About a month back, Nokia announced that it is collaborating with Samsung to release its map on Samsung’s latest flagship, the Galaxy S5, with many more Galaxy devices to come. For those who are not in the know, HERE was previously known as Ovi maps and Nokia claims that it is currently available in nearly 200 countries, has voice navigation in nearly 100 countries. Not only it provides traffic information in more than 40 countries, it has more than 40 transit maps and directions in more than 750 urban areas across more than 40 countries. It has a feature that Google maps has not been able to do so, which is to provide offline maps. This handy feature helps if you have a spotty connection or if you are travelling and do not have data. Nokia claims that “Keeping your maps stored on your device also means that they are super fast.” That is true, as I do notice that Google maps has some minimal delay, as it needs to constantly poll for map tiles and data.With HERE integrating with Samsung’s TouchWiz, you can pair your phone with Gear S and have the map on your watch too! We have previously written about the Gear S and how Samsung is attempting at making a “miniaturized” smartwatch that is just as capable as a smartphone.
Although Nokia claims that HERE works only on select Samsung Galaxy devices, this is not true as I was able to run the app on my Nexus 7(2013) thanks to the folks at Android Police for providing the APK.
In this review, we will compare Google Maps side by side with HERE maps. There are a couple of things I will be looking out in this review, mainly which is accurate directions using the shortest possible route, exact locations, choice of route and the name of the location.
The moment I opened up the app, I am greeted with a splash screen. This does not comply with Android design guidelines which states that splash screen is unnecessary. Although Google maps does not have a splash screen, it does show an ugly white blank screen when firing up for the first time.
On initial install, HERE maps took a whooping 75.54MB of storage whereas Google maps only takes 24.23MB on a fresh install. When opening HERE for the first time,I was given a choice to either login using a HERE account or a Facebook account. But, I am allowed to get away without signing into anything. Signing in is important later on as you will need an account to download offline maps. The signing up process is painless and within seconds, I am inside the app, ready to navigate.
Nokia’s ability to offer offline data not just for specific areas, but also entire continents gives it a huge advantage over Google maps. Google offers a way to make a small selected areas available offline as cache and that is nothing compared to HERE maps.To enable offline mode, simply tap the top left menu select the small tickbox in the menu. The moment you enable it, you can search for specific locations and enable turn-by-turn navigation, but the downsides is that you will not be able to receive from traffic warnings or place listings. If you want to use offline maps, you need to make sure you have a ample of free space on your device. For Asia, it will take 7.32GB and for a small area like Singapore, it took 156.9MB.
Google maps offers at least 3 different routes for your journey. Here maps restrict you to only 1 route (except when taking the public transport). Albeit, showing you the fastest route available. But, as consumers, we are spoilt for choice aren’t we? Let’s say, we need to avoid toll roads or tunnels, with more choices, we have an easier life to plan our routes.
Using HERE map on Android, I am able to plan ahead of time. For example, I can tell the app what time I will be leaving the place or what time I have to reach my location. This cannot be done on Google maps for Android. Currently, the only way to do that is through maps.google.com . With Google maps, I can tell which buses arrives at the Interchange even if they are not operational at night. HERE only shows the current buses that are operational, leaving you wondering if there is a specific bus from the interchange.
Google maps does a fantastic job here and HERE maps needs a lot of improvement in this area. HERE could not find a route to the the country’s International airport if I choose to walk. Google maps was able to show the route to the airport but it does says that the route has restricted usage or has private roads(what?!).
When I typed “Singapore” into HERE search engine, it pops up places where I have never heard before whereas Google maps does shows up familiar places.
HERE Maps don’t seem to work good in Europe too. The app doesn’t find ANY eating or drinking places in Bonn. Google Maps, on the other hand, finds a lot of Eating and Drinking places nearby.
Accuracy of locations
In terms of navigating to your destination, there is no clear winner here, but when it comes to the accuracy of the locations, HERE loses to Google maps. There are some places in my area and HERE does not show them at all, whereas Google maps does show them.
Same place but different landmarks displayed. left is HERE and right is Google maps
Overall, HERE needs more polishing. In time, when it leaves beta, I am sure it will be a strong competitor to Google maps.
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