Nokia has followed Google’s lead in launching a free satellite navigation application for its smartphones.
The company has announced plans for a new version of its Ovi Maps software that will include free walk and drive navigation, including turn-by-turn voice guidance and traffic information.
Google recently launched a similar free Google Maps-powered navigation tool for Android handsets.
Nokia’s app is available now on 10 handsets, including the N97 Mini, 5800 XpressMusic and E72, with more to come this year. The company will start preloading the new Ovi Maps on its GPS-enabled smartphones with local country maps and extra Lonely Planet and Michelin travel guides.
"Why have multiple devices that work that work in only one country or region," says executive vice president Anssi Vanjoki. "Put it all together, make it free, make it global and you almost double the potential size of the mobile navigation market."
The company cited Canalys figures claiming there were 27 million mobile GPS navigation users at the end of 2009, with Nokia predicting that the new Ovi Maps client will boost this to around 50 million.
Vanjoki also stressed that Nokia won’t be making its customers pay for maps for different countries – "unlike the legacy car navigation manufacturers".
He added: "By adding cameras at no extra cost to our phones, we quickly became the biggest camera manufacturer in the world. The aim of the new Ovi Maps is to enable us to do the same for navigation."
Nokia believes the new Ovi Maps will help them sell more unlimited data tariffs – and also that its uses "a fraction of the bandwidth" of the current operator services.
The handsets that support Ovi Maps are: Nokia N97 mini, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition, Nokia E52, Nokia E55, Nokia E72, Nokia 5230, Nokia 6710Navigator, Nokia 6730 classic and Nokia X6.
Meanwhile, Apple has its own plans to "take Maps to the next level" on iPhone, which could include navigation elements too.
These developments could mean the end for the TomTom iPhone app, one of the most popular downloads, which currently costs £49.99.