, ‘Stories’ and others would follow as standalone apps that suit the mobile context.
– Regarding the lack of data for places, we would like to highlight that WoNoBo has extensive polygon data (unsurpassed by any mapping app) and is continuously integrating more data for each POI, which will reflect automatically in the app.
– Concerning the issue of speed, we’re just a bit slow only for generation of point-to-point directions (for now!) but extremely fast and responsive for all other activities on both 2G and 3G networks.
– The instances of tags crowding the 360-degree view fairly rare occurrences, and we are rapidly improving the UX with each iteration.

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