Ufone’s U-Track Maps, A Sheer Disappointment

I was really excited to see U-Track maps‘ availability on Ufone‘s website. According to my earlier post, the usage charges are very high but I was still interested to check it out at least. As promised, here I come with a review of the solution.

Introduction

U-Track maps is an XHTML based mobile website. I was expecting it to be an installable application. Anyways, before I go in details of the application features, I must tell you that if you try using the solution, you will, almost instantly notice that its an integration with Naqsha.net. Well, Naqsha.net is one of the serious efforts done so far in navigation domain in Pakistan, but I must say, things are pretty pre-mature right now and Naqsha.net. Moreover, integrating with U-fone, they have tried to increaset there user base significantly, which is a good sign. On the other hand, they have not anticipated such big traffic loads, especially during the first few day’s free trial time and their site seems broken at several points (see below).

Solution Walk-through

As soon as I got a Ufone connection, I dived in and launched the device browser. The first link on ufone’s mobile site http://wap.ufone.com was U-track maps.

I opened it up, selected the city and the only thing I could do on the page was “Search”.

I typed a search string and and well, quite a long list of related items came up. I selected one of the item and I could see its location on somewhat nastily orange-themed rip-off from Google maps images. That’s it! You cant do much more than that.

The map that shows up, is well, kind of detailed but its in small size, its irritating orange and green colored, road and place names are hardly readable and until you know the city well you cant figure out much from this map. That really kills the need of navigation anyways. I could see three options under the map, 1) View Larger Image, 2) Make a route and 3) Search nearby, but all 3 of the links were broken (actually application crashed or something, was that because of the heavy traffic load?). See video for details.


U-Track Map, Walk-Through

Feature Feedback
Following is the feature list and comments for each feature:

Solution Type
Web-based mobile application/web-site. I expected it to be a GPS-enabled or at least location aware installable application.

Search Places
Search results are quite detailed ( the list is usually long) but they are irrelevant to your current location. In addition, only names of the search results are listed, no additional information like phone numbers, web links, email address, nothing! You can select a location and can view it on map.

View on Map
You can select one item from the search results and can view it on map. The site shows an image showing a street map with a marker showing the destination. If you select a road to be shown on map, it shows two markers named Start and End.

View larger map image
When viewing a map, you may want to see a detailed map. This feature is available but the link broken. (See video)

Make a route
This was the only exciting feature for me but unfortunately, this link was broken as well
(See video)

Search nearby
Link broken again (See video)

Review Summary
In short, the solution is a total-disappointment. Most of the features are not working, but even if all its features start working, it is no-where near its available competitions. I will soon write a post about its competitors.

The Good:

  • The application is browser based, so the number of supported handsets is very large.
  • A lot of places have been listed and are available for search, thanks to Naqsha.net

The Bad:

  • There is no way you can search near your current location, no self-location detection mechanism utilized (GPS or Cell tower location)
  • No details, phone numbers, email , web-link or photo etc. available for the public locations/businesses available in the search.
  • The names of the roads, places and locations are hardly readable on the map.
  • Orange color dominance on the map (just because of Ufone color) is really irritating.
  • No voice support (obviously being a web page) for people using it as in-car navigation system.
  • Too costly as discussed in my last post

The Ugly

  • Make-a-route option to your searched destination, the link is broken.
  • View large map, link broken
  • Search-nearby, link broken

I will soon write a detailed post on U-track map’s available competitions. Stay tuned!

Ufone launches U-Track Maps

Ufone has jumped into the location based services with their navigation system named UTrack Maps. This is a welcome addition to the available location based services in the local market. This launch is pretty much in time because other mobile based navigation services, in which Google Maps is one of the popular ones, are still in their infancy and Ufone has a chance to take over the market. From its description, it looks like a wap-only solution, though I yet have to try out the system. If you get a chance to try it out, do give us your feedback.


The main features of the service as described by the service web-site are:

  1. Locate a position (Point of interest) on map.
  2. Radius search (Search nearby)
  3. Routing and Distance

Please note, that routing and distance services (point 3 above) is not part of the Google-Maps-Mobile’s local offerings as yet which can be Ufone’s unique selling point here. On the other hand, the use of this service will be very heavy on the user’s pocket. As opposed to Google-Maps-Mobile’s free search and location information, Ufone will charge you Re. 1 to view a location on map, Rs. 2 to view a route, Rs. 1 for searching for a location nearby and if you want to view a large image that will again charge you Re. 1. Standard GPRS charges will also apply in addition to all above. This is really expensive, is’nt it?

