Windows Phone navigation - Road test


In that article, I did write that my testing was limited at the time, and I never offer any advice
without in-depth research. Now that I've finally had a chance to clock several thousand km navigating
by foot and car abroad, across several European countries, I can finally offer a proper verdict.


Windows Maps on WP10

It was good but not fantastic. Fast and elegant, but a tad behind pure HERE products, with a female
English RP voice guidance that is distinctively less impressive than the original thing. Once upon a time,
I used Ovi on my
Nokia E72 and E6 phones, and the voice was loyally carried over into HERE
Drive on Windows Phone 8 on the little Lumia 520, alas this is no longer true. Probably legality
restrictions. Windows 10 has its own voice thingie. The device used in this wee experiment:
Lumia 950. Behold.

Both offline and online modes worked fine. I had no complaints when it comes to functionality, but it's
like someone saying, here's a new product, it's just like the old product, except it's ever so slightly
different, and in some cases, you will only get 99% of what you're used to. It does not feel right. It
feels unnecessary. The original thing was perfect, and there was no functional need replacing HERE with
anything else. On the plus side, it works pretty well, you have tabs, and it's a very good app overall.

Lumia 950, Maps 1
Lumia 950, Maps 2

HERE Maps/Drive on WP8.1

My device of choice for this experiment was the old
Nokia Lumia 520. You may think the program would struggle or lack
up-to-date maps. Nope. I was able to download map updates, a whooping 2GB of worldwide terrain and road
infrastructure data. The program launched good and true, and it was a delightful experience overall. The
old familiar stuff.

Excellent voice navigation, fast GPS response, and you can actually use it purely offline but also
online with live traffic updates. In fact, I felt no need whatsoever using Microsoft Maps (on WP8.1), as
this program only came about and became relevant when I heard about the HERE app demise. Since that did not
happen, there's no need to invoke the doomsday scenario alternative.

Lumia 520, HERE 1
Lumia 520, HERE 2

And what about Android?

Well, this one is also interesting. Until not that long ago, HERE products were not available on
Android. But as soon as a
beta version was released and made available, I did my share of
testing, with great delight. Then, very recently, I had a chance to use my converted
Aquaris M10 tablet, previously with
Ubuntu and now with Android, in a real-life
scenario, including GPS functionality and voice navigation while driving.

The software is now called Here We Go (or Here WeGo), but it is essentially the same program that we had
before, combining several functions under one umbrella. We're talking Maps, Drive and Transit. And it does
a spectacular job. I also tested Here We Go on yet another Android device, one
Motorola Moto G4, and it also worked brilliantly. Fast
response, good accuracy, all the bits and pieces you want and need.

Navigation 2

HERE on G4 1
HERE on G4 2

Other offline tools?

Again, a few years ago, I tested (and lamented) a lack of
offline navigation for Android, as the available choices at
that time were quite lacking. HERE Maps started the data-less revolution. But then Google is also trying
with Google Maps. There's a definite Waze feel about it and no mistake, plus you can actually download
country maps for offline use for four weeks until they expire and/or require an update.

However, if you go offline, this no longer works. While the traffic updates and estimates are quite
impressive in terms of accuracy, you don't get full, proper offline functionality, and the program does not
display speed limits. For some reason, probably because of the language choice in the interface, distances
and notifications show in a combo of units. Might be a glitch or something.

Google Maps 1
Google Maps 2


Now that I've churned some decent kilometrage under my proverbial belt, including pedestrian escapades
and driving adventures, I can give an accurate verdict. Here apps remain at the top of the GPS food chain,
and the availability of this software product family on Android severely diminishes the advantage that
Windows Phone once had. For about three to four years, Windows Phone was the king of frugal, the prince of
offline, and it gave users a superior experience, with unsurpassed quality of the Drive app and the amazing
point-to-point urban commute help with Transit. Ah, the good ole days.

Windows Phone still does most of this rather well, but it follows in the footsteps of a giant, and
unfortunately, redoing the same thing over feels rather unnecessary. Maybe it was a political thing, or a
financial thing, which we can excuse. But if you are WP10 user, you will not feel like you've been shorted
with the Windows Maps deal. It's not quite as delightful, but there's no need for mutiny. It does
everything well and still uses the smart HERE engine underneath. Small tweaks, a few touches of polish and
spit, and it could be the next generation of offline. But with HERE beating strong, it's a tough

Anyway, offline navigation is live and present in Windows Phone 10. Most delightfully, HERE Drive
continues to work on Windows Phone 8.1 without any problems or stutters, and with fully up-to-date maps
more than a year after the tragic announcement. Other operating systems and apps do give some offline
functionality, but it still comes down to HERE or nothing. That's my biased opinion. I hope you find this
useful. And be prepared for some extra car reviews, because those kilometers happened under some serious
rubber. See you soon.



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