BARCELONA, Spain--Nokia pushed its mobile navigation service to the next level on Monday with the announcement of the latest version of its Nokia Maps service at the GSMA Mobile World Congress here.
The initial version of Nokia Maps, which was announced at last year's edition of this wireless show, was developed for people who wanted navigation while driving, essentially replacing the need to have a separate navigation device, like those offered by Garmin or Tom Tom. On Monday, Nokia took the navigation service a step further by announcing Nokia Maps 2.0, which is geared toward pedestrians. This version of the service is still in beta and is available for download on the Nokia Beta Labs site. (The current version of the service is available for free for select devices on Nokia's Web site.)
Nokia Maps 2.0 provides visual turn-by-turn directions from one place to the next and it can give information about surrounding buildings and streets to help users orient themselves. When used with the new 6210 Navigator phone, which is one of four cool new handsets Nokia announced Monday, the service points users in the direction they are walking by using an embedded compass.
But Nokia didn't stop with navigation. For a fee, users can also access multimedia tourist guides from companies like Berlitz that feature photos, video, and audio streams about the area. For another optional fee users can also get real-time traffic updates with dynamic rerouting in 18 European countries. And the latest version of the service also provides maps with transit information in 17 cities so that users can find the closest metro stop.
Currently, Nokia Maps is available only on a handful of phones. But Nokia plans to introduce a version of the service for its Series 40 handsets in the first half of the year. Nokia's Series 40 phones are made for the mass market. They accounted for a large portion of the more than 437 million devices that Nokia shipped in 2007.
Nokia also announced two new navigation-specific handsets with the launch of Maps 2.0, the Nokia 6220 Classic and the Nokia 6210 Navigator,which has an embedded compass for pedestrian navigation.
Nokia also announced two new N-series handsets, the N78 and N96, which can also be used with the new mapping service.
I'll be taking a tour of Barcelona later this week using a Nokia phone and new Nokia Map 2.0 service, so stay tuned to see how the real-life test drive goes.