Nokia submits maps app for iOS, launches HERE cloud navigation service

Nokia today announced it has submitted a navigation app for iOS, which would be available for free in the App Store as HERE in coming weeks. Nokia’s HERE maps will provide a much better navigation experience than what Apple’s bungled maps provide. It will have offline capabilities where users can download relevant maps on their phones and have access to voice-guided walking and public transport directions even when they are in the offline mode and won’t eat into their data plans. Google has not yet publicly announced whether it has submitted its maps app for iOS but last heard they were playing the waiting game with Apple. Neither Google nor Apple offer complete offline modes, though Google Maps do provide limited offline support.

HERE is also available as a web app at the moment at m.here.net and offers turn-by-turn voice navigation as well as points of interest. Users can also create “Collections” that are essentially a listing of places they want to save. Users can create different categories and have multiple places saved under each category. However, users will need to log in or create a Nokia account before they can start creating their collections.

Nokia also announced it will acquire Earthmine, a company that specializes in 3D maps. The company expect the acquisition to finish this year and will give Nokia Maps access to technology and mapping information to rival Google’s StreetView service.

Along with these announcements, Nokia also unveiled LiveSight, an augmented reality technology that is based on a 3D map of the world that uses the phone’s camera viewfinder and shows places of interest. Nokia’s City Lens app is based on LiveSight and is currently available exclusively on Lumia smartphones.

Apart from iOS, Nokia has also committed to making a mobile web version of HERE for Mozilla’s Firefox OS next year. It will also make an SDK of HERE available for Android OEMs in early 2013 to enable them to bring their own location-based apps and services based on Nokia’s maps.

This is a smart move by Nokia to make its exclusive location assets available across platforms. For location and especially navigation services, it is imperative to have as many users as possible to increase the accuracy as well as detailing of maps. For instance, in order to provide real-time traffic both Google and Nokia maps take their data from users who are using location services at that place at that point of time. Needless to say, the more number of users, the higher the accuracy. The same holds true for filling missing details in maps as users are most likely to add places that do not exist in the map. Nokia could use its ‘Collections’ service to add more places.

Another benefit of bringing a native maps app to iOS is getting access to users who probably have not used a Nokia smartphone in years. With Google Maps not being available, Nokia could become the de facto navigation app on iOS, which would not only provide Nokia with unprecedented usage and user data but also ensure these users create a Nokia account. By ensuring a smooth user experience, Nokia could get some mind space with these iOS users and hope that eventually they shift to a Nokia smartphone.