Nokia's HERE Maps Vs. Apple's Maps
Nokia released a mapping app called Here Maps for iOS today. If they were attempting to make a mockery of Apple's launch of it's own built-in mapping for iOS 6 then they appear to have launched the wrong mapping service. It looks like iOS users will be waiting for Google's product for that.
I love a good mapping product. So, I took HERE Maps for a spin. I focused on the maps around Victoria, BC during testing. I was immediately impressed with Nokia's clean UI and detailed options for traffic info. It is very usable and the prospect of having built-in bus directions is appealing. The maps are responsive and loaded data quickly. The UI did feel a bit unpolished in some areas. It insists on snapping to my current location after locking which I found annoying.
Nokia's product uses image tiles which is clearly inferior to the smooth scaling vector shapes used in iOS Maps. HERE Maps also does not use native "retina-display" tiles so the maps have a less than crisp look. It's not unusable and probably a good tradeoff. Downloading high-res tiles would chew up a considerable amount of data. Indeed, the app displays a warning that it can use up lots of data. I commend them for including that warning.
HERE Maps maps displays points of interest much like iOS maps. It's just that they are very sparse compared to iOS maps. The quality of the satellite imagery is also superior in iOS where I looked. These aren't problems that would prevent me from using HERE Maps. It just means that its mapping abilities needs to really improve upon Apple's to be competitive.
My experience was that the mapping abilities of iOS Maps and HERE Maps are equally awful compared to Google Maps. HERE Maps couldn't find a local mall and iOS Maps can't find the local university by its commonly used abbreviation. Searching for a well established local restaurant gets you the same location in both. It's too bad the location they indicate is half a block off. In case you're wondering, Google Maps locates it perfectly.
I just didn't find HERE Maps to be at all competitive with iOS maps at launch. The bus directions don't work nor is there any traffic information in Victoria, BC. Apple may have removed the built-in bus routes in iOS 6 but they added a serviceable way to get the same (or better) info from 3rd party apps. The traffic information provided from launch in iOS has also worked without fail.