Nokia HERE: Anything but a Rival to Apple Maps — Review

A cumbersome, washed-out interface with more-than-disappointing search results

People saying Apple’s Maps sucks must have a whole other understanding of the term “sucks.” Either that, or they haven’t tried out Nokia HERE yet.

Sure, Apple Maps is flawed. So is Google Maps, with its occasional graphical Street View glitches, and a bunch of other bugs.

But both are still highly reliable services built with the user in mind. Both get the job done as expected more often than some reviews will have you believe.

For instance, if you tell either one to show you a location, it won’t bring up all the possible places on Earth with a derivative of that name. Nokia HERE, on the other hand, does.

I recently downloaded the app to give it a quick hands-on. I quickly typed Dorobanti expecting it to drop a pin on the nearby Piata Dorobanti (Dorobanti Square for all you native English speakers) in my home city, Bucharest (Romania).

It didn’t, though. Instead, it flew me all the way to Romania’s next-door neighbor, Hungary. Nokia picked the Dorobanti at Romania’s border with Hungary as the most likely Dorobanti I’d be looking for, when the closest one is like a bus stop away! Is that why it asked me to provide my location when I first installed it?

Speaking of buses, the Public Transport view along with the Traffic view is unusable in this part of the world. No problem, though. We’re used to being left out in the cold. Same goes for 3D.

The “HERE” logo at the bottom of the screen confuses me. I’m always “here.” I don’t need additional confusion with tasks that are very attention demanding. Spatial awareness is important to a person looking to get to an unknown location.

Add to that the washed-out colors and the fuzzy interface which has to be one of the worst aspects of HERE Maps. How do you enter the mobile mapping scene in 2012 with a solution that looks worse than Google Maps did in 2006?

Nokia, even if my phone didn’t support crisp Retina visuals, it’s still your job to release a binary that displays decently on any device. If not for the public, then at least to support your own marketing pitch.

When HERE Maps debuted last week, Michael Halbherr, Nokia’s executive vice president of Location & Commerce, said, “That's why we have been investing and will continue to invest in building the world's most powerful location offering, one that is unlike anything in the market today.”

You got that right. The next time I read something like this from Nokia, I’ll make sure it goes in with a boulder-sized grain of salt. Better yet, I’ll just take it for all the things it can mean. Because HERE Maps really is unlike anything in mapping today.

I was going to hover over some real benefits of Nokia HERE, such as the ability to save areas for offline viewing, pedestrian routes, and other stuff. However, my overall bad experience with the app means I’ll probably never give these features a chance to begin with.

Perfectionist or not, I really do believe only a decent experience deserves highlighting both the good and the bad. Until the next update, thumbs down for HERE Maps.

(Below you have a set of Nokia HERE screenshots followed by four Apple Maps screens for comparison).

Nokia HERE screenshots

Apple Maps screenshots


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