Nokia’s Here Maps, which power maps on Windows Phones, has released a beta version for Samsung Galaxy Android phones. It’s not available through Google Play, though presumably it will be in time.
Nokia’s hardware/handset division was sold to Microsoft but Nokia retained the Here mapping service. Now Microsoft is going to phase out the Nokia brand on smartphones in the very near term. My belief is that one reason Windows Phones have sold better in Europe than in North America is because of the Nokia brand; there’s much more Nokia loyalty and brand equity in Europe.
By killing the Nokia name (though not Lumia apparently) Microsoft risks dampening Windows Phone sales accordingly. However that remains to be seen.
I have various Android devices but not a Samsung Galaxy smartphone so I couldn’t try out Here Maps for Android “hands on.” In my past experience with Here, however, I’ve consistently found its UI, data and general functionality to be inferior to Google Maps and generally disappointing.
The company has been working hard to improve its maps. But since I haven’t tested the new version I cannot attest to that. Here does have one obvious advantage, users can download maps for offline use. Google offers similar functionality but for more limited geographic areas.
With Here you can download maps of whole countries for offline use. This is obviously great for international travelers who want to save on data or who don’t have international data plans or local SIM cards. Skobbler (owned by Telenav) and others have similar capabilities. Google Maps allows for discrete areas to be downloaded but not entire countries.
As suggested above I’m quite skeptical of the outlook for Here Maps on Android, given how much of a lock Google Maps has on Android user behavior — except in specific countries around the world such as China. Here Maps would have to be superior to Google Maps in ways that were immediately obvious to gain Android user adoption.
It’s being reported that Here Maps will also come to iOS, where there’s a much better chance of visibility and success.