The Apple Maps disaster: Can Nokia save the day?

The Finnish phonemaker's free mapping software makes its debut in the App Store.

By Nov 20, 2012 2:53PM

Businessman in car with smartphone copyright Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesMany iPhone owners were furious when iOS 6 was unveiled in September without a long-beloved application: Google Maps. In its place was a rudimentary new Maps app from Apple (AAPL), which critics pilloried as a poorly thought-out power-grab. 

With a lack of transit directions, buggy landmarks, and turns leading to nowhere, Apple Maps quickly became a punchline, and CEO Tim Cook was forced to offer a rare apology, saying the company was "extremely sorry for the frustration [Apple Maps] has caused our customers," and even offered third-party alternatives to use until Apple worked the kinks out. 

Tuesday, Nokia (NOK) is introducing itself as one of those third-party alternatives. The company's Here, a free iOS map client available in the App Store starting today, is holding itself up as the premiere alternative to Apple Maps. 

Does it live up to the hype?

"Here has a few things going for it that Apple Maps don't," says Erica Ogg at GigaOm. First off, users can download portions of a map for offline availability. Nokia's application also helpfully offers voice-guided turn-by-turn directions for walking. Unlike Apple Maps, Here even offers in-app public transit directions. However, the user interface is nowhere near as "crisp and clean as Apple Maps."

The information offered by Here, like live traffic updates, is "very rich in comparison" to Apple Maps, says Aaron Souppouris at The Verge. But after spending some time with it, we were left "a little disappointed by the current experience." Public transit directions were often "nonsensical," with transfers to certain buses and trains missing altogether, at least in London. There were other bugs as well -- the cancel button in the search box was sometimes completely ineffective. In many ways, Here is "more functional than Apple's native Map's client, but for now, many of the additional features don't work as well as they ought to." 


Some good news is on the way, though, says Josh Lowensohn at CNET. Google (GOOG) is reportedly putting the "finishing touches" on its own Maps application for iOS, which it will then submit to Apple for review. There's still no timetable for an official release in the App Store, but we may be getting closer.

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