Friday, January 22, 2010
Nokia Phones Offering Free GPS for 74 Countries
Nokia has just announced it is now offering Ovi Maps with turn-by-turn navigation to all users globally. Best of all, it’s also available for the Philippines for free. The new Maps menu takes one click to calculate the best way to walk or drive to your destination, and to find your position, find places, find local Lonely Planet and Michelin listings, entertainment, or events nearby. Best of all, the Maps can work even if you’re offline since the map data is already downloaded into your mobile phone (there’s be instances that map data is partially downloaded or new data needs to be downloaded from time to time). The Ovi Maps with GPS navigation is currently available for the following handset models: Nokia E72 Nokia N97 Mini Nokia X6 Nokia E52 Nokia E55 Nokia 6730 Classic Nokia 6710 Navigator Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition Nokia 5230 Nokia on Thursday introduced free driving and walking directions for 74 countries on a range of their mobile phones, in a direct challenge to Google and the entire GPS navigation industry. The new version of Ovi Maps, available today on 10 phones with more existing models to be added in the next several weeks, will offer voice-guided driving and walking directions featuring text-to-speech, lane assistance, live traffic and road works information, and detailed content from partners including Lonely Planet and Time Out, all for free. Maps will cover 180 countries; navigation will be available in 74, including the U.S. and Canada. By March, all new Nokia GPS-enabled smartphones will include the software. "I expect that this will be globally available, including in the United States," said Nokia executive vice president for services Tero Ojanpera. Not surprisingly, shares of GPS makers Tomtom and Garmin fell sharply on the news. Google received plenty of press when it recently introduced free voice-guided navigation with the Motorola Droid. But the Droid and its GSM doppelganger, the Milestone, are available in relatively few countries, while Nokia's smartphones are best-sellers across a huge swathe of the world. The 5800, for instance, which is almost unknown in the U.S., sold more than 3 million units in its first six months on the market in Europe and Asia, according to Nokia. Nokia has offered Ovi Maps navigation for a while, and bundled the service with a Nokia 5800 phone and a car kit to create a "navigation edition" which we reviewed recently. But for almost all of their phones up until now, voice-guided navigation carried a monthly fee and content such as Lonely Planet guides added an additional fee. All of those fees are now gone. Ojanpera wouldn't explain how partners such as Lonely Planet, Michelin Guides, WCities and Time Out are making money now that Nokia is offering their formerly-for-pay products for free; he also wouldn't confirm or deny that including free navigation would cause smartphone prices to rise. Rather, improved location-based services will enable better mobile advertising and location-based applications, he said. "It's not about increased prices; it's about having something consumers want," he said. Nokia's new navigation move comes naturally from their 2008 acquisition of map provider NAVTEQ, which was part of a larger strategy to put location-based services at the forefront, Ojanpera said. "This is a worldwide map database second to none, which actually enables us to do things that nobody else can do," he said. Nokia's mapping technology offers several advantages over Google's, Ojanpera said. Ovi Maps can live on your phone's memory card rather than being continually downloaded to your phone, greatly reducing data traffic and letting navigation work even when the phone has no signal. (The maps for the U.S. and Canada take up about 1.6 gigabytes, he said.) The maps also use vector graphics rather than bitmaps, which means they use much less bandwidth when they're streaming to your phone over the network – one-tenth the data traffic of Google maps, Ojanpera said. The low data traffic will appeal to wireless operators, he said. Nokia's product also has unusually good pedestrian directions, Ojanpera said, including footpaths, one-way streets and other pedestrian-only routes that don't appear on automotive maps. The software includes weather forecasts, 3D renderings of some landmarks, and the ability to post your location to Facebook updates. Nokia's announcement could have a huge effect on the dedicated GPS navigation industry, especially in countries such as India where Nokia dominates the smartphone market. According to a Nokia press release, there are already about as many Nokia smartphone owners capable of using Ovi Maps as there are dedicated GPS owners in the world. Ovi Maps is available today for the Nokia N97 Mini, 5800, E52, E55, E72, 5230, 6710, 6730 and X6 phones. Not a single one of those phones is currently available from a U.S. carrier, though some of them are sold unlocked here in the US. We're hoping the software will be available on U.S. carrier-supported phones such as the Nokia E71x soon.
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