Nokia makes walk and drive navigation free

Nokia has today announced plans to release a new version of Ovi Maps for its smartphones that includes high end walk and drive navigation at no extra cost.

This move has the potential to nearly double the size of the current mobile navigation market. 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.

For Nokia, removing the costs associated with navigation for drivers and pedestrians allows the company to quickly activate a massive user base to which it can offer new location features, content and services. This is part of Nokia’s strategy to lead the market in mobile maps, navigation and location-based services. The move is also in line with Nokia’s vision that the next wave of growth will be centred on the location-aware, social internet, as the ‘where’ people are doing things becomes as important as the ‘what’ they are doing.

“Why have multiple devices that work that work in only one country or region? Put it all together, make it free, make it global and you almost double the potential size of the mobile navigation market,” explained Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president, Nokia.

“Nokia is the only company with a mobile navigation service for both drivers and pedestrians that works across the world. Unlike the legacy car navigation manufacturers, we don’t make you buy maps for different countries or regions even if you’re only visiting for a few days. We offer both navigation and maps free of charge, with all the high-end functionality and features that people now expect.”

According to research firm Canalys, the number of people worldwide using GPS navigation on their mobile phones was approximately 27 million at the end of 2009. With this announcement Nokia potentially grows the size of this installed user base to about 50 million by enabling smartphone owners, with compatible devices and devices that will be made compatible shortly to activate free drive and walk navigation through a simple download of the new Ovi Maps.

Nokia will further grow this base as it quickly adds more smartphones to the compatible devices list. Canalys also estimated in 2009 that the installed base of smartphones with integrated GPS was 163 million units worldwide, of which Nokia accounted for more than half (51%) having shipped cumulatively 83 million GPS devices.

“This is a game changing move. By leveraging our NAVTEQ acquisition, and our context sensitive service offering, we can now put a complete navigation system in the palm of your hand, wherever in the world you are, whenever you need it – and at no extra cost,” continued Vanjoki. “By adding cameras at no extra cost to our phones we quickly became the biggest camera manufacturer in the world. The aim of the new Ovi Maps is to enable us to do the same for navigation.”

By removing the added costs for consumers Nokia expects to fuel the take-up of mobile maps and navigation providing its ecosystem of partners with clear business opportunities.

For operators, Nokia believes it will enable them to offer their customers a complete car and personal navigation package as well as encourage the take-up of data plans. An additional benefit for operators is that Ovi Maps uses a unique hybrid technology that is optimized for use on a mobile network. By using advanced vector graphics, plus an intelligent combination of pre-loaded and online maps, the new version of Ovi Maps uses a fraction of the bandwidth of the bulky bitmap technology used by most mobile map providers.

For 3rd party application developers, making navigation on a mobile as familiar as sending a text or taking a picture presents a huge opportunity as the customer base for additional location-based applications expands. Via the Ovi for Developers Beta Program, Nokia has given selected developers and publishers a preview of the Ovi APIs and SDK – Beta (software development kit) which will allow them to build such applications. These will then be made available through Ovi Store by Nokia.