These days, a smartphone is expected to do more than just field calls and text messages. Increasingly, users are ditching paper maps in favor of handheld screens, and if you’re the owner of a shiny new Windows Phone 8, you’re holding one of the most potent navigational tools on the market today. Unbeknownst to many, Nokia has been producing world-class maps for years, and the company’s recent ties to Microsoft has brought a lot of that expertise to the Windows phone’s platform. If you’re ever in rural places with weak mobile coverage, or in foreign countries where you’d rather not run up a high roaming bill just to navigate, it’s worth it to understand your offline options.
Much like an Android, the Windows Phone 8 also ships with a remarkable navigation program. HERE Drive (which is being updated so frequently that it’s currently marked as “Beta”) is 100 percent compatible with all Windows Phone 8 devices. And best of all, it’s 100 percent free. In truth, this one program is such a standout, that it’s worth considering the Windows Phone 8 platform simply to have access to it. HERE Drive (previously called Nokia Drive+) is a polished program that’s tightly integrated into the fabric of the Windows Phone, allowing background operation and voice command.
As the name implies, this app is predominantly useful for traveling via car, but the highlight feature is the offline mode. Users can download up-to-date maps of the entire United States, enabling offline guidance through one of the world’s most highly paved nations. Moreover, Nokia’s global presence means that around 100 other countries can also be downloaded for full offline navigation when visiting just about any place that the U.S. State Department would allow you to visit. Once you download all of these maps at home (don’t dare try to download those maps using your data plan!), you’ll also have access to offline search results once you arrive.
While the integrated free solution will suffice for most motorists, those needing more advanced features such as pedestrian navigation, active lane assistance, weather, and live traffic updates should turn to NAVIGON USA. This $49.99 app is very much like using a traditional Garmin GPS device, allowing you to save your home location, plot out routes ahead of time, and search through a huge library of points-of-interest. Plus, it has best-in-class rerouting. As with HERE Drive, you’ll need a solid Wi-Fi connection at home to download the entire highway area of the United States for offline usage, but it’s worth the peace of mind. Those venturing outside of the U.S. can look for future offerings (Europe, namely) from the company, which generally run $29.99–$49.99 per region.
I’d recommend that Android users take the time necessary to download offline regions while you’re at home on a reliable Wi-Fi connection. It’s best to plan ahead and have all of the maps you may need ahead of time. If you aren’t aware, using data to navigate in a foreign country can add hundreds of dollars to your mobile bill, which makes it very much worth the effort ahead of time to prepare your phone for travel.
MORE from ShermansTravel: