We all heard of Nokia. And we heard of the acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft. It is a known fact that Nokia acquired Navteq maps provider and renamed it as HERE Maps. Most Nokia smartphones nowadays run a version of HERE Maps with free maps available, which made it one of the most popular apps for the Windows Phone platform.
Taking things further, we have now a version of the HERE Maps navigation software for Android devices . While it is still beta, has two crucial advantages: both software and maps are free, and can be used for offline navigation mode by downloading an unlimited number of maps (even an entire continent if we got enough space on the phone).
The application has a simple and intuitive interface. The map is visible in full screen mode, just like Google Maps, and we have 3 display modes: satellite, transport and traffic.
Changing display modes – is done by a small button located in the corner of the screen. The main menu, is positioned on top left, without affecting the visualization of data on the map. From the menu we can very simple use Drive button to calculate a route and receive visual indications and voice guidance, also use it to download maps to visualize what we already have downloaded, or configure application settings.
If we want, we can also use a personal account – and we can then customize HERE Maps, by adding or saving collections of our favourite locations.
We can explore the map, or view locations, we can introduce what we’re looking for directly into the search bar, which is placed on top of the screen. By choosing one of the results, we get route guidance information to follow. It is interesting, that we get offered alternative routes on the screen to select the best one we consider, and also that we can choose for each route the calculation mode: car, public transport or pedestrian.
After we make the selection, we can view both routes on the map, and we can change our mind at any time by choosing another route. In the navigation menu, (which can be accessed by pressing Drive in the Menu) the information available is well arranged on the screen.
The route followed is middle screen placed, in a highly visible colour scheme – having above and below two information lanes. At the top we have displayed the next manoeuvre to make on the route we follow, and the bottom we have the speed, the time to reach the destination and, if we have enabled the mobile data traffic, it can show you possible delays on your route.
2D to 3D easily switches by simply touching the screen, very useful for smaller screens where we couldn’t access this option while driving. HERE Maps navigation application was very well designed from this point of view. By sliding the information lane above we have access to additional features extremely interesting: we can again see alternative routes or we can replace route information displayed with others: for example instead of seeing the time to reach the destination, we can choose to see the remaining distance, or traffic delays.
Creating routes – Turn by Turn navigation in HERE Maps Beta for Android
Selecting destinations is intelligent, using a one search field where we can enter names of cities, streets and even points of interest. Search algorithm is well developed and it is showing conclusive results from our nearest location.
Generated routes are well designed and intuitive, using recent field data.
HERE Maps (Navteq) are used by many leading manufacturers like Garmin, NNG (iGO) or Sygic. We find the same maps integrated on navigation systems from BMW, Opel, Mercedes and many others.
Using such data, the HERE Maps application generates optimal routes adapted also to traffic conditions where there is such data provided. Even in pedestrian mode, happens that best routes are chosen, although most applications for Android navigation fail in this aspect. Voice guidance is very ok – and available in most languages.
We are dealing with a serious competitor to most navigation software for Android, whether free or paid ones. A serious competitor even for Google Maps.
Why? Because it looks and is as intuitive as Google Maps, but lets you download and use offline maps, or even whole continents. Because the routes created, are as good as those you calculated in paid apps like TomTom for Android or Sygic for Android (which use Navteq maps also but is charging for that ).
Of course there are things to improve here ( adding intermediar waypoints to route , route demo ,etc ) but we are talking of a beta that is extremely stable and useful.