Completely, totally FAILED by Google Maps and Blackberry in Paris

Well what a total unmitigated flocker it was this weekend.

The entire flocking mobile industry failed me. Massively.

We’re going to some European destinations shortly with the Mobile Industry Review (“MIR”) Show. Whilst it’s an exciting possibility, it’s not the sort of thing I want to do on-the-fly. I’d like to get a bit of research in before taking the team out to a surprise capital city.

So I hopped on the Eurostar on Saturday morning with my other half in tow and arrived in Paris a few hours later. It’s a genius service, the Eurostar — and it’s far too easy to forget just how near it brings the UK to the rest of continental Europe.

The one key point to remember is that the Eurostar arrives in the shit-hole that is Garrrrr-dooo-norrrrd (“Gare-du-Nord”) railway station. Surrounded, it seems, by all manner of homeless folk ready to rip your beautiful Blackberry Bold from your hands before you can say ‘J’aime le Pizza.’ At least, that’s how it feels. Gare du Nord isn’t the prettiest of locations.

Not a problem. We exited the station, turned right, then right again, then hit the mile-long queue of people waiting for taxis. Arse. Not quite a mile-long but certainly at least an hour of standing. During weekdays, the service is pretty brisk but all I could see was a queue of about 200 folk and one taxi in the rank.

“Screw this!” I pronounced to my other half, “Let’s pick up a cab on the way.”

Our destination was the centre of Paris. Notre Dame. That sort of area. I wanted to get a look at some famous locations to do some filming.

“We could walk?” queried control.

“Er,” I said, quickly thinking about the less than salubrious ‘Nord’ area of Paris.

“Oh come on, it’ll be good exercise,” she said, walking away in what appeared to be the direction of a big central road.


“Fine,” I said to myself, “FINE. It’ll be ok. I’ve got my Google Maps.”

My thoughts continued. I’ve got my Blackberry Curve, it’s got GPS built right in. Give me 10 seconds and I’ll have a flashing blue circle indicating our exact location — together with some streetmap directions to Notre Dame.

As we began walking, I flipped up Google Maps.

My international Vodafone-locked Curve was showing the network, “208:10” or something like that. Helpful. I assumed I was running on SFR.

As we crossed streets in the general direction of Notre Dame — contrary to popular belief, us Scots have a good internal radar (especially for Pizza Express, by the way) so I’d mentally calculated the rough direction based on what I knew of the Gare’s north/eastish city location. More or less go down and a bit left, I reckoned.

But it’s always good to have clarity, right?

Google Maps fired up. Version 2.3.1.

I watched as the little bar climbed to about 20%. Then it stopped.

“You what?” I said out loud.

I gave it about 20 seconds before I began unleashing a torrent — a sheer torrent — of abuse.

And I can’t quite describe just how FLOCKING annoyed I was.

“Network gateway bollocks error,” the device displayed.

“Please flock off and look at You might need to reconfigure your flocking Blackberry.”

My other half, seeking to calm me, produced a map from the guidebook we’d bought.

“See!” she exclaimed, “Your mobile technology isn’t that ubiquitous.”

My annoyance level hit 10 out of 10.

“Give me a minute,” I said as we crossed some busy road. The locals were already staring. Her with the massive map spread out whilst she pulled the luggage. Me with a look of flocking thunder glaring at my piece of shit Blackberry.

Restarted it.

I only brought one FLOCKING handset with me. I was trying to travel light.

My sodding N95 would have us located in seconds. But I chose the Blackberry.

After the restart — another 5 flocking minutes — I confidently clicked the Google Maps logo again. By this point we’re having trouble locating ourselves on the map.

“It’ll be fine,” I tell myself, “Just a few seconds and wooosh.”

The Google logo appeared. Ahhh Google. How much do I love they?

Not a lot, as it turns out…

Google Maps turned the whole screen white and displayed this message:

Network unavailable: This application requires a data connection and some Blackberry devices require reconfiguration to work properly. Please visit on your computer for more information.

Well then.

That’s useful.

ALMOST helpful.

The PREVIOUS version of Google Maps for Blackberry worked FINE. I upgraded it at the behest of Google’s little application updater.

And now, it’s asking me to go to a website from ‘my computer’.

I’m stuck in some shithole in Paris.

I SPECIFICALLY didn’t bring any other devices as I thought the Curve would be reliable enough.

I keep getting annoyed at myself for leaving the house in the morning with 3 or 4 different handsets just-in-case. I always like-to-be-covered. But here I was, trying to grow up. Trying to be sensible. Trying to use a mobile like a normal user.

And here’s the flocking punishment.

