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Nokia unfolds its Here maps app to broader Android market

The Here beta for Android expands beyond Samsung devices. But there's some friction with the distribution plan.

heremapsscreenshot.jpg
Nokia's Here mapping app is now available in a beta version on all Android phones. Here.com screenshot by CNET

Nokia has launched its Here mapping app for Android on all smartphones, the company said Tuesday.

The move provides more distribution than the first effort with Here, which focused only on Samsung Galaxy smartphones. When Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft, it kept its networking unit and Here mapping business along with intellectual property.

Here appears to be a promising map application, but the beta has its distribution issues. For instance, Here initially made an appearance on the Samsung Galaxy Apps Store, which lacks the footprint of Google Play. Samsung and Here have a broader collaboration effort under way.

For the broader Android rollout, Here has to be side loaded onto devices or downloaded via a URL. These hurdles aren't insurmountable -- it's not rocket science -- but there's some friction involved with installing Here. The app is also available on Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating system and on Amazon's Fire OS.

It turns out part of the installation friction is by design.

Sean Fernback, Nokia's senior vice president of everyday mobility for Here, said the following in a recent interview with ZDNet's Jo Best:

This is a very competitive space, there's a number of different maps applications out there, a lot of them are free, and that's hard to compete with. So we decided we'd do something different, and our approach to getting reach and distribution is by partnership only. That's not to say at some point we wouldn't put it on the [Play] Store, but that's not our prime strategy for creating a volume base of users.

That strategy is interesting since Here is basically planning on a mapping buddy system that would presumably include being bundled by carriers or smartphone vendors. The plan would play to Nokia's historical partnership strategy but may not result in a large base of users.

Time will tell. For now, if you want to give Here a try, you'll need to go outside Google Play.

This story originally appeared as "Nokia expands HERE mapping to broader Android market" on ZDNet.