Nokia maps out a bright future with GPS

4 Dec 2006

Half of all mobile phones will have onboard GPS within three and a half years, according to Nokia which is poised to enter the navigation market with a new online service and business model.

Speaking at Nokia World in Amsterdam last week, head of location-based experiences Michael Halbherr predicted that phone-based services would be hugely disruptive to the thriving in-car navigation market.

Nokia has devised a map streaming solution that works with compatible phones. The data is delivered over the internet in ’tiles’, files that contain maps and routes requested by the user.

“What was a retail product now becomes an online streaming service,” said Halbherr. “It’s a free, mass market application that covers 170 countries.”

The Nokia N95 will be the first compatible phone in Ireland and is expected to launch in the first half of 2007. It is HSDPA compatible and has a 5-megapixel camera as well as integrated GPS.

What is uncertain is how operators will react to a service that is available on phones rather than the network. Nokia said it had created a platform that allows operators and even retailers to build business models on top of the service, generating revenues through advertising, for example, that can be shared out among the different parties.

Navigation was the latest strand in Nokia’s pursuit of convergent devices that was much in evidence at the annual event. It confirmed its commitment to integrated music players and claimed to sell more FM radios and MP3 players than any other manufacturer: 150 million radios and more than 100 million players, albeit as components in its converged products.

A Nokia spokesman said there was a “high likelihood that there would be no need for separate music players” in the near future. Responding to questions about Apple plans to introduce an iPhone he said that “complicated technologies” around mobile networks would present a huge challenge to any new entrant.

In his opening address Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, president and CEO of Nokia, said the mobile market was growing faster than anticipated. There would be three billion mobile subscribers in 2007, a year ahead of earlier predictions, and four billion by 2010. He believed mobile TV over DVB-H (digital video broadcasting over handheld) networks would make significant progress in 2007 and went on to signpost 2010 as the year when a Nokia Wimax-enabled phone would become available.

There was also renewed interest in gaming. Following the demise of the ill-fated N-Gage device, Nokia is now using the brand as a games platform for Symbian handsets. A new range of around 10 titles aimed at the ‘casual user’ will be launched next year.

New phones on show included the mid-range 6300 (pictured) with stainless steel frame, the 6290 clamshell smart phone and an entry-level ‘fashion phone’, the 2626.

By Ian Campbell