There was this teaser two days ago:
Tune in for more news tomorrow at 10am London time pic.twitter.com/UuHMThg8Bw
— HERE (@here) August 28, 2014
Of course as you may correctly note, this was a few hours before Samsung surprised us all with an earlier than expected unveiling of its latest smartwatch, the Gear S. It is not like we did not know the Gear S was coming; we all knew it was. Just that we expected the gorgeous chronograph with smart capabilities and built-in cellular network reception radios to show up at Samsung’s pre-IFA event not a week before. Perhaps LG’s “meh” G Watch R and the impending arrival of the iWatch from Apple (if the mysterious invite card is anything to go by) prompted the quick decision before anyone leaked it and spoilt the party for the Koreans. Still, we can’t help but notice the continuation of Samsung’s Tizen efforts in the smartwatch. With Tizen in the mix, that means the maps application by default is going to be Nokia’s HERE Maps and not the Android Wear darling, Google Maps. So far it hasn’t been the case with Samsung’s current lineup of Gear devices. That is until the Gear S checked in 48 hours ago. The Gear S has assisted GPS so it will include turn-by-turn navigation thanks to HERE Maps and be able to provide the same data to compatible smartphones paired with the device (not a must since the Gear S is a standalone smartwatch but just in case). That is now extending to Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones as HERE Maps breaks its Windows Phone smartphone exclusivity (we forgot about Yolla’s Saifish, sorry) and comes to Android devices for the first time ever!
Launching in beta (as expected) and available to only a few select Galaxy devices like the S5, HERE Maps brings its popular navigation and map saving capabilities to Android at a time when Google Maps has been the defacto Maps app (thanks in part to Google bundling Play certification for devices with its apps like Chrome, Youtube and Maps). The application will also incorporate location-sharing features thanks to Glympse, an already popular application on the Play Store for that purpose whose technology is built-in to the HERE Maps app to make the whole process seamless. Something like how Swiftkey’s Flow “swipe” technology is incorporated in Samsung’s stock keyboard on its Android-powered devices.
We don’t have a full list of the Samsung Galaxy devices that will have HERE Maps (beta) from the get-go but we can assume that beyond the obvious Galaxy S5 other flagship Samsung devices from the last 18 months like the Galaxy Note 3 and the S4 will also be sharing the love. Will HERE Maps be coming to other Android devices like those made by Sony, HTC, Huawei, LG, Lnovo and others? We don’t know about that either since there is no official communication along those lines but what we know is that there is an agreement between Samsung and the HERE Maps team for Samsung’s Galaxy devices only to be able to access the app and users to have a taste of life outside Google Maps at the moment.
When can you download it and take it on a spin? Soon enough. As soon as the Gear as is available in retail stores. We can guess it will be available on Samsung’s Galaxy Apps store as was the case with BBM when it landed on Samsung Galaxy devices in Africa last year through a similar exclusivity arrangement. Who knows, we might start seeing newer Samsung smartphones arrive with the HERE Maps application pre-loaded.
From the press shots shared by the HERE team, I noted something: there are alternative routes showing up! That’s something I did noot have when I was using HERE Maps for navigation using the Lumia 1320 months ago. Maybe I am wrong but I think this is one feature that the Android application has that the HERE Maps app for Windows Phone lacks. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.