Nokia dropped the bomb on Personal Navigation Devices makers by announcing the availability of “free navigation” for its family of smartphones, globally. This means that navigation packages with turn-by-turn directions inside that cover 74 countries in 46 languages alongside detailed maps for 180 countries are now available for free. Those packages used to cost between $70 and $100 just yesterday.
Another difference with Google Maps is that Ovi Maps has a “real” pedestrian mode. Why “real”? Because it’s not just disabling one-way streets, they have people walking around to see and record shortcuts and places where cars definitely don’t go (go across Malls…). That should be very handy in big cities.
Finally, there are places where GPS navigation was not really available before, like in some parts of Africa (Nokia is huge there). Ovi Maps covers a huge chunk of that continent.
By making it free, Nokia intends to use its mapping technology to sell more Nokia phones, which is not surprising. I wish that Nokia would go to the next level and start providing Ovi Maps on other platforms too, even if it is a version with reduced functionalities, no navigation, traffic. That could be a huge gain in Mindshare. In the Meantime, Ovi Maps is simply the best option when it comes to navigation for the international traveler. Hopefully, that will put pressure on other players (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo) to provide Mapping services that can live offline too.
Here’s a list of compatible devices today, but from now on, expect new Nokia phones to be compatible with Ovi Maps: Nokia N97 mini, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition, Nokia E52, Nokia E55, Nokia E72, Nokia 5230, Nokia 6710 Navigator, Nokia 6730 classic and Nokia X6