Nokia's HERE maps are, uh, here, available for the iPhone in the Apple store today, so it's time to see how the app stands up to both Apple's much-maligned native Maps and Google Maps for iPhone. We know, we know: Google Maps for iPhone doesn't exist, you say — not for the public, at least. But a lot of iPhones out there (mine included) still have the old operating system installed, with the beloved Google Maps as its default (R.I.P). The iOS app that Google is reportedly working on — and will attempt to get Apple to accept early next year — might not look exactly like the old Google Maps, with turn-by-turn directions and a spiffed-up look, but it will use the same Google trove of data, and we think it serves as a pretty good model for what to expect... and for a comparison test. So, I went ahead and tested the three apps with some common tasks. And, sadly, I would not recommend Nokia's maps over Apple's or Google's mostly because the overall usability doesn't do it. It's not even worth it for the subway directions. Don't believe me, see for yourself, feature-by-feature.
Stuff on Map
(Pictured, from left to right: Nokia, Apple, Google)
Runner Up: Apple
Just look at the photos of the same area in Washington, DC, near the Foggy Bottom metro stop. The Google one (far right) has tons of information about stores and buildings and establishments, Nokia has not much besides the metro stop. Those little cameras reveal more information about those spots, but there are still only two of them in that area. Even Apple has more information, giving us some local eateries and the Whole Foods.
Getting Places: Subway
(Pictured, clockwise from left: Nokia, Google, Nokia)
Runner Up: Nokia
No point in even including Apple above, since its subway directions redirect to a series of apps. But the Google Maps app wins on this one because it gave clearer directions and loaded all the way. Nokia's HERE didn't, nor did it give a departure time for the subway. Also, it's not clear what the "1 hr 10 minutes" marker means, since it won't take that long to get up there. Though, the one nice thing about HERE is that it has a "public transport view," which transposes a color coded subway map over the city. Neither of our maps, however, knew the exact current location, which was pretty annoying requiring me to input an additional address.
(Pictured, left to right: Nokia, Apple, Google.)
Tie: Nokia and Apple
I'm not one for the Satellite view, but I understand that people want to see how things look beyond lines. Above we have an image of the area surrounding home of The Atlantic Media Company, The Watergate building in DC. Google's is the crispest and has the most information, both Apple and Nokia's are just fuzzy and useless.
Tie: Google and Apple
Boy, is HERE annoying to use. It takes super long to load any action and in the meantime plasters the screen with those "Here" icons pictured right. Often, it won't load actions all the way, as you saw above with the subway directions. Google and Apple—maybe because they are native apps?—just work smoother. Others have called HERE "blazingnly fast," but I found that translated to a very sensitive-to-the-touch experience. And since everything took awhile to load, it made for a very frustrating experience. Perhaps those are things that Nokia can fix with an app update, though. If you really want subway information included in the maps app, then maybe download HERE and use it on those occasions only. Though, we would recommend just getting a third-party subway add-on.