Nokia hopes to outdo Google with free voice nav on its smartphones

Nokia says Ovi Maps is global, while Google Maps Navigation is only U.S. (see video, below)

Nokia today announced free turn-by-turn voice navigation for all its GPS-enabled smartphones globally, starting with 10 models today, and signaled a clear battle with Google over similar free technology now available in the U.S.

A Nokia executive said in a telephone briefing that the free service will outdo Google and others partly because it will be offered in 74 countries and in 46 languages. "This is a global move, unlike companies that serve one country and one language," said Tero Ojanpera, Nokia's executive vice president of services on the call.

Google announced Google Maps Navigation for the Android 2.0 operating system in October and its free voice navigation service turned up on Droid smartphones and other Android handsets -- to the delight of reviewers and users in the U.S.

Ojanpera said that Nokia's navigation service is 10 times more efficient that Google Maps, which relieves network congestion, something that wireless operators and users will appreciate. "Google needs to load a bit map every time you move, but it's very efficient to use our technology by 10 times, which means networks are less congested," he said. "When hundreds of millions are using this, this becomes a critical advantage."

Nokia uses a hybrid technology based on vector graphics plus a combination of pre-loaded and online maps from Navteq, which requires only a fraction of the bandwidth of the bitmap technology in Google Maps and other approaches, he said. In one example, he said traffic updates received over a 12 mile stretch of highway would require only 200KB of data be sent to a Nokia device wirelessly, compared to 2MB for an Android phone using Google Maps.

Nokia wants to increase the popularity of navigation and location services on phones, and its basic strategy is to "lead the market in mobile maps, navigation and location-based services," the company said in a statement.

Nokia sells far more mobile phones than other manufacturers globally, but hasn't done well in the U.S. and is viewed by some analysts as lagging with smartphone innovations.

Nokia's announcement will "boost the uptake of navigation in general and will help Nokia's beleaguered position in the smartphone market," ABI Research said in a short statement.

Nokia to offer navigation tools for free

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