Nokia makes walk and drive navigation free on its smartphones. Starting today, the company offers a new version of Ovi Maps that includes turn-by-turn navigation with 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 and 6000 3D landmarks for 200 cities around the world.

The important news is that there is no network connection required when navigating: earlier pre-loaded on to the phone, the maps also work in offline mode, which means users don’t have to be worried about international roaming costs when traveling. That should also extend battery life.

This game-changing move has the potential to nearly double the size of the current mobile navigation market and makes Nokia the only company with a mobile navigation service for both drivers and pedestrians that works across the world.

"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 at Nokia.

"The large-scale availability of free-of-charge mobile phone navigation offerings using high-quality map data will be a game changer for the navigation industry," said Thilo Koslowski, Vice President Automotive and Vehicle ICT at Gartner.

"Such offerings will accelerate mass market adoption for navigation solutions and shift innovation focus to location-based services that go beyond traditional routing benefits."

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.

Nokia says this is part of its 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 centered on the location-aware, social internet — as the ‘where’ people are doing things becomes as important as the ‘what’ they are doing.

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 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.

"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," adds Vanjoki.

Ovi Maps is immediately available for download for 10 Nokia handsets (including N97 mini, 5800 XpressMusic and E72), with more Nokia smartphones expected to be added in the coming weeks.

The company informed that from March 2010, new Nokia GPS-enabled smartphones will include the new version of Ovi Maps, pre-loaded with local country map data, with walk and drive navigation and access to Lonely Planet and Michelin travel guides at no extra cost.

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