Nokia has announced that its free maps software will now include turn-by-turn directions for walking and driving.
The Ovi Maps application will be compatible with 10 current handsets, including the N97 Mini, E72 and 5800 XPressMusic, and will be pre-loaded on every GPS-enabled handset sold from March 2010.
The maps, in 2D & 3D, will all load onto phones either over the air or via a Mac or PC, meaning that a network connection, as is currently required for other mobile phone mapping solutions, is not necessary when they’re in use as a GPS.
In association with mapping firm Navteq, which Nokia has owned since 2007, Ovi Maps will cover 180 countries, and offer turn by turn information for 74 of those, in 46 languages.
Traffic data will also be available for 10, including the UK, although its use would form part of a mobile phone tariff. Preloading maps, however, means expensive data roaming charges can be avoided when abroad.
The technology is based on “vectors”, rather than the traditional “bitmap” images used by other maps. This means the images, although of similar appearance, are about half the size, and can be stored and downloaded more easily.
Information is included on major landmarks, which are shown in 3D, and the data also incorporates lane and speed camera guidance for vehicles, and shortcuts, such as through public parks, for pedestrians.
Launching the service, Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia’s Executive Vice President, said that offering Ovi Maps free for the life of a Nokia smartphone would act as a way of differentiating the company’s devices in a crowded market place, and allow them to defend higher prices than other manufacturers who did not offer similar services.
Google has indicated, for instance, that it is unlikely to offer turn-by-turn directions on its Nexus One handset when it launches in Europe. The service is available on the Nexus One in America however, and also already on some devices such as the Motorola Milestone.
Nokia’s developers Forum, which the company says already includes 5 million software developers, will be encouraged to develop applications to augment the contextual search functions built into Ovi Maps. Lonely Planet and the Michelin Guide will also come pre-loaded.
The move is likely to prove a challenge to makers of standalone satnavs such as Garmin and TomTom. Asked how the move could impact on those companies, Mr Vanjoki was bullish: “I would not like to be a shareholder,” he said.