I *depended* on my Blackberry and Google. My primary mistake.

I uninstalled the application.

I looked up as we crossed into a highly dodgy looking section of Paris. I turned to glance at her, noting the brand new Mulberry handbag, Burberry shades and fancy luggage together with the large map waving about in the wind. Can anybody say TOURIST?

“Er, put the map away darling,” I say out of the corner of my mouth as I spy the locals giving us the once over.

“Why? We’re heading in the right direction?” she tells me.

I don’t wish to point out the massing locals looking at — what — at least 3 grand’s worth of potential and immediate cash via the backstreet pubs of Paris. One could happily assume the luggage contained an array of laptops, digital cameras and other easily sellable goods. In fact it contained a pair of shoes and a tie. But that doesn’t help.

Dodgy looking folks hanging around on the street nudged their neighbours as we came trundling by.

I can only assume that the absolute apoplectic rage written on my face and emanating from my every movement silenced these potential pillaging hordes.

If I had Google Maps, I’d know exactly where I was. I’d also NOT look like a tourist when I pulled out the device to check my location.

THIS is the first rule. DO NOT look like a tourist. Google Maps on your mobile (provided it’s not a 3k Vertu you’re pulling out) is a good way of avoiding carrying tourist-adveritising maps.

As my other half recognised the potential danger, the map was quickly put away.

“Fat lot of good your technology is then,” she commented. Entirely fairly.

I think I just grunted. And swore a bit more.

“FLOCKING VODAFONE!” I screamed, at one point.

I was annoyed at this possible network failure. FLOCKING SFR.

Then I recognised it probably wasn’t a Vodafone issue, seeing as I was able to get my email and IM fine. Data was working.

Just not Google-flocking-Maps.

I tried the built-in Blackberry Maps function.

“Maybe this will be usable,” I thought, thinking of Nokia’s own Maps software. I much prefer Google Maps but Nokia Maps is eminently usable if you really need it.

“This will be a poor second, but it’ll at least get me connected,” I thought.

Flock that.

Flock that with bells on. Blackberry Maps = pile of shit.

Pile of unmitigated stinking shit.

It loaded up and displayed some green/black lines and a blue dot for about five minutes. Then I threw the Blackberry in the gutter.

At least, that’s what I felt like doing.


Eventually we reached Notre Dame. I posed, for some inexplicable reason, with my sodding Blackberry whilst she took a picture. I am not publishing it.

I have been failed by Blackberry and their stupid architecture. If they’d made the thing easy to use, Google wouldn’t have had to display some bollocks message to me when I REALLY NEEDED and was REALLY RELYING on the Maps/GPS function.

What’s more, I put my personal safety on the line. Not massively. I’m sure these cheeky chaps eying up our luggage/handbags/shopping wouldn’t have harmed us.

But I am not into flirting with danger. That’s not my bag. That’s why I happily blow shitloads of cash on decent mobile devices and services.

Well I’m stupid.

How I longed for the iPhone as we wandered along unknown roads. Or a Nokia device that *just works* (albeit rather annoyingly).

“It’s fine, we know where we are roughly. Smile!” she tells me.

“I don’t think you get it,” I respond through my teeth, “I’m supposed to be good at this shit.”

I’m supposed to have shit hot devices. It’s a self appointed thing. Here I am, Mr Mobile Industry Review, stuck. Stuck in flocking Paris.

I didn’t do any research.

I didn’t buy any maps.

I didn’t bother looking stuff up or planning routes.

I didn’t order a taxi to pick us up from the station.

I relied on mobile technology.

And when I really needed it — it didn’t work.


And here I am, early on a Monday morning, and guess what? I loaded the Google Maps application to view the error message again. Replicated it in the quote above.

I left the error message on screen whilst I typed this out. 15 minutes later I picked up the Blackberry and found Google Maps working fine. I restarted it. The error message has gone. GAHHHH. The lesson? If you’re heading abroad with your Blackberry and you want Google Maps to work — MAKE SURE it works in your home country first. And if in doubt, leave it for 15 minutes to piss about then once it works, you’re safe to rely on it.

But what a shit experience.


Flocking shit.

Shit with bells on.

I thought we’d got all this rubbish fixed. I thought you could get off the train in Paris and use your device as per expectation.

If you’re heading abroad, do not, DO NOT, DO NOT depend on your device to work.

Take two. Or three. Don’t get caught out like me. My mistake was to view this stuff as rock solid.

What a total arse.

In other news I spotted a Statue of Liberty — a small one, that would be worth filming in front of. I took a trip out to Versailles to check out the palace there and that might be a good location. I think it’d be a good contrast to some up to date wicked technology.

