Nokia Here – Sets The Mapping Industry On Fire – The Map Battle Begins
Nokia is here. Grammatically this statement is right, but semantically the “Nokia is here” statement is wrong. We will tell you why. Yesterday, Nokia re-branded their existing ‘Nokia Maps’ feature to ‘Here’. The existing maps feature is revamped with lot many new features and Nokia is now calling the packaged service as ‘Here’, note – Nokia has dropped the company name for this service, so its no more ‘Nokia Maps’, henceforth the service will be called as ‘Here’. The reasoning behind this is that Here is going to be integrated with many third party vendors / service providers, one being Mozilla’s Firefox Mobile OS that’s slated for release next year.
Nokia also acquired a bay area (Berkeley, California) based startup company called Earthmine that powers the 3D maps functionality.
‘Here’ works on iOS 4.3+, Android 2.2 and 2.3, Nokia N9, WebOs, Blackberry 7.0+ and obviously in all desktop browsers. There are no native apps available for any of the mobile OSes, however Nokia has announced that it will release a free-to-download native app for iOS devices and Android in next coming weeks.
Nokia is also doing things a little different to boost its flagship mobile phone – Lumia series. Nokia will retain features like ‘City Lens’ only with Nokia phones and would not give away to other mobile OS. ‘City Lens’ is an app in Nokia; when a user points the phone’s camera at a place (say a Restaurant), it pulls up reviews of that restaurant. Practically, it doesn’t matter much to other OSes, because there are plenty of augmented reality based applications available for both iOS and Android platforms.
We tested ‘Here’ in iPad and in desktop browsers. Our first impression was – WOW. In iPad, the navigation was smooth and fluid. When you goto www.here.com or www.maps.nokia.com in mobile devices, the site redirects to the mobile version of ‘Here’. Following are the features of Here:
1. Search a Place: This is a standard feature. User will be able to search for a location/place. The plus point here is the application displays ‘Near By’ attractions/places to visit. Also, ‘Here’ pulls reviews of the places (restaurants) from Burp.
2. Get Directions: User will be able to get directions between two places. Users can also view the direction in 3D (available only in desktop browsers), this 3D version is more or less the same as ‘Street View’ in Google Maps. 3D doesn’t seem to work for all countries, we tested in UK and US and it worked fine. Wherever there are flyovers in a route, the text ‘Flyover’ is written over it (this is missing in Google Maps). Another notable feature is the Live Traffic View, ‘Here’ highlights the traffic congestion with an Orange bar on the route, users can also filter for any road repair work, accidents on the route. Similar to ’Save Maps’ feature in Google Maps, user can save the route map in ‘Here’ as well.
3. Collections: This is a new feature. User will be able to bucket or group a list of places into a collection, users can create more than one collection. For example: User can create collections named Chinese Restaurants, Japanese Restaurants, Shopping Malls and have places added to each collection. This collection comes in handy when you frequent to those places. To create a Collection, you need to sign-in to Nokia account.
4. Map Creator: This is available only in the desktop browser version. This is a cool and unique feature. Users will be able to create / edit routes. Right now, only selected countries map can be edited. We tried creating a new road in Mauritius and we did it in a jiffy. There are lot many specifications one can mention for a route, for example – the road is one way and it is accident prone.
Overall – ‘Here’ is very impressive and stands out from the competition. Nokia has launched a product that can definitely be a huge threat to the map giant – Google Maps. The launch time of Here is critical considering the Apple Maps fiasco that happened last month.
Predominantly there are three companies that are locking horns to conquer the mapping market – Apple, Google and Nokia. And, its interesting to note that each of these companies have their own mobile operating system (except for the fact that for Nokia its a partnership relation with Windows). Competition in this mapping industry is going to become tougher than before. Considering the fact that a LOT can be done with the user’s location, its going to be interesting to see who among these three are going to reap the benefit.
Maps – The battle begins.
Few screenshots of our ‘Here’ testing below: [Tip - click on image for better clarity]
Author: Karthick Prabu