GPS is Now Free on Nokia Phones

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It looks like the cards are stacking up against standalone GPS devices from makers such as Garmin and TomTom.

Nokia said today it will make turn-by-turn navigation a free feature on its smartphones worldwide, effectively doubling the number of smartphone GPS users in the near future.

Already Google is offering free turn-by-turn navigation on some Android smartphones such as the Droid and Nexus One.

iSuppli called today’s announcement “major” and is in the process of examining its impact on standalone portable navigation devices (PNDs).

Last year, iSuppli predicted PNDs would remain king of turn-by-turn GPS in the car until 2013 in the U.S.  But that may change as smartphone makers are wisely using free navigation as a tool to gain market share, says principal analyst Egil Juliussen.

Just as the car companies know sexy radios help sell cars, smartphone makers say free, accurate navigation moves smartphones off the shelf.  Even with hundreds of thousands of apps available for smartphones overall, Google recently called turn-by-turn GPS one of the “most requested mobile features.”

Nokia has other plans for GPS as well.  By making navigation free, it will get something back in return from its navi users.  They can become anonymous “probes,” that send back information to Nokia on their location and speed.  This information can be used to update maps and generate traffic reports.   Nokia says this is key facet of its future strategy.

In Nokia-speak, “the next wave of growth will be centered on the location-aware, social internet — as the ‘where’ people are doing things becomes as important as the ‘what’ they are doing.”   

The turn-by-turn Ovi Maps can be downloaded immediately at to ten Nokia phones including the Nokia N97 mini, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and Nokia E72, with more Nokia smartphones expected to be added in the coming weeks.

Also a beta developer kit is available to select developers to create third party navigation apps.

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