But not Blackberry and definitely not Google Maps on Blackberry. What a massively annoying experience.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

24 replies on “Completely, totally FAILED by Google Maps and Blackberry in Paris”

Here's a possible MIR special: Choose 5 normobs. Give them each a different consumer-grade device from each of the top 5 manufacturers. And maybe a budget of £200 each. Their goal is to travel from London to Paris, booking all travel via mobile, navigate to and visit 5 tourist locations, take snaps, share these with friends back in the UK, find accommodation and book via mobile, ditto food and entertainment (an english-language movie, maybe). They have to find the best mobile roaming or local prepay data plan too.

Get their traveling companion to vlog the experience via a handycam – maybe something as simple/robust and mugger-safe as a Flip.

Maybe let them keep the spare cash left over as an incentive to use the devices to find the best deals.

Such an undertaking would expose many, many holes in the industry. Many we know about, many we probably don't.


No maps, guidebooks or calling a friend allowed.

I'd love to see the outcome. It would

Throwing the toys out of the pram in Paris huh? Grow up, switch the phone off and say something remotely interesting to your other half.

sent from:

Easy there Rich, I'm sure a fair amount of licence was taken with the description of frustration. Who wants to read : “Went to Paris, my Blackberry didn't work. Oh dear”

it is a very, very important issue in our industry. If someone equipped and informed as Ewan was can't make it work, what hope the normobs? How can we as an industry expect to prosper if we can't get the basics of the mobile internet sorted?


Better than that, Ewan, you could've called me, heh. You know I've moved to Paris, don't you? Next time you're in town: dotsisx(at)symbian-guru(dot)com .

And yes, the N95, N82 or anything with Nokia Maps could've saved you. No roaming charges, no bloody phone bills, no nothing. I downloaded the Paris map on my N82 before coming here, and so far, I haven't been lost once.

Except that handsets without a magnetometer (compass) are crap for following a route – you can't tell which way is north. Tried this 'round the back streets of London the other week and spent 5 mins walking in the wrong direction just to work out what was going on… 🙁

Are fold-up maps not mobile?

I'll just echo everyone else — Nokia Maps downloaded in advance and installed with PC suite. That's one area where NOK beats GOOG. Worked great for me barcelona, new york, berlin, amsterdam, manchester, bristol… it's even useful at home in London. The hybrid onboard/off board navigation system is way better than pure off-board systems, as you found out.

What did you think of Paris?

” I relied on mobile technology. And when I really needed it — it didn’t work. Useless.”

Oh man, sounds like worst case scenario but it's quite common unfortunately.

I hope you enjoyed Paris though

I have the latest google maps thing in my p1 and so far it has worked brilliantly in Brussels, Barcelona, Malaga and Brixton …. had I been driving… Why oh why can I get directions for walking around?

That's why I use the maps only to get my bearings and use common sense, and …. paper maps 😉

+1 for Nokia Maps.

I was in Berlin over the Weekend, and having installed the German maps to SD card was able to get exactly where i needed to be every time.
And the best thing – no roaming data charges!

I have done a lengthy side-by-side of G vs. N Maps on several different devices and Nokia are utter rubbish IMHO – even moreso considering you have to pay to use them.

The must useful feature – search – is so hopeless and out of date as to be worse than useless.

And *who* bothers with PC suite and pre-installs? If that's what it takes for N maps to work, then they are truly dead in the water.


You only pay for the sat nav or “tracking” feature, which you don't need if you're walking.

Granted the search is poor on Nok Maps, as it is the UI.

What's good is that it works without network, which is useful abroad — when maps are useful — given that many places don't have 3G (or compatible 3G, e.g. U.S.) and it costs a fortune for data

Gmaps UI is *far* from great either, btw…

iPhone would have been your best single device to take with you.

I use the Google maps in spain all the time, though data roaming can be a bit scary. I wish they would let you cache the maps in advance easily – I think it can be done via a jailbroken app but it really shouldn't be that hard.

How about a nice halloween show from the Paris Catacombes? You won't get much signal down there but theres lots of tunnels to explore 🙂

Gare du Nord isnt that bad although, granted, there are quite a few homeless people nowadays for some reason. But I seriously doubt you would have come to any harm at all. And it is not that far from Notre Dame at all.

Most of the robbing that gets done in any city is usually in the wealthier areas.

Gare du Nord isnt that bad although, granted, there are quite a few homeless people nowadays for some reason. But I seriously doubt you would have come to any harm at all. And it is not that far from Notre Dame at all.

Most of the robbing that gets done in any city is usually in the wealthier areas.

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