Nokia has released a new version of Ovi Maps that makes turn-by-turn navigation free for users of the manufacturer's latest handsets.
The update to the mapping software, which users previously had to paid for, was announced by the Finnish company on Thursday. The software makes it possible for people to download maps for 180 countries at home. They can then use those maps with GPS connectivity while abroad, without having to pay any data-roaming charges.
"The maps and navigation and many associated services will be completely free to consumers," Nokia multimedia chief Anssi Vanjoki said at the London launch of the new navigation software, which he described as "personal navigation device" grade.
"[The new Ovi Maps uses a] hybrid technology that will allow people to use their devices both on and offline with complete navigation services," Vanjoki said, adding that online connectivity would make added functionality, such as traffic information, available.
Associated services that are now free to use in Ovi Maps include Lonely Planet travel guides and Michelin city guides.
Ovi Maps uses vector graphics to present maps, Vanjoki said. He pointed out that this graphics approach "doesn't consume and congest the networks with all the necessary information".
By contrast, Google uses bulkier bitmap graphics in its competing free turn-by-turn Google Maps Navigation, which it launched in 2009 for some Android phones.
In a possible dig at Google's product, which provides only road maps, and only for the US, Vanjoki noted that the new Ovi Maps is "not just something for one market", but a global product that has dedicated services for drivers and pedestrians, giving the latter the option to navigate through pathways and parks.
"We have coverage that is second to none," Vanjoki said, pointing out that Ovi Maps includes maps for 180 countries, with full voice-guided navigation available for 74 countries and live traffic information for more than 10 countries.
Thursday's launch will lead to many changes for Nokia, said Vanjoki — for example, he expects the launch to have a positive impact on Nokia's developer pool.
"Developers, starting today, will have a huge platform in which they can use our map layers and APIs to develop apps," he said. "This will really give a boost to our already active commercial operation in the Ovi Store [and] will change the marketplace quite a lot."
In addition, he predicted the update will help Nokia boost its smartphone sales in the locations where it is available.
Vanjoki added that Nokia has a longer-term vision where "the map is the user interface of our life" and noted that Ovi Maps would, at some point, provide a "fantastic platform" for location-based advertising.
Downloads of the new Ovi Maps are available immediately for 10 existing Nokia smartphones. These include...