​Nokia's Here for Android exits beta with offline navigation, 3D venue maps

Nokia's Here maps have moved out of beta with a number of improvements, as it sets out to prove itself a worthy contender to Google Maps.

Nokia has updated Here maps for Android, moving app out of beta and introducing 3D maps for venues as well as loads of bug fixes.

Users of the Here maps app, which has been installed three million times, should see a number of new features courtesy of the update, announced on Thursday. Chief among them are new interactive 3D maps for the insides of venues such as shopping malls and airports in 70 countries. Since they're the indoor maps are 3D, users can switch the direction of the view and move between different floors to see the location of shops on each level. Last year, Nokia licensed the indoor maps to Yahoo, giving the media company floor plans for 90,000 buildings across 10,000 separate venues.

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Nokia has also cleaned up the Here interface for suggested routing options. Previously, it offered different tabs for walking or transit options, whereas the update coughs up the fastest route for travelling car, public transport, and walking in a single page. Below each option is a summary of estimated time, distance and arrival as well as a link to alternative routes for each option.

The updated app also offers more information about places, such as restaurants, than it previously did. Tapping a restaurant brings up its phone number and a link to its website, as well as reviews from TripAdvisor.

And, as the company noted on its blog, the update brings more traffic information, such as road closures, which are visually represented by a red line.

The company has hoped to differentiate its offering from Google's by allowing users to download maps, a feature not available from Google Maps (though navigation still works without a connection). While offline maps are useful for travellers who want to avoid costly roaming charges, apparently in the beta version, many users found themselves abandoning downloads while they were in progress.

"Now you can switch away, either back to your map, or into another app, and your download will progress to completion without you," said Niko van Eeghen, head of Here's product team.

van Eeghen also said it's dialled up voice directions by 25 percent since user feedback suggested it was too quiet.

The company also updated its Windows Phone app this week, which introduced several new countries with turn-by-turn directions, including Cyprus, Mayotte and Zimbabwe. It also delivered improvements for Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Fiji, Gambia, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and Somalia.

Nokia's Here mapping business, which increasingly operates as its own brand, earned €292m in its first quarter this year, thanks mostly to increased revenue from automotive clients but also from Microsoft, which uses Here maps on many of its smartphones.

Nokia has recently bolstered Here with acquisitions of social and analytics focused companies including Medio and Desti.

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