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Nokia released their map application for iOS called “Here” yesterday. It’s supposed to offer free, turn-by-turn voice directions, and of course, everyone expects it to be better than Apple’s new Maps application. Nokia has a reputation for good maps on their phones.

So I’m trying to figure out where they got that rep. If the maps experience on Nokia phones is remotely like the iOS app, then I pity the folks with Nokia phones.

Sure, Apple Maps doesn’t have a lot of places in it, and it might send you to an odd place (or an odd way). But at least I can use my Contacts info to get somewhere. In Here? Nope. You can enter an address, or search for something.  I hope you typed it correctly, too, because the little “x” button at the end of the text field? Yeah, in other apps that means “delete what’s in this field;” here it’s just ornamental. Fortunately, you can use the backspace key on the keyboard to back out the letters.

So after I figured out that tapping on a button that looked like a list gave me a choice of several options, including routing, I was finally able to generate a route. It even found Comerica Park, the Detroit Tigers’ ballpark, without a problem, and generated a route for me. OK, so how do I get it to start the route? There’s a new button icon below the last one, maybe…but no, that lists the route as text directions. Hmm..the original button? Nope. I see there’s now a “left” button at the top-left of the screen, signifying “go back;” maybe that takes me to the normal nav screen?

Nope. It just takes me away from the route overview. After fooling with Here for 10 minutes the first time and another 10 later in the day, I *still* can’t figure out how to start the instructions! And why do they always default to “walking” – after all, both routes I tried (from work to home and home to the ballpark) are over 19 miles.

I can’t believe someone found a way to make Apple Maps look superior, but Nokia has done it. This is a poor piece of work, and if I had paid a penny for it I’d want my money back. There must be no quality control whatsoever at Nokia to allow this out – they obviously never handed it to someone not familiar with their maps (or probably anyone outside the development team). Apple’s Maps app needs better data; Nokia here is just useless.

If you really want a great, free, turn-by-turn map experience, download the MapQuest app. Clearly-labeled buttons, all of which work, good-looking maps, fast, and the directions are even right. It will use your Contacts, too (if you let it). You can use the web-based Google Maps if you want Street View, but I think MapQuest is a better app, as being a native program, it’s faster. But either one is at least useful, which is more than I can say for Nokia’s Here.

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