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==> 12-2-2015: Here Maps update rolling out, starting today!

In this update:

There are updates in every continent, reflecting new or changed roads and constructions, and newly added details.

We’ve noticed lately that Here Maps is good, but not flawless. Sometimes it makes us take the wrong exit or is somewhat unclear about which lane to get on. Hopefully this update will at least lessen the amount of times this occurs.

New navigable countries

Cyprus, Mayotte and Zimbabwe have had their entire maps updated to navigable status. Also, there have been significant improvements to the maps for Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Fiji, Gambia, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

Water features

Inland water: ponds, lakes and rivers.

More small water features are shown than previously and the representation of rivers is improved.

Public transport 

Improvements to the way public transit lines are represented to better match the reality of their geography.

In this update, Kaohsiung, Taipei, Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Singapore have had their maps upgraded to better show the path of subway, train and tram lines.

How to update

On Android, you’ll get a notification when it’s time to go in and update. Follow the instructions given to update your downloaded maps.

==>update 4-1- 2015: Here Beta is now available for download in the Google Play Store!

Here logoEigenWijsheid tests Here Maps for Android

Here Maps is a free offline navigation app for Android and Windows Phone. Unfortunately, Apple users cannot enjoy Here Maps (yet?). Here belongs to Nokia, the Finnish company which sold its smartphone division to Microsoft.

Here Maps is still is a beta version for Android 4.0 or higher. Maps of all countries can be downloaded to your cell phone for free. After doing that, you can navigatie with turn-by-turn directions without needing an internet connection just as you could using this other free offline navigation app, NavFree. NavFree is based on free OSM (Open Street Maps) maps. These maps are not always 100% up to date and reliable. Here Maps uses its own maps that supposedly are of better quality.

How reliable is Here Maps in showing you where to go? EigenWijsheid took it out for a spin on the Dutch roads.

Smartphone used: OnePlus One 64GB, Android 4.4.4, Cyanogenmod 11.0 XNPH44S, 3.4.0-franco.Kernel

 

Downloading and installing Here Maps

Downloading and installing Here Maps was easy enough. After downloading, you open the .apk file which automatically installs the app on your device. You can find the app in your ‘downloads’ folder by tapping on it. Using your Android file manager (this may have a different name on the various devices) you can locate your ‘downloads’ folder. If this proves to be hard to do on your phone, then download an app like Astro File Manager from the Google Play Store. This will provide an easy to use overview of all files on your cell phone.

When opening the installed app the first time, you will be asked to register a Here account. You may also use your Facebook account. You can skip this, but then you won’t be able to download any maps.

Installing maps

Here Maps has a transparant user interface. No unnecessary graphic elements or options. To be able to navigate offline, we have to download maps of course. First, we make sure we are connected to ouri Wi-Fi internet connection.  We now tap the 3 lines in the left top corner of the screen to open the menu. Here we choose ‘Download Maps’. In the list that appears you can see how much storage space is left on your device and the size of the map you want to download. The map of The Netherlands is approx. 350MB, the map of Western Europe approx. 1GB. Select the map you want by tapping on it and after that, tap the arrow on the right to start your download. After the download has finished, the list of available maps reappears on the screen. We now go back a few screens until we see the first screen again.

Settings

The first thing we do to navigate offline (without using an internet connection) is adding a tick to the option ‘Use app offline’. We now tap ‘Settings’ to see which options are set and if we would like to change anything. The units are set to metric which you might want to change. The option ‘Traffic’ is ‘On’. We select it for more information. Okay, if we want up-to-date traffic information, we should set it to ‘online’. This will require a mobile internet connection of course. A nice feature, but we choose ‘Off’ for now.

After pressing ‘Navigation’ we select voice-guided navigation and then ‘Manage Voices’. A pop-up opens and informs the user that the app has to be set to ‘online’ mode in order to be able to manage the voices.  So we have no choice here and set the app to online mode. There are voices in many languages available, but we choose to download only the Dutch male and female voices. For some languages ‘hifi’ voices of better quality are available, but not for the Dutch language. We select the Dutch female voice by adding a tick and go back one screen and put the app back in ‘offline mode’.

The user can choose to have Here Maps automatically switch to night mode or not. It is also possible to set a warning when exceeding the max speed limits. The user can decide with how many kilometers or miles the limit may be exceeded before a beep warns you that you are speeding.

