Nokia (NYSE:NOK) said it will bring its HERE mapping platform to devices that run Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android software starting with Samsung Electronics' Galaxy smartphones. The deal represents a major win for Nokia since the company sold its devices business to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in April.
According to Nokia, thanks to a licensing deal with Samsung, a HERE beta for Android will be made available for free in October when Samsung rolls out its Gear S smart watch, which runs on the Tizen platform but also supports HERE. That should strengthen the link between the wearable device and Samsung's smartphones, which can be paired together via Bluetooth.
However, according to TechCrunch, a Nokia spokesperson said that the mapping platform will be coming to other Android devices, though there is no exact timeline for when. "HERE for Android is part of our partnership with Samsung, but we aim to make HERE available to as many people as possible," the spokesperson said, adding that it will be sometime "later this year."
The mapping platform could let Samsung set itself apart from other Android device makers, at least for a time, by offering another solution beyond Google Maps, which is the default mapping service on Android phones.
Nokia made HERE and its location-based services a cornerstone of its strategy when it still had a devices business. Now that Nokia doesn't sell phones anymore, licensing HERE to other companies has become even more critical. However, as The Verge notes, the iOS HERE app was pulled from the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) App Store late last year. Nokia announced the iOS HERE app in November 2012, and at the same time it said it would launch an Android SDK for HERE.
The news about Nokia's HERE plans for Android also comes after the division's CEO, Michael Halbherr, resigned earlier this month. Nokia has appointed Cliff Fox as acting head of its HERE mapping business from Sept. 1.
HERE offers full map functionality when users are offline, such as when they are underground on a subway or in an area with spotty coverage. The offline functionality also can make loading and accessing maps faster, Nokia noted. HERE supports real-time public transit schedules and lets users search for nearby locations by category. The service has maps for more than 200 countries, including turn-by-turn navigation in nearly 100, traffic information in more than 40 countries and transit maps and direction in more than 750 urban areas across more than 40 countries. Yet Google has caught up to some of those advantages with its latest updates to its Maps app, which now offers more offline map support and lane guidance for drivers.
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