You may recall that Nokia recently announced that it would be bringing its superior mapping technology to iPhone/iOS and Android via a new app called HERE. Previously one of Windows Phone’s biggest advantages over the competition, Nokia’s maps are now shipping in a free HERE app for iOS. And, here’s a shocker: This app is actually nicer than the Maps app included with Windows Phone. You know, the one powered by Nokia mapping technology.
I don’t begrudge Nokia trying to pull itself out of its death spiral, though I’m of course unclear how giving away its maps for free will achieve that. (Comedy answer: Volume.) But I do begrudge that this new HERE app is nicer than the Maps app on Windows Phone, which is also powered by Nokia’s mapping technologies, a key aspect of the firm’s high profile partnership with Microsoft. (On Nokia’s own phones, this app is called Nokia Maps, and it is roughly equivalent to HERE in many ways, from what I can tell.)
How is it nicer? It takes only seconds to notice some key differences if you’ve used WP Maps as much as I have.
Public transit. On Windows Phone, Maps can provide walking and driving directions. But Nokia HERE (and Nokia Maps on WP) also include public transit directions.) It also supports a public transport map view in addition to (normal) map view and satellite view.
Audio directions. HERE supports audio directions, which Microsoft included in Windows Phone 7 but removed in 8 (a situation that can be partially explained by the fact that Maps is now extensible with navigation apps like Nokia Drive.)
More granular traffic alerts. In WP Maps, you can toggle traffic on and off, but in HERE, you can also choose whether to be alerted for accidents, construction, congestion, and other traffic issues.
It works sideways. Unlike with Maps on WP, or Nokia Maps on Lumia handsets, HERE actually works in landscape mode too, not just in portrait. You know, as you'd want when driving around in a car.
There’s more, but you get the idea.
And yes, I get that Nokia HERE is lacking a few features, like downloadable offline maps. But come on.
Here’s the thing. Nokia previously promised—way back in June—that it would be porting its excellent navigation app, Nokia Drive (which provides turn-by-turn functionality) to all Windows Phone 8 handsets. It has not done this, but now it is instead making mapping better on competing platforms instead. This doesn’t make sense to me at all. Not one bit.
Not cool, Nokia. Not cool.