Nokia has hinted at a sale of its HERE mapping and location unit since April, when it announced its merger with Alcatel-Lucent and a strategic review of HERE. The rumors at the time pegged Uber and unnamed German carmakers to be interested in the acquisition, then were more substantiated last month when Bloomberg revealed that the trio of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz were the most likely candidates.
Nokia, in their continuing withdrawal from the mobile phone and software industry, appears close to selling off their best remaining asset in that market: HERE Maps. According to a report by Bloomberg, Nokia will sell their mapping technology and know-how to Germany's three biggest automakers, BMW, Audi (owned by Volkswagen), and Mercedes-Benz. Though they typically compete against one another, each shares common concerns about Google's market position and privacy policies.
The report estimates the asking price of HERE to be nearing $4 billion USD, though the final offer may be closer to $2.5 billion. While that sounds like a big number, HERE is a product of Nokia's acquisition of NAVTEQ for $8.1 billion in 2008.
Android users in general like widgets. Android "advocates" (which I suppose includes all of us here at Android Police) remember when it was one of the biggest differentiators between Google's mobile operating system and iOS, back when people were trying to convince us that we didn't really need copy and paste support. So when Nokia's Z Launcher homescreen replacement app launched without widgets, a considerable number of users couldn't switch over because of this lack.
Now the developers have alleviated this problem, so it's a good time to give Z Launcher another chance. Version 1.2 adds basic widget support: swipe to the blank screen on the left side of the main launcher and long-press to add them.
Shortly after confirming the rumors of its talks with Alcatel-Lucent yesterday, Nokia has announced today that it does indeed intend to buy the French firm. The deal would combine both European companies' assets under the Nokia Corporation name, with headquarters in Helsinki and a strong presence in France. No cash transactions would be involved, instead the acquisition is a public exchange offer whereby 0.55 Nokia shares are offered for every Alcatel-Lucent share. The valued total amounts to 15,6 Billion Euros.
The merger has been approved by both companies' boards of directors and should be closed by 2016 if it gets the regulatory go-ahead. Once done, current Alcatel-Lucent shareholders would own 33.5% of the combined company and Nokia shareholders the remaining 66.5%.
Just yesterday, HERE Beta sent out an update with a few minor improvements. Today, they came out like gangbusters by dropping the beta label and adding some serious polish to the app. This navigation app, perhaps the most serious challenger to Google Maps, is developed by once-ubiquitous OEM Nokia. Now, they think they are ready for showtime.
It's really a quite nice looking app and has become popular for its solid international support. Another differentiating feature is how easy it makes offline use, which is still a pain on Google Maps.
Here are the changes since the last beta update:
New, interactive 3D maps of shopping centers and airports in 70 countries
The route planner shows driving, public transit and walking routes on one screen so you can compare options at a glance
You can now tap on any place icon on the map to find out more about it and how to get there
Traffic incidents show you what's causing jams before you have to find out first-hand
You can now download maps in the background — no need to wait around for them to finish
You can also download voices to your SD card
Turn-by-turn voice-guidance volume has been adjusted, so you can hear directions more clearly
You can now use HERE on devices with 64-bit processors
The 3D maps seem really cool, but time will tell if there are enough that you'll make use of them.
Nokia's Here maps app has proven a popular alternative to Google Maps, thanks largely to its strong international support and offline navigation mode. There's an update rolling out today that improves mapping data across a number of countries and adds new turn-by-turn locations.
For years, Google Maps has been a compelling reason to own an Android device, but it's not the only mobile navigation service out there worth your time. Nokia's HERE service has built a name for itself, attracting users thanks to its presence on competing platforms and a number of strengths, such as the ability to store maps for offline viewing/navigation and the presence of data in countries Google essentially considers the middle of nowhere.
Nokia is taking the stage today at Slush 2014, the Eurasian tech incubator event in Helsinki, to announce its N1 tablet with Android 5.0 Lollipop. This is the original Nokia we're talking about here, the one still in Finland, that includes all the divisions that didn't get bought by Microsoft. Part of me wants to scream, "You should have taken this route 4 years ago!" while the other is just too happy to see Nokia standing on its feet and trying something again — while also reviving the Nseries monicker.
And the N1 is an impressive tablet to say the least. It follows in the Nexus 9's footsteps with a 4:3 aspect ratio display, though with a wee-bit smaller size at 7.9", a resolution of 2048x1536, and a zero air-gap with the Gorilla glass 3 that's on top of it.
Earlier this year, Nokia surprised everyone by developing an interesting Android app called Z Launcher. Back then, it was only available for beta participants as an APK download on Nokia's website. Today, along with its Android N1 tablet announcement at Slush 2014, the company has revealed that Z Launcher is making its official debut on the Play Store.
If you haven't tried Z Launcher before, you should think of it as Yahoo's Aviate with Google Gesture Search running on top. Basically, Z Launcher doesn't just work as a regular homescreen replacement where you organize your apps and widgets in a static layout. Instead, it will look for patterns in your behavior throughout the day, including the apps you launch, the people you call, and the websites you browse, and surface them to you to anticipate your needs.
Update 10/2/14: The initial beta APK (1.0-124) started showing an expiration message and stopped working, but a newer beta APK (1.0-172) has popped up. We've validated its legitimacy, and it indeed no longer shows the expiration message. Download it here (thanks, Branko Kostic!).
Last month Nokia announced that it would release a version of its highly-regarded HERE mapping and navigation app for Android, but only to licensed partners, starting with Samsung. Late last week an APK for a beta version of HERE, labeled as 1.0, was posted to MediaFire and spotted by Spanish language Android enthusiast site El Android Libre.