November 20, 2012, 4:11 PM — Nokia's new Here Maps for iPhone and iPad launched in the App Store Monday, the latest offering in the flood of navigation apps trying to take advantage of widespread dissatisfaction with Apple's new native Maps app that, in iOS 6, replaced Google as the map provider. Nokia's product might not provide complete satisfaction to users pining for the old Google product, but it has a few tricks of its own.
Before you get started, you'll have to sign in--either by creating a Nokia account (if you don't already have one) or using your Facebook account. Even if you use Facebook, though, Nokia will send you an email asking you to create a password "to experience the full suite of Nokia services," though avoiding that hassle is ostensibly one reason you use your Facebook account in the first place.
Once you sign in, Here opens, showing you roughly where you're located. A banner runs along the bottom of the page, listing some of the top attractions within a mile or so of your location--museums, college campuses, diners, and more--and some of those locations also appear as icons on the map itself. (You can choose to view distances in either kilometers or miles.) That banner isn't seen in the iPhone version of the app, which is one of the few differences in the app's presentation between platforms.
In the upper right-hand corner of the screen sits a small button; tap it and you're given the option to search for a new map location, look up a route for travel purposes, create a map "collection," or perform several other functions. Searching for a specific location is fairly straightforward. Finding a route is just a little bit trickier, because the navigation buttons aren't entirely intuitive.
You're offered three buttons for choosing your route: a car, which would seem to indicate driving instructions; a stick figure man, which would seem to indicate walking instructions, and a bus, which would seem to indicate transit. Tap on the car, though, and you're asked what time you plan to make the trip--a question better suited, but not offered, in the transit instructions. You can work around this, but Nokia should clean up the navigation in this part of the app to avoid confusion. Despite that confusion, though, the app's integration with local public transit services makes it feel more complete than Apple's native app, which lacks such built-in offerings.
Once you choose a route, you can choose voice-guided navigation. (Nokia says that this feature is in beta.) It will take a few moments to download the voice instructions, however, and there's no choice of voices--you'll be guided on your route by a slightly fussy, mildly cheerful British gentleman.