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Samsung navigates away from Google with Here maps for Galaxy phones

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The Android app will be released alongside the Gear S smartwatch

Google Maps may be one of the undeniable strengths of the Android platform, however Samsung has decided to offer an alternative in the form of Nokia's Here maps. A beta version of Here for Android will be made available exclusively for Samsung Galaxy devices when the newly announced Gear S smartwatch hits stores in October. The Gear S will include Here turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation and will be able to sync its routes with compatible handsets. The partnership bringing Here to Samsung's Android smartphones is just an extension of the same licensing agreement that provides the mapping functionality on the Korean company's Tizen-powered smartwatch.

Google and Samsung's relationship has been growing increasingly fractious in recent times. Efforts like the Google-free Gear S and the perpetually delayed Tizen smartphone show Samsung's commitment to diversifying away from its dependence on Android and the rest of the Google ecosystem for its device sales. Here for Android is a small step on the same path, though it's debatable how much of an impact it will have. The iOS Here app was pulled from the App Store late last year, having originally been announced alongside an Android software developer kit back in November 2012. Nokia also makes a big deal out of the web version of Here that all mobile devices can access without a dedicated app, though it doesn't seem to have made much of a dent in Google's dominant position.

Today's announcement identifies offline capabilities and performance as the leading advantages of the Here for Android app, although that leadership has been significantly eroded by Google's most recent Maps update, which added offline map support and lane guidance for drivers. Still, more choice never hurt anyone, right?