Nokia has launched a free global navigation service for its smartphones, which it hopes will give it a competitive edge against competitors such as Apple and Google
Mobile phone maker Nokia today announced the launch of its free Ovi Maps service for smartphones, which incorporates both car and pedestrian navigation features such as turn-by-turn voice guidance and traffic information.
Nokia’s mapping and navigation software is based on hybrid vector maps technology, which the company claims consumes far less bandwidth than traditional bitmap images. This keeps data traffic to a minimum, as well as allowing users to continue to navigate when the network connection is lost.
Any downloaded map data is stored on the device for use offline, making it particularly useful for users worried about data connection costs or travelling through areas with little or no signal.
“We want to make using your mobile for navigation as familiar as using it to send a text or take a picture,” explained Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president of Nokia, in a statement. “Why have multiple devices that work in only one country or region? Put it all together, make it free, make it global and you have something that is truly useful and can help you get round almost any city in the world whether you’re on foot or driving.”
The service currently includes integrated premium content, such as local data from travel guides and directories – including Lonely Planet and the Michelin guide – as well as social networking features that allow users to post their location, along with a picture, to Facebook. At the launch Vanjoki also emphasised that developers would be given the opportunity to contribute applications to the platform via the Ovi app store. “It’s like a giant mashup environment,” he said.
The service is currently available for download from Nokia’s website onto 10 Nokia devices – including the N97 mini, the 5800 XpressMusic and the E72. Notably absent from the list is the Linux-based N900, which has been billed as the company’s real competition in the next generation of smartphones. However, the company said it plans to add more devices to the list in coming weeks.
Nokia also announced that, from March 2010, all new GPS-enabled smartphones will come pre-loaded with the new version of Ovi Maps. “If you buy the product in the UK, it will have all the maps for all of Europe incorporated already in the box,” added Vanjoki, “so without doing anything you can start to enjoy the best in navigation and context-relevent services.”
Nokia’s voice-guided navigation is available for 74 countries in 46 different languages, and there are maps for over 180 countries. Ovi Maps also includes shortcuts through parks and pedestrian-only zones for over 100 cities around the world, as well as 3D images of landmarks in over 200 cities.
In October last year, Nokia has admitted that its Ovi Store needed lot of work if it hoped to compete with the likes of Apple’s app store and Google’s Android app market. However, Bill Perry, senior services marketing manager for Forum Nokia in the US said that the feedback from end users had been largely positive. “What’s important for us is building up the foundation, not necessarily the number of apps or the number of downloads,” Perry told eWEEK at the time.
Nokia hopes that its new Ovi Maps service will help to drive uptake of Nokia smartphones and encourage the developer community to contribute to the app store. “This will help Nokia to boost our smartphone sales, where this complete and unique feature will now be available and very much in demand with the consumer,” said Vanjoki.
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