Nokia’s hardware struggles have been well documented in recent years. But what’s been less of a focus amid all the hand-wringing has been the Finnish phone giant’s superb maps offering.
A service that Microsoft rates so highly that it insists on loading it up on non-Nokia Windows Phone handsets, it’s become the gold standard for mobile mapping.
Even Tim Cook suggested users of Apple’s below-average iOS mapping solution use Nokia’s service instead. Which is why Nokia HERE, Espoo’s latest mapping effort is so exciting.
The plans for this new service, which will be known simply as HERE (perhaps so consumers don’t conflate a winning maps app with a phone brand that no longer has much cachet), include a free iOS app, a similar Android add-on, an Android SDK and even web-based versions to rival Google Maps.
There’s also talk of bringing Nokia’s LiveSight tech to these apps. This feature is already in use in Nokia’s City Lens for Lumia application, allowing users to see a 3D view of the street in front of them, with augmented reality info such as restaurant reviews, cinema listings and businesses’ phone numbers.
In terms of smartphone mapping, Nokia HERE is huge and undoubtedly one of the most interesting and exciting things Nokia has attempted in years.
With Apple’s mapping effort seemingly permanently damaged by its poor start and atrocious public perception Nokia is seizing the chance to fill the void.
Offering the iOS maps app for free is a very smart move. And while it doesn’t currently include turn-by-turn navigation for cars, its public transport directions, voice-guided walking directions and offline functionality put it well above Apple Maps from the get-go.
But HERE’s Android foray is possibly even more exciting. The fact that Nokia is embracing Google’s OS is great news, a win for all those who want to see more cooperation and less backbiting among smartphone tech’s biggest players.
The app will be a winner. That much is obvious. But in having an SDK, Nokia is really pushing innovation and inviting devs to create cool extras that will hopefully make punters switch allegiances from Android’s built-in Google Maps experience.
Such new location-based services for Android using Nokia technology point to a 2013 will see a slew of interesting new features on Google-backed blowers. Nokia may still be on the long road to recovery, but HERE is definitely a step in the right direction.
The strength of its maps package should not be underestimated. The sooner it lands on iOS and Android, the better for wider innovation in the smartphone space.