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Nokia Maps for iOS: Why Is Something So Good So Ugly?

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Nokia Maps (officially titled "Here") is a potential godsend for anyone fed up with Apple's subpar offering. It's blazingly fast, routes via public transportation with ease, and doesn't mix up Manhattan with Siberia. Unfortunately, it's bogglingly hard on the eyes.

Nokia Maps is equal to or better than Apple Maps is virtually every way. It is:

  • More accurate—fewer confused business and residential listings.
  • Includes public transit directions natively—no need to switch to (and purchase) a separate app just for taking the bus.
  • Free
  • Allows you to save a large chunk of any geographical area so that you can access it later online (this is huge for anyone who travels and wants to avoid international roaming).
  • Very, very speedy to load.

This is all lovely, until you look down at your screen and wonder if you need glasses. The good news is that you don't. The bad news is that Nokia Here, an app released in 2012, isn't optimized to fill out the iPhone's retina display, a technology released in 2010. As a result, everything is blurry and pixelated—like a JPEG that's been blown up too large. Not grossly so, but enough to be annoying at every pinch. It's not as if this makes the app unusable by any means. It will still get you around very, very well. But it's just ugly. And maps shouldn't be ugly. Maps are a thing you'll look at carefully, and things you look at carefully shouldn't be ugly.


I also encountered a fair number of buttons that resisted tapping, and a few confusing menu decisions. In some places, the app feels too mushed together. Luckily, Nokia says it's "aware" of the fact that its app already needs a makeover, on day one:

We are aware that HERE Maps for iOS doesn't use vector graphics and doesn't fully support retina display yet, but we are committed to updating the application on a regular basis.


I guess that means Nokia will update Here at some point. When is that? I don't know. What is a regular basis? I don't know. Does it need to happen soon if Nokia wants anyone to take advantage of the fantastic job they've done making an app that, looks aside, is more functional and easier to navigate than Apple's stab? Yes. [iTunes]