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Nokia democratises GPS navigation with Ovi Maps

Nokia is gunning for the personal navigation marketplace with today’s announcement that all future Nokia handsets will include free navigation services including turn-by-turn driving directions (and walking directions) for almost the entire planet.

It’s a stunning move that puts Google and the other handset manufacturers squarely on the back foot. As of 1030am today, around 83 million Nokia devices currently in the market can enjoy free navigation — all they have to do is download the package at www.nokia.com/maps.

But what’s more interesting is that from now on, every new (decent) Nokia handset will have GPS navigation support pre-installed. That is, you won’t even need to download anything. For example, buy a handset in the UK and it’ll have not only the full UK maps installed — but also the rest of Europe. If you want the North American maps, no bother. It’s a free download. And everything will be automatically upgraded as necessary. Likewise, buy a Nokia in India and it’ll come with all the relevant maps for that geographic area pre-installed.

They’ve done some serious work on the maps back-end too. Out go high-bandwidth bitmap images and in comes super-data-efficient vector graphics that look pretty amazing. Plus, maps works offline too. So you don’t have to keep your phone’s data connection active when you’re roaming unless you want to.

Nokia have also included Lonely Planet guides (and a whole host of other premium location-based content) at no additional cost. It’s going to all be there.

Plus, you’re now going to have some rather effective social location based facilities — including a direct link to the likes of Facebook that’ll enable you to post your current location as you wish.

The size and the scale of the move is dramatic. As the release points out:

The new version of Ovi Maps includes high-end car and pedestrian navigation features, such as turn-by-turn voice guidance for 74 countries in 46 languages, and traffic information for more than 10 countries, as well as detailed maps for more than 180 countries

Astonishing.

But there’s more. The development potential is simply massive. By making turn-by-turn navigation and location services available to every device, Nokia has established one of the largest audiences for mobile location-based services. This year alone Nokia should manufacturer and sell about — what — 80 odd million devices? By the end of 2011, the market should be getting toward 200 million.

200 million people who’ll all be looking for train times mashed up with Pizza Express locations. Or games that I can play with my Facebook friends with integrated location features.

I love the fact that Nokia — with this rather aggressive move — has actually democratised the market. Anyone across the planet who buys a $100 Nokia handset will have access to these services for free. I love it.

It’s a strong, strong move — and a massive challenge for the rest of the marketplace. I can very much see your average consumer walking into a shop and selecting a Nokia simply because of this offering.

In the West, I can imagine a lot of us simply buying a £100 Nokia and sticking it in the car to replace (or instead of) the TomTom.

The issues for the likes of TomTom are clear — last time I checked their shares were down 10% on the news. I don’t blame the market. Spare a thought for Sony Ericsson and Samsung who are now relegated substantially to third place ahead of Google’s “inferior” North American-only service (“inferior” is how Nokia referred to Google’s offering this morning — and having seen the Ovi Maps service, I agree).

Google can theoretically extend its navigation option to Europe. They’ll have substantial trouble matching Nokia’s comprehensive offering.

i think this is a super move by Nokia. It’s good to see the company flex its sizeable muscles. The mood around the launch was positive, confident, combative. They’re very proud of what they’ve delivered. They should be.

Everything you need? www.nokia.com/maps.

(Written at 70mph on the M4, on a Nokia Booklet 3G with Vodafone SIM — I was in the passenger seat!)

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

16 replies on “Nokia democratises GPS navigation with Ovi Maps”

“As of 1030am today, around 83 million Nokia devices currently in the market can enjoy free navigation — all they have to do is download the package at http://www.nokia.com/maps.”

er…having spent a fair old bit of time trying to get a perfectly serviceable E71 to work with this (it's an OVImaps 3.0 supported handset according to the website) I beg to disagree.

The consumer experience of slightly older handset and PC / Mac intermediary software (tried both) was truly awful. And that's with my geek hat on. A normal person would have given up in disgust 15 minutes in.

Pre-installed yes.

But for existing users?

dems a whole lotta chickens being counted there.

No it's not. E72 yes, but not E71 right now.

There's drop down front and centre (and a honking great panel just below with the phones pictured) on http://nokia.com/maps that lists today's launch devices. Perhaps that's why it's not working? 🙂

I'm far from a cheerleader for Nokia, but it's pretty clear to me which handsets it will work on so this seems an unfair criticism…

Tell me how a consumer who hears or reads that Nokia now do free maps and nav forever is supposed to know that?

I'm not dissing the product (much), more the utter failure to anticipate that non-new device owners *just might* want to try it now. They go to site. See they have a device that works. and commence banging head against crap customer experience wall.

Yeah, it probably should have a great big 'this version can't do the free routing' banner for ultra clarity, but as to why they haven't rolled it out to all their devices in one big bang… well… two words for you… Ovi Store. Phased roll-outs are smart.

…and let's be clear this is the support site we're talking about. If you've arrived here via the main Ovi Maps site you've just clicked past a really big (and clear) list of the handsets offering free Nav.

Put it this way… for the amount of time this issue will last and for the rate it will change as each block of new handsets is released I wouldn't be messing about changing my support site either. Should it be bettter? Yes. Given where we are, is this a pretty good launch? Jury's still out, but I'd say no howlers on day 1.

<looks at feet> well, yeah…

<shuffles> maybe I was a bit harsh…

<squints> I just really really wanted my E71 to work, y'know……

Great move by Nokia. It is no secret that Nokia is struggling in North America. This region needs a strong reason to buy a Nokia device. Simply having better hardware/antennas is not enough to compete in the US where other brands are more popular. (ie: Moto has a stronghold on many Americans).

This may just do it. The best mapping application on a Nokia! This would definitely make cause to consider a Nokia device! And it comes pre-loaded. For many in North America that simply just want a phone “to work out of the box”, what a better way then to come pre-loaded. I believe this will sell in North America.

I just tried it with Egypt maps on 5800.

As this is the first time ever that i used a navigation software, i can't comment on its quality relative to other offerings in the market.

Put i can see myself using this if Nokia enhances it just a bit more.

Fady, is there any Egypt navigation ovi software (I mean the voice instructions for driving and walking).

I tried it on N97 mini. Not very accurate…but about a minute into the navigation it asked me to go online to go to the shop…then said there are fees for Egypt and Morocco … did that happen to you?

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