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)

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"In the short term, Nokia's free navigation is potentially even more disruptive than Google's free offer," said Dominique Bonte, an ABI analyst. He noted that free Google navigation is just on some Android phones in the U.S., but Nokia's offer will roll out globally on a large number of smartphones. The use of Navteq digital maps and proven navigation software with Nokia's Ovi Maps will "make it very difficult" for competitors to beat.

The research firm Canalys says that about 163 million smartphones had integrated GPS in 2009, of which 51% were made by Nokia. About 27 million people used GPS navigation on phones in 2009, Canalys said, and Nokia believes it can increase that number to 50 million.

Location services have been eyed by carriers and manufacturers of GPS-ready phones for years, and one of the biggest untapped markets is expected to come from advertising. Location services can enable users to search for a nearby shopping district or restaurant with GPS and then be fed short ads or even retail logos to direct them to a specific store that interests them.

The free navigation tool from Nokia uses Ovi Maps and is available for download today for 10 Nokia smartphones, including the N97 mini, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and the Nokia E72, with more to be added in coming weeks, Nokia said. Current owners of compatible smartphones can download the new version of Ovi Maps for free from www.nokia.com/maps.

Starting in March, new Nokia GPS-enabled smartphones will come preloaded with the new Ovi Maps version that has local country map data. Access to Lonely Planet and Michelin travel guides will also come for free. Ovi Maps covers more than 180 countries, but the car and pedestrian navigation is provided for 74 countries in 46 languages.

Analysts said Nokia's move will hurt traditional GPS companies such as TomTom, and TomTom's stock prices dipped by 12% on trading in Amsterdam, according to reports.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, send e-mail to mhamblen@computerworld.com or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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