Nokia's killer Maps

The battle for differentiation in mobile is at fever pitch. iPhone has the app store, BlackBerry has cut-rate, unlimited internet access, Android has… well… Google and Nokia has a mounting collection of services that includes an extensive, and now entirely free, mapping solution.

Nokia Maps was an early play from the Finnish mobile giant that has put it ahead of the pack when it comes to affordable mapping and navigation on your phone.

The service has been mostly free for some time, offering maps of the world and their updates to Nokia users for gratis. Voice navigation and a few other bits and pieces were levied via subscription, however – but these are now free as part of the re-branded Ovi Maps product announced by Nokia this week.

Lonely Planet and Michelin guides, which are solid gold to travelers, are part of the deal.

It’s an unbeatable proposition, especially for someone who travels perpetually like I do. For one you get the navigation, which includes walking and driving, plus the guides and other features. But, and perhaps more importantly for international travelers, the Nokia map data is actually stored on your mobile, whereas Google Maps streams map data to your device which can be really expensive if you’re roaming.

The zero-rating of the entire service is going to be an expensive step for Nokia, but it won’t be the last drastic move we see from the company as it fights to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive smartphone market.

Nokia knows that battles in the war for mobile domination are fought and won on services; having solid devices is one thing, but it’s services that convert users. Ovi Lifecasting is another project Nokia will soon launch as part of a group of new services that are going to add weight to the company’s proposition.

Ovi Maps is available in the Ovi Store for a number of Nokia models, but isn’t available for all GPS-fitted Nokias yet. The N900, for example, is not yet supported.

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