The past six years have been strange ones for Nokia.
In 2007, Nokia was an 800-pound Finnish gorilla dominating the mobile phone market. Then Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and all hell broke loose. Suddenly, everyone wanted a smartphone.
The iPhone reigned supreme for a few years, then, handset makers that had never gained much traction with consumers found Android and launched a hugely successful counter-attack. But Nokia? Not so much.
Nokia stubbornly continued producing feature phones based around its Symbian operating system. And when Nokia finally did warm up to smartphones, instead of building devices around open-source Android, Nokia chose to align itself with Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft: the maker of mobile technology that no one really wants. (UPDATE: And now, by coincidence, the new owner of Nokia's device unit.)
As a result, Nokia's phone unit has been far, far behind the curve -- particularly in the U.S., where it's hovered on the brink of irrelevance. But the company's reputation in the field of navigation is doing just fine, and something called Nokia HERE Auto should bolster it further.
WHAT IS NOKIA HERE AUTO?
Today, Nokia unveiled Nokia HERE Auto and the HERE Auto Companion app. They're part of a suite of navigation systems that are meant to simplify getting from Point A to Point B.
All told, there are three elements in that suite:
- Nokia HERE Auto, an in-car navigation systems that's built into your car's dashboard. It offers turn-by-turn directions, plus a range of 2D, 3D, and satellite maps.
- Nokia HERE Auto Companion, an app that integrates with the HERE Auto in-dash system, allowing you to access the same maps and saved routes. You can also use the app to help locate your car in crowded parking lots. The app is available for Android and Windows devices, and it appears an iOS version is in the works.
- Nokia HERE Auto Cloud, which is a bit like a traffic and concierge service all rolled into one. Available through both the in-dash system and the smartphone app, Cloud lets travelers know about traffic problems, offers dining suggestions, and tells users where to find gas and charging stations.
On the whole these offerings sound pretty interesting and work to reinforce Nokia's new-found reputation as a navigation company. The trick, of course, will be convincing automakers to place Nokia HERE Auto on their dashboards, since many car companies already have proprietary systems in place.
Has Nokia arrived a day late and a dollar short yet again? We'll keep you posted.