After an interesting drive on a narrow gravel road along the Cacapon River, I found myself in a total dead spot in the bottom of a valley, and no real idea how to get to my next planned destination. Tried routing with Google Maps, and got the endless spinning circle. Did I mention endless? Even though I was in a location where the map was already on the phone, Google Maps was incapable of calculating anything without phoning home to a server somewhere.
So I opened up HERE for the first time. The interface is pretty self-explanatory. I set it to work in offline mode, typed in the name of the town I was headed to, told it to navigate, and in 15 seconds or so had a British woman's voice telling me where to go. Well, you know what I mean. The route got me where I was going with voice prompts. There were a couple of idiosyncrasies, I think, but nothing major. I need to use it more to see if they recur, or were just artifacts of being in the middle of nowhere. But it did get me where I was going without any issues.
With the default British voice, you also get British terminology (e.g., "drive onto the motorway" instead of "highway"). You can also choose a US voice, as well as multiple other countries. Higher quality voices can be downloaded from within the app. Occasionally, it got annoying with too many prompts too close together, but Google does that, too.
The app displays the speed you're driving, and the speed limit for the road you're on, at the bottom of the screen, which is handy. It also beeps when you exceed the speed limit, or a a preset threshold above the limit, which you can control (e.g. 2 mph over the speed limit, 5 mph over, etc.) which could potentially be a money and license saver (and which you can turn off if you don't like it). It also seems to beep when you pass that threshold while slowing down, which is more a bit annoying when traffic is moving along at about that speed, varying slightly above and below.
All in all, after one use, it seems pretty much on par with Google. It lacks voice commands, I think (but need to use it in online mode to be sure), but works without any cell connection, which could be invaluable if you spend much time in the boonies. The user interface is more than a bit dated, but I'll take the ability to get where I'm going over a pretty face any time. I need to spend some more time with it in connected mode to make a valid comparison to Google Maps, but at the very least it s a valuable addition to the list of available mapping apps.
The beta download is available HERE. (Pun intended.) It is technically still in beta, but seemed solid in my usage.
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