Ovi Maps heralded as offline alternative to Google

Nokia says it will offer Ovi Maps for free on many of its handsets, a move intended to cut off Google's stranglehold on the market.

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On Thursday, Nokia said it would make Ovi Maps available for free on many of its handsets, a move that could push Ovi further into a market traditionally dominated by Google. Like Google maps, Ovi Maps include car and pedestrian navigation features, detailed traffic information, and public transportation functions. The catch: Unlike Google Maps, portions of the Ovi Maps program can be downloaded to the user's handset, making the maps accessible even when the phone has no Internet connection.

For this New York-based blogger, the advantages of offline access are clear. Although Google Maps are great above-ground, they're absolutely useless on the subway, where New Yorkers spend an awful lot of time. The result is a madcap scramble for directions as soon as the train emerges from the tunnel. With Ovi Maps, we could download a map of Manhattan to our handset, where it would always be available.

Nokia has been busy touting this offline capability, as well as the global reach of Ovi Maps, which is available in 46 languages, and includes maps for more than 180 countries. "Why have multiple devices that work in only one country or region? Put it all together, make it free, make it global and you almost double the potential size of the mobile navigation market," Anssi Vanjoki, Executive Vice President at Nokia said in a statement. "Nokia is the only company with a mobile navigation service for both drivers and pedestrians that works across the world."

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Of course, Ovi Maps isn't available for all handsets. As Daniel Ionescu at PC World points out, Ovi Maps is getting a relatively limited roll-out:

Only 10 GPS-equipped Nokia models will get the free premium Ovi Maps: the N97 Mini, 5800 XpressMusic, 5800 Navigation Edition, E52, E55, E72, 5230, 6170 Navigator, 6730 Classic and X6. The obvious omission from this list is the N97 model, Nokia's previous flagship device, which could make many of its users (mainly early adopters) unhappy. Also missing from the list is the Nokia N95.

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