Nokia’s HERE mapping app is back on iOS with full offline mode, real-time data, and much more

Nokia’s HERE mapping app is back on iOS with full offline mode, real-time data, and much more

Nokia has announced today that it has brought its mapping app, HERE, back to iOS after it was taken down in 2013.

Nokia is hoping to compete with Google and Apple on the mapping front by bringing something a bit different to the table. One of HERE’s  most compelling features is its offline maps for over 100 countries.

On top of that, it also provides directions for people using cars, public transport and walking as well as suggestions of places nearby that are worth a visit.

In the 15 months that HERE has been on hiatus from iOS, Google Maps has cemented its position as the front runner. It will be interesting to see if iPhone users opt to convert fully or utilize HERE alongside Google Maps and boycott the lagging Apple Maps altogether.

One of the highlight features of the HERE app for iOS is saved maps, which allows you to essentially put the entire experience directly on your device for times when you don’t have a data connection. The offline mode will even let you search, get directions, and find your own location. Like similar solutions from other mapping apps, you’ll be able to download cities and countries a la carte for off-line mode out of the 150 or so maps available off-line.
Other features you’ll find in the HERE app: directions for walking, public transit for 950 cities, and turn-by-turn navigation for vehicles with voice guidance/spoken street names. A lot of real-time data is pulled into the app, and a unique Collections feature keeps track of saved points of interest.

There are challenges and opportunities up ahead. Here is coming late to world of mapping apps for iOS and after a long absence from the iPhone. It originally launched for iOS back in 2012, but it was pulled in 2013 after compatibility issues with iOS 7.

The iOS app comes on the heels of Here expanding to Android last year — an app that, according to Google Play, has been downloaded somewhere between 1 million and 5 million times. But the app originally launched as a native app for Windows Phone, at a time when Nokia was still a handset maker building devices on Microsoft’s OS.

Techcrunch.com spoke with Patrick Weissert, director of consumer experiences for Here, to ask a bit more about the app and Nokia’s plans for how it will develop:

Everything is free now and no visible use of ads anywhere. What is the plan for monetizing and when will you be introducing that?

Our first goal is to build a great product and scale it, and in doing so increase awareness and usage. Greater usage helps us further improve the experience through the feedback we get. We have no plans to monetize the app at this time.

It’s worth keeping in mind that we are also leveraging our consumer investments across our enterprise and automotive businesses. In automotive, if you look at North America and Europe, our maps power four of every five cars with in-dash navigation. We are building on that strong relationship with the major car companies by offering location services for drivers across multiple screens (see e.g. our work with BMW). For instance, a driver can plan her route on a tablet the night before a trip, sync to the car so everything’s ready when she sets off, and even get last mile guidance once she’s parked her car and is continuing on foot.

Why wait this long to get maps on iOS?

It ties back to wanting to deliver a great product. We continuously tested the app over the last few months and we now have very positive user feedback from these tests, so we felt that now is the right time to release.

What’s the plan with adding in more sources of info for place recommendations? Everything I’ve happened to try so far links to TripAdvisor.

We have a wide range of additional sources we will be bringing to the apps over the next months. You can already see many of these on here.com. In general, we aim to surface the best sources for the use case and the region, so results may differ depending on where you are, and where you are searching.

In the existing rollouts of the Here app, can you tell me how frequently the offline maps are used? 

More than half our users are using the feature, and this share is growing continuously. There are a lot of scenarios where users find this useful – on the tube, in places where you don’t have reception, when travelling, or if you have data caps with your operator. It also vastly increases the performance and responsiveness of the app, which is why many users say they like the app.