HERE it comes: Nokia’s excellent mapping software arrives on Android

Up to now, Nokia’s HERE maps for Android was officially limited to Samsung Galaxy phones. That changes today, as the mapping and navigation software is available for non-Samsung devices. You won’t find Nokia HERE for Android in the Google Play Store, though.

Instead, the beta app is a direct download that you can find here, which means you’ll be “side-loading” the application. It’s not a terribly complicated process but isn’t yet as seamless as it should be. The HERE app won’t automatically be updated, for example; you’ll have to know when a new version is out and re-download to install the newer software.

Here Maps GS5

Is it worth the minimal trouble for the free download? I think so.

Nokia’s HERE Maps is a very credible challenger to Google’s own Maps for Android devices. It offers excellent turn-by-turn navigation and has a distinct advantage when you’re offline or can’t get a data signal on your phone: You can still search and interact with HERE Maps in that case, which is a better offline experience than what [company]Google[/company] Maps offers.

Nokia says the software should work fine on any device running Android 4.1 or better, but it recommends that for an optimal experience, your handset or tablet has at least 1 GB of memory and a 4-inch or larger display. We should hear more about the app next month at our Gigaom Roadmap event in San Francisco; Peter Skillman, the head of HERE design will share thoughts on using context and maps as a design platform.