This August, Nokia, the Finnish company that remains after selling its handset business to Microsoft, rolled out new versions of its HERE mapping product to Samsung smartphones, powered by both Android and Tizen. However, at the time, the company wouldn’t provide an ETA as to when other Android devices would gain access to HERE maps. That day, as it turns out, is today.
According to a post on Nokia’s HERE blog, HERE for Android is today available for all supported Android smartphones. The company says it’s testing as many devices as possible, but the general rule is that the smartphone should be running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or higher. For best results, the phones should have 1 GB of RAM or more, and a screen size between 4 and 6 inches.
Nokia has not yet launched HERE for Android on Google Play, however. Instead, users are directed to “side-load” the app onto their phones from Nokia’s website or by side-loading the app to the phone from a PC. (Instructions for both are posted on Nokia’s site.)
Ostensibly, the decision to stay out of Google Play for now is because the new mapping application is still in beta testing, and Nokia wants more time to take in feedback, criticism, and bug reports before releasing the app more broadly. The app launching today is not without its glitches, after all – for one thing, Nokia says it found that some Android “cache cleaner” applications actually wiped out the navigation voices in the HERE app, and a fix is still a few weeks out.
Nokia’s HERE maps launched on Samsung shortly after the company lost its leader Michael Halbherr, who stepped down as CEO of HERE in August, following flat sales.
HERE maps are only one of the remaining Nokia’s remaining businesses, and it includes the consumer-facing maps apps that run iOS, Windows Phone, Tizen and now more broadly on Android, as well as the mapping deals which see HERE used on websites and mobile devices such as Microsoft’s Lumia devices.
Historically, Nokia prefers a partnership strategy, which could be another reason why the app has not yet launched into Google Play – it could be that mobile testers are wanted to help Nokia clean up the code before it signs deals with other Android smartphone distribution partners beyond Samsung.
HERE maps, for those unfamiliar, grew out of the company’s acquisition of Navteq in 2007, and offer a viable alternative to maps from Google or Apple with traffic, weather and transit data in addition to maps for some 200 countries, turn-by-turn navigation, business and place search, offline access and more.