On the road

From the first screen, we tap the 3 lines in the top left corner and choose ‘Drive’. In the next screen we can enter our destination. Tapping this field shows destinations you chose before. Under the search box are the options ‘Food & Drink’ and ‘Shopping’ (by tapping the 3 dots on the right you can search many other categories if you like). Pressing the icon with the 2 arrows on the right of the search box, enables you to choose walking or truck mode.

Here Maps has a hard time finding my mom’s address in a rural area in the province of Overijssel. The app suggests that we search for the address online. But being able to use this navigation app offline, is the whole point of using it anyway, so we do not go online. We try again by just looking for the name of the village this time and it works! Here Maps finds it. We now add more details of the address and Here is okay with that. A bit odd, but we managed to enter the address! We test a few more addresses. And yes, finding streets in small obscure villages is no problem now.

Directions are calculated and the screen changes. Your speed is shown at the bottom, as well as the ETA, estimated time of arrival, and your status (offline). Tapping either one of these, will quickly take you to settings, alternative routes or ‘Change’ to change which data will be shown at the bottom of your screen.

 

You also see the ‘Stop’ option for ending your navigation. The bottom right of the screen shows a black and white square that changes the map view to satelite or traffic mode. By tapping on the green dot on the bottom left, Here will show you where you are.

Here_2

Swiping up from the bottom of the screen will show the route distance, route options and route steps. Route options can be changed from here by adding or removing ticks behind options like ‘toll roads’ or ‘unpaved roads’ etc.

A bold blue line shows our route in the direction in which we are driving. At the top, the next step is clearly shown with a large arrow, the distance and the street name. At the bottom you see the name of the road on which you are currently driving.

The voice of our navigation lady sounds friendly and clear but pretty decisive at the same time which is nice. Much better than most of the voices in other apps we tested before. This voice even has a soothing effect on our driver, but of course, that is a very personal experience. The male voice is also clear and calm. The standard volume is somewhat loud, which we want to change. It takes a while before we figure out how to quickly do this. Pressing the bottom of the screen and then ‘settings’ enables you to choose ‘manage voices’ where you can turn off voice guidance all together or choose a different voice. After fiddling with the phone and the options a bit, we find out that the volume can be changed with the volume button on our cell phone. Pushing this button makes a scrollable line appear on the screen to adjust the volume with. Now that we know this, we won’t forget. But you better set the volume before you leave because doing anything on your smartphone’s screen while driving is heavily fined in most countries.

The beeps to warn you about exceeding the speed limit can be clearly heard but do not make us jump up from our seats like we experienced in other tests, which is nice. Our lady tells us in time whether to keep left or right. On the high ways, when approaching complicated junctions,  it isn’t always clear to us where to go. What the voice guidance says cannot easily be seen on the screen and confuses us a few times. A slight disappointment there.

When leaving the route for a cup of coffee, the directions are quickly and automatically adjusted. We do notice a delay in the voice guidance when using our hands free Parrot car kit. The first word cannot be heard because of this. Directions are still sufficient, but it is annoying us nonetheless. We cannot figure out what causes the delay. It will probably be an unlucky combination of this cell phone, the Android software version we use, the navigation app and the car kit.

We had Here guide us to several addresses within Amersfoort, from Amersfoort to Utrecht and Zwolle, from Zwolle via country roads to Vilsteren and from there back to Amersfoort. Here Maps had no problem whatsoever on any of these routes. Where other apps failed on the back roads of the beautiful country side of Overijssel, Here Maps showed us the way without any hesitations or mistakes, just slightly confusing us a few times.

Options

Unfortunately, this Android beta version of Here Maps does not have a bike GPS mode. Destinations can easily be saved by adding them to your ‘favorites’ using the little star. Sharing addresses or your current locations is very easy using the   Here Maps  symbol. Note that this option obviously requires an internet connection.

 

Conclusion: For a completely free and offline app: Wow!

+ very easy to use

+ transparant, clean graphics

+ voice guidance is clear and easy on the ears

+ detailed directions

+ routes are quickly and automatically adjusted when needed (speed may very depending on cell phone used)

+ reliable maps

+ many maps and languages available

 

– no bike GPS navigation

– directions for big highway junctions can be confusing/unclear sometimes

– no warnings for cameras (using the Flitsmeister app in the background solves this omission)

– delay in voice guidance with bluetooth connected car kit (note: the cause of this may very well be outside the Here      Maps app)

 

EigenWijsheid Score: 9

Download Here Maps for Android via this link

Read EigenWijsheid reviews of other navigation apps here (only Google translations are available for these pages at this moment)