Nokia is launching a new Here maps app for the iPhone, bringing Here back to iOS after more than a year-long absence. This time around, Nokia's app appears to be fully native and looking a whole lot nicer. Aside from typical mapping functions, it also provides public transit info (which is still missing from Apple Maps), live traffic info, and photos and reviews of various locations. One of the big features in Here is offline maps: the app allows you to download maps for specific countries and regions and use those to navigate — even with turn-by-turn — while offline. That's a huge advantage for travelers or anyone on a limited data plan. Google Maps technically has offline maps as well, but the feature is so puzzling and limited that it may as well not.
Here maps launched for Android last year, briefly as a Samsung exclusive before opening up to everyone. Naturally, it's been available for Windows Phones for some time now, but with Nokia now free of its phone division — which was purchased and absorbed by Microsoft — we're starting to see it branch out in an attempt to become a bigger player in the software world. Regardless of how good its maps are, it'll face an uphill battle on iOS and Android, where it has to win out over preinstalled mapping apps and the general familiarity many have with Google Maps. Offline maps could be a big help, but even Apple learned how hard it is to pull people away from a mapping app they already trust. The Here app should be available soon, but its release appears to have been held up by ongoing problems with iTunes this morning.