I Gave Up on Google Maps and My New Navigation App Is Mind-Blowing

HERE WeGo on Apple CarPlay 20 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
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I'm just going to say it again: Google Maps is a Godsend, and this is probably why so many people out there aren't willing to try out anything else right now. For me, for example, Google Maps is a must-have application on absolutely all my devices, and it's typically one of the first apps I install after getting a new phone.
For the daily commutes, the traffic information helps us all avoid those super-frustrating moments when we end up spending minutes looking at each other from the comfort of our own driver's seat, all while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. There are moments, however, when we've got to love how Google Maps works. For a longer drive, for instance, it finds just the best route to make sure our kids don't lose patience due to the never-ending journey (because we all know what happens when our little ones get bored).

Let's not forget that Google Maps is now an eco-friendly navigation solution as well. Google also developed a fuel-saving route option, so the application can suggest different routes that help cut the carbon footprint of your vehicle. To do this, it takes into account even more factors for the route calculation model, including zones with a significant road incline where vehicles typically burn more fuel. After all, such ideas make perfect sense. We live in a modern world, and a modern world needs modern solutions as well.

But on the other hand, all of these don’t necessarily mean that Google Maps is always flawless. It is not, and the occasional glitches, the GPS connection problems that show up every once in a while, and the focus on non-navigation capabilities are pushing users to one of the many alternatives out there.

To be honest, the one thing that convinced me to switch is Google’s investments in features that aren’t directly related to the experience behind the wheel. This only makes the app more cluttered, turning Waze into Google’s superstar when it comes down to a solution that’s first and foremost built with drivers in mind.

My Google Maps replacement, however, has nothing to do with Google.

HERE WeGo on CarPlay
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
While it may come as a shock for some, Google Maps isn’t the number one navigation app in the world. Recent research crowned HERE as the leading name in this space, not only thanks to technology that eventually made a big impact for drivers (such as Intelligent Speed Assistance) but also following the collaboration with a growing number of carmakers, including BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, and others.

In other words, HERE’s software is powering more and more cars out there on the road, so there’s no doubt that its mobile navigation solution needs a chance as well.

HERE WeGo, a navigation app that was previously known as Nokia Maps and later as HERE Maps, is one of the best Google Maps alternatives, and if you’ve never used it, there’s no doubt you need to give it a try. It’s a fantastic app, and here’s precisely why.

First and foremost, its interface is extremely clean, straightforward, and easy to navigate. The app is focused on the driving experience, so the map is at the center of the core experience. Once you define a destination, the UI lets you adjust the settings in real-time so, for example, you can check the active layer, turn the traffic information on and off, enable or disable routing via highways or toll roads, and so on.

Drivers are always in full control of the navigation experience, and changing everything on the go is extremely convenient and straightforward. This is something that makes a huge difference from Google Maps.

HERE WeGo on CarPlay
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
You can also choose between the shortest travel time and the shortest travel distance, though I do have one suggestion here. The parent company should add a preview of the route for each setting because, right now, users just need to enable one of the two and then go back to the route preview to see the travel time and the distance.

Another thing that’s much better implemented than in Google Maps is the support for offline maps. Downloading the maps to use them without an Internet connection in Google Maps is a major pain in the neck, as you need to define a region by selecting an area on the map. This means you can’t download the offline maps for an entire country, for instance.

In HERE WeGo, the application allows you to download the full maps for a specific country or even for the entire continent. Of course, the larger the area, the bigger the size of the package – for instance, the maps covering the entire Europe weigh more than 16GB of data, so not only that the download takes more time, but the regular updates also use more cellular data (unless you connect to a Wi-Fi network).

HERE WeGo also allows you to select the fuel type of the vehicle, so when you search for nearby gas stations, for instance, the app will always suggest the locations that are appropriate for your car.

HERE WeGo on CarPlay
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
The rest of the basic navigation feature package is there as well, so you’re also getting voice guidance, speed limit alerts, rest areas while driving on highways, satellite maps, and options to save your favorite locations and, therefore, start the navigation faster.

Furthermore, HERE WeGo also comes with a number of extras. One of the features that I really like, and which is also available in Google Maps (though using a not-so-straightforward approach), is an option to save the location of the car.

HERE WeGo uses the maps developed by the parent company, and this makes such a huge difference in terms of finding the right route to the destination. In one month spent with the app, I found that the ETAs are more accurate than in Google Maps, so in some way, HERE manages to anticipate the changing driving conditions better than its rival.

At the end of the day, HERE WeGo proves that the market has plenty of options as far as Google Maps alternatives go. Obviously, most of them are available not only on iPhone but also on Google’s very own playground.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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