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Photos: Nokia offers free sat-nav software via Ovi Maps

Navigation free on smartphones - but will it get the app developers excited?
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1 of 5 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Navigation free on smartphones - but will it get the app developers excited?

Nokia has announced it will begin giving away free navigation software and maps for its smartphones.

The move will pose a serious challenge to providers of standalone sat-nav devices and opens a new front in Nokia's increasingly fierce battle against BlackBerry, Apple's iPhone, and Android-based devices.

Nokia said the software, Ovi Maps, is currently compatible with 10 handsets.

The Ovi Maps menu screen is pictured above.

Image credit: Nokia

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2 of 5 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

The Ovi software will offer turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation in the same manner as standalone sat-nav devices, and will feature lane assistance, traffic information, safety camera and speed warnings for drivers (seen above).

Nokia is not the first smartphone maker to offer free navigation - Google's Nexus One device also offers a similar service for gratis, but only in the US.

While Nokia still dominates the smartphone market in sales terms, RIM's BlackBerry and in particular Apple with its iPhone have stolen much of its momentum. And with devices based on Google's Android OS starting to make waves in the market, competition has never been greater for customers or developers.

Increasingly the number and variety of available third party applications are seen as key to a smartphone's success and Nokia is hoping to attract developers by providing a worldwide mapping infrastructure that developers can plug into their own apps. As Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia executive vice president, told an event in London today: "It's like a huge mash-up environment."

Image credit: Nokia

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3 of 5 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

For pedestrians, Ovi maps includes shortcuts through parks and pedestrian-only zones for over 100 cities around the world, as well as 6,000 3D landmarks in more than 200 cities (as seen above).

Nokia said the hybrid vector map technology used means maps downloaded or updated across a network connection are about half the size of traditional bitmaps used by other mobile map providers.

Downloaded map data is stored on the device, which means travellers can dodge expensive network charges when abroad and still navigate when there is no network coverage.

Image credit: Nokia

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4 of 5 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

From today, owners of Nokia smartphones that are compatible with the new Ovi Maps can download it free of charge here.

Ovi Maps is currently compatible with handsets including the Nokia N97, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, 5800 Navigation Edition, E52, E55, E72, 5230, 6710 Navigator, 6730 and the Nokia X6, which Nokia said adds up to around 83 million devices.

Shown above is another of the walking navigation maps available on Ovi Maps.

Image credit: Nokia

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5 of 5 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

From March 2010, all new Nokia GPS-enabled smartphones will also include the new version of Ovi Maps, pre-loaded with local country map data and access to Lonely Planet (seen above) and Michelin travel guides, at no extra cost.

New Nokia handsets sold in the UK will come preloaded with UK and European maps.

Image credit: Nokia

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