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08:55 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren

Nokia Makes The Smart Move With Free Maps

Nokia is finally taking a page from Google's book and has freed up its mapping and navigation services for all its GPS-equipped phones. Now that it is free, people might actually use it.

Nokia is finally taking a page from Google's book and has freed up its mapping and navigation services for all its GPS-equipped phones. Now that it is free, people might actually use it.Google offers Maps for Mobile for free, and has from the beginning. Nokia gave away its Ovi Maps software for free, but if you wanted to do anything interesting with it, such as plot directions from point A to point B, you had to pay for it. The for-pay model just can't compete when services like Google Maps for Mobile much of the same stuff for free.

Truth be told, I am shocked it took Nokia this long to get on board with the idea of free navigation services. Nokia was quick to point out its advantages over Google's Maps for Mobile.

Nokia's Tero Ojampera derided the fact that Google offers free mobile turn-by-turn navigation in one country (the U.S.), in one language (English), on one device (the Droid). With today's worldwide launch, Nokia's Ovi Maps provides maps of 180 countries, supports 46 languages, provides turn-by-turn, text-to-speech navigation in 74 countries, and is available on 10 different decices starting today.

Speaking of those devices, it's quite an interesting little list. Right now, the N97 Mini, 5800 XpressMusic, 5800 Navigation, E52, E55, E72, 5230, 6710 Navigator, 6730 Classic and X6 are supported. Nokia says that the majority of its devices will support the new Ovi Maps by March. Even so, there are some glaring omissions from this list of devices. Nokia hasn't included support for its highly-popular N95, N96, N97 nor E71 devices out of the gate. That's ignoring a huge number of Nokia's best customers. March can't come soon enough for that crowd.

Other stand-out features of the new service include location sharing, social networking, third-party content and over 6,000 3D points of interest.

Ojampera also pointed out that Nokia's Ovi Maps is ten times more efficient than Google Maps. Ovi Maps uses hybrid vector graphics, which require one-tenth the data that Google's bit maps need. That benefits the operators, who have less information transiting their networks, and it benefits the consumer by reducing the amount of data they consume each month.

The last feature worth pointing out is that the maps can work without a data connection. With Google Maps for Mobile, no network equals no maps. Ojampera explained that the new Ovi Maps is meant to work in shopping malls, in cityscapes, and other regions where networks might not be available. It will pre-load all the mapping data for a given region ahead of time and cache it so there is no need for a network connection after the initial loading of Ovi Maps.

Anssi Vanjoki, Executive Vice President, Nokia, said in a prepared statement, "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. 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 giving its mapping and navigation software and services away for free, Nokia may do just what Vanjoki says.

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