Nokia pulled a coup in the great mobile mapping battle on Tuesday, getting its new Nokia HERE Maps app approved for download in Apple’s notoriously fickle App Store in the U.S., where it quickly rocketed into the top ten most popular apps listed on Apple’s ranking chart, at one point hitting the number three spot and besting Apple’s own retail store app.
The App Store debut of Nokia HERE Maps, the company’s renamed cloud-based mapping service for the Web and mobile devices, was of special note given that Nokia managed to beat Google Maps back to the App Store.
Apple in September unceremoniously ejected Google Maps from the iPhone, a tremendous move as Google was the default mapping app on the iPhone since it was launched in 2007. It was just one of several recent signs of the once-friendly companies’ growing competition in the all-important mobile device market.
Apple’s own, in-house replacement default mapping app, Apple Maps, was widely trashed by consumers and the media alike, who noted it shipped with numerous glitches, including sometimes serving up incorrect directions and addresses. The outcry was so pronounced Apple CEO Tim Cook released a public apology on Apple’s website. Google, meanwhile, has been cagey about whether or not it is working on a replacement, stand-alone Google Maps app that users would have to download separately for their Apple devices from the App Store, and when such an app might be available, if at all.
So Nokia, clearly seeing an opportunity, rushed to seize it, announcing its new Nokia HERE Maps service on November 13, along with a promise to have an app for Apple devices running Apple’s mobile software, iOS.
That promise came to fruition on Tuesday, with Nokia’s HERE Maps vaulting to the top spot in the Apple App Store’s navigation category and climbing the 10 top free apps overall throughout the day.
But initial user reviews of the Nokia HERE Maps were mixed, with some complaining that the data seemed out of date, that the app didn’t recognize cross-streets in big cities like New York, and that it wasn’t much better on the whole than Apple’s own maps app. As of the time of this posting, out of over 600 reviews, Nokia HERE Maps app in the App Store had earned 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Nokia, taking to its “@HereMaps” Twitter account on Tuesday, told TPM it was looking into all of its user complaints. Nokia consistently responded to questions and complaints tweeted by users during the course of the day, as well.
Nokia is fighting a multi-front war, seeking to make its mapping service the go-to choice for users across all sorts of mobile devices and online, while at the same time, selling its own distinct, closed smartphones, the latest of which are in the Nokia Lumia line and run Microsoft Windows Phone 8.
That’s because as Google and Apple duke it out for the top selling mobile operating systems around the globe (Google’s Android is far away in the lead for now), Nokia is struggling to revive its own faltering device sales: The Finnish phonemaker was once the dominant player in the mobile industry, but its fortunes have waned as users have increasingly chosen smartphones running Apple iOS and Google Android over feature (or “dumb”) phones running Nokia’s more primitive Symbian OS, which is being discontinued.
But even the very existence of Nokia’s HERE Maps for Apple devices (any iPhone, iPad and iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later, to be exact) was cause for contention on Tuesday.
For instance, Nokia’s HERE Twitter account also attempted to counter opinions that its HERE Maps for iPhone was better than Nokia’s, saying that “on Windows Phone (particularly on WP8) the Nokia Maps experience is far more advanced than on iOS (e.g. true offline),” pointing to a previous company blog post that notes one of Nokia’s unique mapping features, an augmented reality experience called LiveSight, is only available on Nokia Lumia devices for now.
Indeed, a few other mapping features that Nokia bragged about when first unveiling HERE Maps a week prior were conspicuously missing from its new app for Apple devices, including a 3D maps view and a Street Level Area view analogous to Google’s Street View.
Still, Nokia’s strategy for mapping is sheer availability as much as it quality of any one app: The company pointed out Tuesday that a HERE Maps app was available in Amazon’s Android Appstore (the official store for Kindle Fire devices), and earlier noted that it would soon release a pure Android version and Android software development kit (SDK), to allow third-party developers to develop their own apps using Nokia’s map data. Nokia HERE Maps also powers two of the largest tech companies in the world: Microsoft and Facebook, and are set to be the default mapping app on Mozilla’s upcoming mobile Firefox OS smartphones due out in 2013.