HERE for Android – the first reviews are in

Pino Bonetti
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As its release date draws close, reviews of HERE for Android – an exclusive for Samsung smartphones – are appearing across the Web.

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Please note: these are early reviews based on code we’ve made available to a few people over recent weeks. The app is not yet publicly available for download. We’ll definitely let you know as soon as it is!

So what did the reviewers have to say?

The reviews are positive, going through the app feature-by-feature, and drawing comparisons with its obvious rival on Android handsets, Google Maps, as well as others like CityMapper. The standout feature in this regard is, of course, offline navigation, which makes everything quicker, and is well… available offline.

But reviewers also picked up on a few other signature features that give the app a worthy place in your Android armoury: Collections, speed limit warnings and the routing options, to pick out three.

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It wasn’t all roses, of course, and we have noted the remarks about what some reviewers described as a basic user interface design and quirks in the user experience that we’ll definitely consider over forthcoming iterations of the product.

But let’s see what they said in their own words.

Using HERE even without cell coverage

Engadget’s Matt Brian picks out one of the app’s key strengths over rivals: “Offline maps are likely to be a huge help if you want to see the sights while you're abroad, but don't want to waste money on roaming fees.”

He notes:

“Thanks to some marketing muscle from Korea, Nokia will soon give Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners advanced access to its maps app. While Nokia readies HERE Maps for Samsung's Galaxy Apps store, which is expected to drop in the coming weeks, the company gave us an early preview of its new app, and it's good.”

“The app provides a decent mix of features without becoming bloated or troublesome to use. If you're looking for a legitimate alternative to Google Maps, HERE Maps matches its rival in many aspects and betters it in others. The new iOS and Android apps will be available later this year, after Samsung has enjoyed its period of Android exclusivity.”

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Complete and accurate maps

Rita El Khoury at Android Police says that the completeness and accuracy of the map data, and the ability to use the app offline are its chief strengths compared to the standard Google Maps app. She writes:

“The reason I am happy to use HERE in Lebanon has nothing to do with any of the features mentioned above, but only with map data. There's no point in having bells and whistles if your street data, your very basic map is incomplete. And I live in one of the countries where Google Maps only has the main streets outside of the capital, but nothing else. HERE, on the other hand, has every nook and cranny. The little alley that doesn't lead anywhere? There. The pedestrian street that's hidden to a point where you wouldn't see it unless you knew it exists? There. If Google Maps fails to even recognize a street I'm standing on as such, it will fail to navigate me anywhere. It just doesn't know where to start.”

“Offline is HERE's cheval de bataille. Nokia knew it had an advantage there that other services oddly seemed to dismiss and built its brand to become synonymous with offline use. Want to travel somewhere and don't have a data connection? Use HERE. Underground or in a rural area with spotty reception? Use HERE. Want to save on your mobile plan's data usage? Use HERE.”

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Pairing HERE for Android with the Samsung Gear S

On The Next Web, Paul Sawer noted that pairing a device with the Samsung Gear S smartwatch gives it an extra appeal which can’t currently be matched by any other location app:

“Though the app will remain a Samsung exclusive when it launches, based on our tests HERE should prove an immensely popular addition to Android’s arsenal of mapping apps.”

“Additionally, part of Samsung’s exclusive period is designed to draw attention to its integration with the Gear S smartwatch, which is a big pull. You can basically sync up routes between your phone and the timepiece – and having turn-by-turn directions on your wrist seems massively more practical than constantly holding your phone up in front of you.”

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If you’re reading from Germany (or speak the language), then you might also like to take a look at the review from Caschys Blog.

[Updated] Added to this round-up, we have Slashgear, whose review wasn't out when we first published. Over to their man-with-a-map, Chris Davies:

On the road and on foot, I found HERE Maps to be easy to use and accurate. There's plenty of warning for upcoming junctions [...]

For routes involving public transportation, meanwhile, I found Nokia's way of presenting the various bus and train options more easy to browse and compare than, say, the list view in Google Maps.

What sets HERE Maps apart, though, is offline map support, which allows you to keep a local copy of the mapping data stored on your device. While you can use the app just as you would any other, pulling down map data as and when it's needed (admittedly Google Maps has some local caching, but it's clunky), Nokia also offers entirely free access to different map packages for the world.

We trust these reviews have whetted your appetite for the final release. Not long now, we promise!

[Update] The app is out now and available for download through the built-in Samsung App Store on compatible devices. Read more about getting started here.

Topics: Mobile apps, Features, HERE for Android, HERE for Samsung

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