Once upon a time a company you may have heard of, Nokia, was a juggernaut in the mobile phone market. During their reign atop the phone industry they created one of the first and best mobile mapping solutions. That application was know as HERE maps and worked with Nokia's Symbian operating system.
At the time of the last update (2012) HERE Maps on Symbian offered everything from turn-by-turn directions for driving or walking, live traffic visualization, offline map support and "city lens" augmented reality. For its time, it was jam-packed with extremely useful features.
Fast forward 5 years, throw in the end of Symbian, Microsoft buying Nokia (but not the Maps part); then shuttering Nokia, HERE maps being bought by a conglomerate of German auto makers, and an entry into iOS and Android operating systems and we are left with a re-branded and fully loaded HERE WeGo mapping solution.
As mentioned, HERE WeGo (HERE) is available on Android and iOS. HERE Maps still lives on in a way for those running Windows Phone 8.1, as well as in Windows 10 thanks to Microsoft licencing HERE mapping data for their own Windows Maps app. You can also use HERE via the web at https://wego.here.com
Most of this review will focus on HERE for Android, but the experience is very much the same on iOS.
What does HERE offer?
- Turn-by-turn navigation
- Online or Offline mode
- Real-time traffic data (where available)
- Public transport, walking and bicycle navigation
- Taxi hailing (limited availability)
- Destination collections with current location sharing/saving
- Indoor venue maps
- Nearby point-of-interest recommendations
HERE WeGo was recently renamed from the aforementioned HERE Maps since it was felt that 'HERE Maps' was too generic of a name, causing it the application to be lumped in with "other, lesser apps". The new name is designed to place the focus on what people really want from an app like HERE, which is "getting to places".
Using HERE is very easy and the app is overall very intuitive. It is feature packed and those features are very easy to access. One of the primary gripes I have with Google Maps is it does so many things that navigating the app and understanding some of those features can become overwhelming.
Accessing the side menu via the hamburger button reveals some top level settings and options. Much like Google Maps, users can select Map (default), Drive and Collections (more on collections later).
You will also be able to toggle the extremely useful offline mode that HERE has always offered.
Offline mode allows you to download maps for entire countries or specific regions such provinces and states. There is some loss of function with offline mode. You can still search for addresses and some POI's, as well as turn by turn navigation. However, searching using generic search terms, live traffic and other connected only options such as venue search will not function the same way as when online. To download all available HERE maps will take up a total of 10GB of space on your device.
The UI, as you can see in the previous images, is fairly basic, which is welcomed. Many mapping options available on Android, especially those offering offline navigation are over saturated with UI elements that can make the application challenging to use. This is not the case here.
Driving directions are clear and concise and HERE also offers drivers parking options near your destination, then will automatically switch to walking directions from the parking spot to the final destination. Another UI element I really like when using HERE is the ability to swipe left on route options to highlight the alternative routes available for your journey.
Possibly one of my favourite features of HERE is the aforementioned Collections function. Much like save places in Google Maps, users can save places to their favourites. With HERE you can sort them into customizable collections making it easy ti plan out a trip a head of time, or add places you encounter and want to circle back to. I have used this for many trips including time spent last year in Florida, Prince Edward County and Mikasew Provincial Park.
Here also has a very active Beta program for those looking to provide feedback and be on the bleeding edge of what HERE has to offer. On Android, you can visit the app page in the Play store, scroll the end of the listing and add yourself to the beta stream.
Overall, HERE WeGo does not offer as many features as the current King of the Hill, Google Maps, but it overall I feel that this application offer a more pure and simple mapping application. The implementation of "real" offline maps (sorry Google, you did it wrong) also adds the appeal for those who may want to avoid chewing through their data while travelling abroad or simply travelling locally with heavy map use.