Nokia to offer navigation tools for free

New version of Ovi Maps competes with Google's offerings on Android

A new version of Nokia's mapping service Ovi Maps will include turn-by-turn voice guidance for walking and driving navigation for free, Nokia said on Thursday.

The launch is a direct response to Google, which in October launched a new version of Google Maps Navigation for version 2.0 of its Android operating system. It combines Google Maps, Street View, voice search and turn-by-turn voice directions.

"With Google's move to make [advanced navigation] free it was only a question of when Nokia would follow that route as well," said Paolo Pescatore, analyst at CCS Insight.

The ultimate aim for Nokia is to increase the popularity of navigation and location-aware services on mobile phones, and then use that to support new business models, including ad-based services, according to Pescatore. Nokia stands to lose some revenue, but only a small proportion of its users were paying for more advanced navigation features, he said.

However, it represents a serious blow for navigation companies like Telmap and TomTom, according to CCS Insight.

The new version of Ovi Maps includes both car and pedestrian navigation features, including turn-by-turn voice guidance for 74 countries, in 46 languages, according to Nokia. There is also traffic information for about 10 countries and detailed maps for more than 180 countries, it said.

Currently, 10 devices support the new version of Ovi Maps, including the N97 mini, the 5800 XpressMusic and the E72. Owners of these smartphones can download the software from Nokia's web site. Support for more phones will be added in the coming weeks, and from March new phones with will have the software preinstalled, according to Nokia.

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