Hands on: Nokia HERE Maps for iOS

Nokia unveils its HERE Maps app for iOS, which includes driving directions, points of interest, offline maps, reviews, and more. While we don’t love it as much as Google Maps, it’s certainly an improvement over Apple Maps.

Late last night, Nokia’s HERE Maps app hit the App Store. It’s the number one trending topic on Twitter this morning and already has a few hundred ratings in the App Store. It works for both iPad and iPhone, including iPhone 5. The general consensus around the web seems to be “it’s not as good at Google Maps, but it blows away Apple Maps.” I’d tend to agree. It’s a very capable mapping solution and you should give it a look.

Offline Mode

Nokia brings something iOS users have longed for: offline maps. It’s easy to configure and easy to use. Select the area you want to save to your device, and the entire area will be available sans data connection. When might you use that? Anywhere you don’t have wireless service, anytime your device is in Airplane mode, anytime you travel internationally and don’t want to pay ridiculous data roaming fees, and of course, if your device is WiFi-only like the iPod Touch or iPad.

Once you select the area you want to save for offline use, you’re then able to choose how much map detail you want for the area. You’ll see a preview of the area at the furthest level of zoom as well as the closest level. It really feels intuitive.

Driving Directions

This is a bit of a step back from the functionality of Apple Maps, since it doesn’t provide voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation. You’ll see a full map view of your route, as well as a list view of each turn along the way, but it won’t speak the directions to you. This of course makes it less than ideal, because you’ll be taking your eyes off the road to read each instruction as you go. Oddly enough, if you choose to walk your route, HERE Maps will guide you by voice.

Directions are also available for using public transportation.

Collections and Community Maps

If you’re interested in creating maps to share with others, you’ll appreciate this feature. You can also subscribe to maps created and maintained by groups, known as Community View. The Collections feature syncs with the cloud – part of Here.net – to let you save your favorite locations and sync them between devices. This could be helpful if you’re planning a trip and want to save all the places you’ll be visiting before you go.

Reviews and Contact Information for POIs

HERE Maps includes reviews for several places that I’ve found so far. They are all powered by TripAdvisor, but only appear on certain locations. Integration with a more popular reviews and ratings service would likely make the feature more useful. As someone who travels often, I rely on a handful of services to help me find the best places to stay, eat, play, and shop, but Trip Advisor isn’t one of them. Every POI I’ve looked at, so far, includes a phone number. A few include websites, but not many.

All in all, HERE Maps is worth checking out. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be.

Download HERE Maps from the App Store, here.


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