The Finnish company’s inaugural Here app for iOS was basically a Web app, and it was eventually pulled from Apple’s iTunes store for an overhaul. The app returned Wednesday — the same day, coincidentally, that there was a major iTunes store outage. As a result, I had some trouble downloading the app. (Here was released for Android last year.)
At any rate, I took Here for a spin around San Francisco. Here’s what I like about it, as well as what I don’t.
Nokia Here for iOS: The good Stuff
Accurate directions. Though I’ve only used Here for a couple of days, I tapped in lots of San Francisco destinations to see the routes it suggested. The majority of the directions I received made sense, which isn’t always the case with GPS apps and devices. (Check out “How (and Why) GPS Directions Lead You Astray” for more on that topic.)
Route options are easily accessible. I appreciate how Here lets you pick route options with each new destination, along with estimated travel times.
Offline maps. The most significant differentiator between Here and its many GPS navigation app competitors is its ease in downloading maps to your iOS device. The app’s interface lets you pick maps of U.S. states, or even countries, to download and shows you how much storage your device has, as well as the size of each map file. Given the fact that the app is free, as are its offline maps, Here has a leg up on other similar apps, such as CoPilot, which is free and lets you download a map for free but charges $10 for turn-by-turn directions; and Google Maps, which is free but only lets you download maps of specific areas, such as San Francisco.
Uncluttered interface. Nokia’s Here app is streamlined and simple but still customizable.
Walking and transit directions. Not all GPS apps offer driving, walking, and public transportation guidance. Nokia Here does; Apple Maps, for example, does not.
Nokia Here for iOS: The bad stuff
No voice guidance while walking. When I used the app for walking directions, it beeped to indicate it was time to turn, instead of giving me specific instructions, such as “Turn right on Market Street,” as it did while I was driving. If I were walking in an unfamiliar area, I’d have to keep my iPhone out to check the screen, but I’d much rather be able to keep it in my pocket and have directions fed to me through my earphones.
You can’t browse for restaurants and shops on iOS. The Android version of Here has buttons for “Eat & Drink” and “Shopping” under its Search bar, and they make it simple to find nearby eateries and stores. Those buttons are MIA on iOS.
No address book integration. Other GPS apps, including Google Maps, make it easy to type in a contact’s name and pull in his or her address for guidance. I see no way to import my contacts into Here on either Android or iOS.
To sum that all up….
Here is the app to download if you need offline maps when traveling internationally (to save on hefty data roaming charges) or while driving through areas with spotty cell phone coverage (they still exist, trust me). It’s a worthy GPS app to add to your collection, along with Google Maps and Waze, both of which are also free.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.