Nokia’s HERE Maps is now available in beta for all Galaxy phones that meet the minimum hardware requirements. The map and navigation software arrived in beta on Wednesday and can be downloaded from the Samsung Apps store.
While [company]Google[/company] Maps has had plenty of rivals on phones, it comes pre-installed on every Android phone that is licensed to use Google’s apps and services, making it the de facto standard. Google’s own Play Store, for example, shows that the app has been installed between one and five billion times. So the uptake of HERE Maps will be worth watching as it first becomes available for Galaxy phone owners and, presumably, for a wider range of Android phones in the future.
Why might people choose to use HERE Maps instead of Google’s own software?
Nokia has built up an extensive database of geographical information in 196 countries, including indoor maps for more than 90,000 buildings around the world. It supports turn-by-turn navigation for driving or walking as well. But the biggest advantage is the offline capabilities of HERE Maps. Google Maps has offline support as well, but it’s fairly limited by comparison: You get very little information about the points of interest and search functions won’t work.
When using HERE Maps offline, you really can’t tell that you’re actually offline because the app still works the way you’d expect it to: turn-by-turn navigation, details about places around you and searches that actually search:
To use the app, your Galaxy phone must be running Android 4.1 or better with 1 GB or more of memory in your handset. Nokia says that it’s ultimately up to Samsung to decide which of its phones will be supported. Of course there are more Android phones than just the ones Samsung makes, so I’m looking forward to hearing about future plans for HERE Maps from HERE’s head of design, Peter Skillman, at our Gigaom Roadmap event next month: He’ll be discussing how maps and context can be a design platform.