The details of the package are available on Ufone website. You can simply start off by visiting http://wap.ufone.com from your mobile phone (obviously using ufone).

I will try out the service and will possibly post a review.

Starz.pk – A real star for local business listings

I just came across this site, Starz.pk. The site is a local business listings site and I was astonished to see the number and details of entries available on this website. The site has listings for 26 possible cities of Pakistan. You can search a wide range of business listings and I must say, the people maintaining this site have done a nice job. I tried several searches in Lahore and always ended up with a relevent list of results. Some of the searches I tried on the site were printing, kabab, fish, books, stationers, dentist, vegetable, sabzi, chinese, dvd, cinema, cricket, software house, milk shop and even tyre shop. Wow, I do get results, may be not very close to my current location, but still, most of them make sense.

The information on the site is again a community effort and the site expects the users to add businesses to the directory. Users can enter the name, contact details, payment modes and ratings for a business. You may or may not be the owner of the business and if you find your business added to the site already, you can take the ownership. The site is well-built, well-maintained and good-looking. I also found several business listings with the Map location and a very neat Google Maps integration that shows the location of the business on a detailed map. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve seen a site giving you driving directions for a local business destination (obviously using google maps). The home page is kept alive by adding dynamic sections like latest reviews, top-reviewers, new-arrivals and featured members.
Signing up is also simple and once you have logged in you can rate a business from 1 to 5 stars or you can write text reviews about the business. The site does’nt say it explicitly but I’ve seen that the moderators are pretty active and they keep reading every post and keep things clean on the website.
Then, I tried adding a business and it works like a charm. Well, to give it a shot, I added a fake business and within minuts the entry was gone from the site. Good job Starz moderation team.
Right now, there is only one big down-side of the site. There are a lot of entries for the larger cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, though I dont find many entries in Faisalabad, Haiderabad, Gujranwala or even Quetta. The site owners should put an effort to draw more contributors from smaller cities to make this site a success.

Zong marketing team, getting REALLY short on ideas!

I remember Osama’s earleir post on Green & White, that talked about Zong’s advertisement campaign that used a stock image that was already used for a book’s cover. Well, that could be shortage of time and resources and somebody at Zong marketing department went to istockphotos and bought an image for the campaign (I hope they bought it). 

This time around though, Zong marketing has proved that not only they have run out of ideas, they have started stealing them as well. Zong’s recent advertisement running on almost all tv channels has a scene copied from Jim Carrey’s movie Bruce Almighty (2003).
See for yourself :

Could you expect such an open plagiarism from a telecommunication company that has already been accused of lacking quality in its ads and being sarcastic at other telcos directly or indirectly in their ads. Well, Zong really needs a strong and creative team like the one running Ufone‘s show these days.
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Two new add-ons to Google Latitude

Two more simple but useful add-ons to google maps + latitude are available now. Google latitude allows its users to share their current location from their mobile devices with his/her friends. So far, it was only possible to share your location with other latitude users. Latitude has gone beyond that point now.


Recently, Google has launched two add-ons to latitude service that allow users to:

1. Share their current location on their google talk (Google Talk Location Status (beta))
2. Share their current location with the whole world in form of an embeddable tag that users can use on blogs, discussion groups or put on their websites etc.(Google Public Location Badge)



The simple tool changes your Google talk status to your current location. For that you have to: 
1. Install and run Google Maps and Latitude on your mobile.
2. Login using your google account on latitude on your mobile
3. Go to the add-in’s site.
4. Enable sharing

That’s it, you are done.

Following video shows you exactly how to do that…




If you are already using latitude to share your location with friends, you can simply go to this Public Location Badge site and enable sharing. This will give you the embed code that you can put in your site/forum/blog and display your location to the world. Following videos shows how:


Windows 7 RC is ready!

Windows 7 beta has been available for download on Microsoft website for both 32 bit and 64 bit systems. For a beta version, it has been an amazing product with efficiency, stability, usability and compatibility being the most important features for me.

Microsoft has just announced the release candidate of Windows 7. Windows 7 RC became available for MSDN subscribers on April 30th and will be available for download for general public on 5th May. According to a newsletter Microsoft sent to its beta testers including myself, this RC will continue to be available for download till end of June. 
Visit Windows 7 website for further information or simply start your download from the Windows 7 download page.