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Nokia Here Maps Launching a Cross-Platform Assault

By Wesley Fenlon

Nokia Maps was strong enough to replace Bing Maps on Windows Phone 7, and now that same map data is making its way to iOS.

Nokia's been doing maps for a long time. Its Ovi Maps did 3D better than anyone else, and the company's partnership with Microsoft made Nokia Maps a Windows Phone 7 staple. Microsoft spent years working on Bing Maps, but kicked it to the curb for Windows Phone 8 to make Nokia Maps the platform's default mapping software. But Nokia wants more. It wants iOS and the web, too.

So it's launching Here, a fresh-faced brand for Nokia Maps that includes Here.com, an iOS app called Here Maps (currently making its way through Apple's approval process), an Android SDK, and support for Firefox OS. As those last two indicate, openness is a big part of Nokia's plan for Here Maps--it wants Android devs to use Nokia Maps in their apps.

Nokia's rolling out the brand to encompass its other location-based services, though not immediately--in a few months, the Windows Phone 7/8 implementation of Nokia Maps will likely be adopted into the family. But Windows Phone owners are already used to Nokia's free turn-by-turn directions and other map features. For iOS users, this may be the app that can replace Apple's struggling service.

Here Maps for iOS uses mapping data Nokia's been building up for years, includes voiced turn-by-turn walking directions, but only standard routing for driving. That's a point in favor of Apple Maps, but Here also includes traffic information, the ability to save maps for offline use, restaurant/store locations, and--best of all--public transit info. With public transit details and a strong catalog of businesses, Here could easily take the place of Apple Maps for a whole lot of iOS owners.

Nokia's also building out Street View-esque photography and 3D mapping. The company plans to have apps and its web service united so that users can save favorites through a Nokia or Facebook account.

The web interface for Here isn't up to the high bar of Google Maps--and it's not too surprising that Nokia would release an official app on iOS but not Android--but it's a start. Look for the iOS app within the next couple weeks, assuming it makes it through the approval process unscathed.