As most of the readers here know, I am in the middle of using an HTC One Android powered handset right now. As I use the device day to day, it makes me appreciate the solid package that Microsoft has with Windows Phone 8.1 and how much “extra” is needed to get Android to do the same basic features. While I have missed a few of the Apps that I use daily, like Nokia Mix Radio and the weekly view calendar, there are also a few gaping holes that Android has left to fill before it catches up with Windows Phone. Yes, I said that, before it catches up to Windows Phone.
I know what people say about the accuracy of Here Maps and Here Drive+, but I don’t get it. About 99.9% of the time, Here gets me where I need to go, and does it without data. Sure, sometimes I need to hit a Wi-Fi connection or pop in to cellular data to look up a location for mapping, but the map itself is completely off line. They have also done an amazing job of keeping the map sizes to a minimum while keeping as much detail as possible. For example, my Washington Map in Here is about 120MB. The same map in Navigon is 650MB.
Recently, Google allowed map caching again, which allows you to “save” a map in the area where you are going for offline use. While this is a great function, what isn’t covered is that you only get 6 maps, and the area is very limited as to what you can save. While the smaller areas are great for when you reach your destination, most of the ‘navigation’ must be done online unless you want to pull over and stop at a few Starbucks along your route for the free Wi-Fi to update your saved maps.
Now there are few noteworthy Apps in Android to help bridge the gap between Here and Google. The first is NavFree USA. This program uses OSM mapping data that is completed by users. The more people that use it, the better the mapping system gets. NavFree is free to use, but offers paid premium features as well.
Navigon is probably the most complete offline navigation system for Android. The problem with Navigon is that it runs $39.95 for the US version. This isn’t cheap, but it really appears to be the strongest offline system available for Android. The irony of Navigon is the fact that it is powered by none other then, Here Maps.
It appears that Windows Phone, thanks to Nokia, has such a clear cut lead in navigation over the competition that if you are considering using your device as a GPS regularly, Here Maps should be a very strong reason to grab that new Nokia Lumia. Of course, Here is available for other devices, but why not just snag the new Lumia with its superior camera, brilliant display and amazing construction. Your cell bill will thank you for it with the ability save playlists offline with Nokia Mix Radio, save maps for offline use with Here Maps and of course, the data compression savings of Data Sense. Overall, it will save you a ton in possible overages while still giving you a first class navigation and entertainment experience.