When Nokia made the announcement on 29 August to provide a beta version HERE navigation service on Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones as well as two navigation apps to Tizen-based Samsung smartwatches, we almost poured ourselves a glass of good wine to “celebrate”. It’s not so much that we’re fans of HERE and Galaxy (we are, as we are fans of all good services and devices), as the happiness to have our predictions vindicated once again. Late last year when we penned this piece to discuss the significance of HERE’s deal with Tizen, and predicted that it might have just “opened the door at Samsung”, we got a suspicious look rather than approving nods. Now the latest development made the “mission impossible” look very possible.
According to the announcement, HERE will provide a full suite of navigation services exclusively to selected Galaxy smartphones, as well as provide dedicated apps to Tizen-based smartwatches from Samsung, both the existing models and the upcoming Gear S. As suspicious as I have been with the desirability of smartwatches, the new navigation feature supplied by HERE to enable the Gear smartwatches to operate independent of the smartphones, among other features, will be a big improvement on user friendliness. For example, I would no longer need to wear a big phone on my arm (they’re getting bigger by the day) when I run outside.
HERE has a few advantages over Google Maps, not least its offline mode, and the capability to save maps of entire countries, which Nokia doesn’t miss the chance to promote. Beyond this, the acquisition of Medio in June 2014 should enable HERE to deliver personalized map and navigation experiences to users. And of course the very fact that this deal actually took place is significant in itself. To call this a coup may be an overstatement, as HERE will sit side by side with Google Maps on the Galaxy smartphones. As was highlighted in our analysis on Samsung’s content and service strategies, Samsung is bound by the agreement with Google that it has to take the whole suite of Google services. However it certainly further boosts HERE’s chance to go horizontal to other smartphone makers than Microsoft. Now that it has produced an Android version to showcase on the market leader , there is no reason why HERE would not go to other leading Android (both Google endorsed and independent) handset makers, after the exclusivity with Galaxy expires.