In less than a week, HERE has seen two major updates. The first brought more accurate maps to Android and Windows Phone users, making way for turn-by-turn navigation in more countries. And the second brings a slew of improvements to HERE for Android as the app finally drops the beta label.
Having used HERE on Android right from the start, I have to say that there is little that I miss compared to what the app suite has to offer on Windows Phone. Still, this hasn't stopped Nokia from making some tweaks here and there. Here's what the latest update brings to the table.
HERE Maps users on Android and Windows Phone are being treated to a major map update today, which expands the list of regions where turn-by-turn navigation is available, improves map quality in a number of regions, and increases the accuracy of public transit information in more cities, among other things.
In fact, Nokia claims that there are too many changes in this update to list individually, but says that they impact users all over the globe. Let's take a look at the biggest changes.
Nokia Lumia Icon is among the last Windows Phones to receive a software update to Windows Phone 8.1, despite its flagship credentials. But this shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, Lumia Icon features Verizon's logo. And we all know that big red is not exactly quick with updates.
In fact, despite being a Verizon exclusive, Lumia Icon is long gone from the carrier's portfolio. Talk about support there! The only Windows Phones Verizon sells now are HTC One (M8) for Windows and Samsung ATIV SE. Still, Lumia Icon will at least get Lumia Denim, which is based on Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, quite possibly before any other high-end Windows Phone in US.
Nokia’s best decision might have been selling its mobile division to Microsoft for £5 billion, removing the sinking division and giving the Finnish company enough capital to re-invest in networking and mapping technologies.
The results are already noticeable; Nokia reported £2.84 billion in revenue and £331 million net profit in the fourth quarter, compared to £2.60 billion in revenue and £17 million in net loss last year.
Microsoft has released its earnings report for Q2 FY2015 (that's Q4 CY2014 for everyone else), revealing figures that closely match analyst expectations. The software giant achieved $26.5 billion in revenue, with operating income coming in at $7.8 billion. Gross margin and diluted earnings per share were $16.3 billion and $0.71, respectively. However, in after-hours trading, Microsoft's shares dropped by $2, or 4.28 percent, to $45 per share.
Microsoft has delivered some good news through its earnings report concerning its Devices and Consumer part of the business. Surface revenue reached $1.1 billion at the end of the quarter, which translates to a healthy increase of 24 percent over Q2 FY2014. Lumia sales topped 10.5 million, which, again, is better than the same quarter from a year prior as well as the previous quarter, Q1 FY2015. And the list goes on.
Smartphones may be more affordable than ever, but, for quite a few people, they are still too expensive. And they offer short battery life, pretty much across the board. It is not a winning combination, especially for those living in developing markets, looking to be connected to the Internet while on the go.
Enter Nokia 215, a dirt-cheap Internet-ready phone, which Microsoft announced earlier today. It packs some of the most-important features people want in a smartphone, but without any of the major drawbacks. The software giant calls it its "most affordable Internet-ready entry-level phone yet", costing just $29.
At the end of 2014, the Windows Phone landscape is dominated by low-end smartphones. Of the ten most popular devices that the platform has to offer, just two are high-end handsets -- however, neither is a current-day flagship. If it is not clear enough by now, Windows Phone is nothing more than a low-end affair, after more than four years down the road. Is that a bad thing?
Nokia Lumia 520 is the most-successful Windows Phone around, accounting for a whopping 25.4 percent of Windows Phones in use. Put differently, it is as popular as the following nine most popular Windows Phones put together. Altogether, the top ten makes up 67.2 percent share in this market, according to information revealed by AdDuplex.
Microsoft is keeping its promise of delivering Lumia Denim in the last quarter of 2014, as the firmware update is rolling out now. However, most devices which are slated to get it will only receive it starting early next year.
"The Lumia Denim update has started rolling out to a limited number of devices in selected markets, and will continue arriving in waves by device", says Microsoft's Adam Frasier. "A wider rollout of Lumia Denim to all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to begin in early January, following partner testing and approvals". I wouldn't be surprised if the roll-out ends very late in Q1 2015.
Nokia’s HERE suite of driving and navigation apps first made its appearance on Windows Phone, and although it’s now being developed for other platforms, for many it remains best associated with Microsoft’s mobile operating system.
However, now that Nokia is no longer tied to Windows Phone, the Finnish company’s interest in developing for that platform is waning, and it will in future be focusing on Android and iOS -- which have a much larger user base.
With Windows Phone still struggling to gain considerable traction, Microsoft is trying to boost its operating system's market share by focusing on the low-end of the market, which has real potential of attracting consumers, especially those in emerging markets. And, so far this year, Microsoft has introduced quite a few affordable Windows Phones, with the latest of the bunch being the still-Nokia-branded Lumia 638.
Lumia 638 is a new Windows Phone 8.1 handset that is designed for India. It is touted to be one of the most affordable smartphones with 4G connectivity available in this Asian market, which is sure to attract the attention of price-conscious local buyers. What else does it have to offer?
Samsung, the largest smartphone supplier, has had a surprising year and reported losing over 20 million sales, compared to 2013.
Samsung sold 7 million less units in Q3 and 23 million less overall in 2014, compared to the previous year. The Galaxy S5 has been a huge letdown for Samsung, selling less than 20 million units in 2014, a number Apple’s iPhone 6 has already surpassed.
Detailing a partnership that was made public today, Finnish company Nokia revealed that its HERE division will provide maps to Chinese Internet services provider Baidu to use outside of its home market.
Normally, such an announcement would hardly garner any attention. However, it makes Baidu the first Chinese company that will offer location-based services to Chinese residents who are traveling abroad. That's a big deal. And Nokia is at the center of it.
For Nokia to get any real traction with HERE outside of Windows Phone and its former brands, the Finnish company must make its app available to as many potential new users as possible. And that means offering it on the biggest mobile app stores around today -- Apple App Store and Google Play.
Today, Nokia is taking a step in the right direction by making HERE for Android available on Google Play. The app's availability on the largest Android app store comes more than three months after the initial launch, for Galaxy smartphones. HERE still sports the beta label, but continues to offer the same lovely features we have come to expect from it.
What is Nokia doing after ditching phone-making? The Finnish company is focusing its efforts on more lucrative endeavors, like HERE. Even though nowadays the brand is mostly associated with Windows Phone, Nokia also brought its well-known mapping software to Android and ramped up its efforts to make the web version more attractive as well.
The result of the company's work to improve the online version of HERE is said to be "a better, faster and stronger here.com", which packs some interesting, value-adding new features. However, there is also something in store (no pun intended) for Windows Phone users, in the form of an update which is available for HERE apps on the platform.
Microsoft purchased Nokia, in part, earlier this year and has now begun the slow process of making it their own. New phones are being rebranded, which is not particularly surprising. Though, parterning with Opera (yes, the browser maker) is bit of a shock.
However, today the Norwegian company announced a deal with the software giant to begin powering the app store on certain models of handsets.