Mobile World Congress News: Navigation trends

Mobile World Congress News:  Navigation trends

The massive interest in GPS and navigation was very evident at this year's edition of the Mobile World Congress, organised by the GSM Association in Barcelona.

Nokia started the trend a year ago with the Nokia N95. This time, the Finnish handset manufacturer took the opportunity to announce three new GPS-enabled models – Nokia N78, Nokia N96 and Nokia 6210 Navigator.

The N96 will be the brand’s new flagship with every conceivable functionality – including a DVB-H TV receiver – and a recommended retail price of €550 excluding taxes. Nokia N78 and Nokia 6210 Navigator, however, target a broader audience with price tags between €300 and €350.

All models have A-GPS for optimised performance and the Nokia 6210 Navigator even has a … compass! The functionality enables automatic alignment of maps displayed on the device to accurately reflect the surrounding area.

Confident of success, Nokia has bullishly announced that it plans to sell 35 million mobile phones with GPS this year. However, the Finnish handset manufacturer carefully omits that GPS has, in fact, been a standard feature on CDMA handsets sold on the North American market for several years.

Incidentally, this is one of a few regions where Nokia has not achieved market dominance. Unbeknown to European consumers who marvel at the exciting opportunities with satellite positioning, Nokia’s Korean rivals Samsung and LG already ship tens of millions CDMA handsets with GPS on the US market.

At the Mobile World Congress, they showed that they also want to have a piece of the navigation market in the rest of the world. Samsung G810 and LG KT-610 are two high-end smartphones with integrated GPS based on Symbian OS with the S60 platform, developed by … guess who? Nokia.

Sony Ericsson has also joined the GPS-race, perhaps realising that Walkman could, in fact, become an excellent brand name for a pedestrian navigation service. The Swedish-Japanese handset joint venture had already announced its first GPS-enabled model prior to Barcelona. Therefore it was hardly a surprise to see satellite positioning among the features on the otherwise unexpected and highly acclaimed X1 Xperia. Sony Ericsson will at least not risk getting lost when walking down the path of collaboration with Microsoft who supplies its Windows Mobile 6.0 operating system for the device.

Having GPS is, however, obviously not enough for the mobile users. A major disadvantage of most American GPS-handsets is that the location data is only available for approximate positioning of emergency calls.

The true innovation delivered by Nokia was to make the location data available for applications installed by the end-user on his handset. Preferably these applications should, however, also be provided by Nokia, complete with maps from a Nokia-owned digital map company and, in the future, probably advertising delivered via the Nokia Media Network.

The vision could have a chance of becoming true, judging by the first impression of the new Nokia Maps 2.0 application, also unveiled in Barcelona.

Key features include a pedestrian navigation component and information about streets and buildings. It also introduces the option to purchase multimedia guides that feature photos, videos and audio streams.

The pedestrian navigation mode is silent to save the user from the embarrassment of being loudly accompanied by a GPS-voice when walking in the street. Directions are given with arrows and it is possible to trace one’s own steps by following the dots displayed on the screen.

TobiasRyberg, Senior Analyst, Berg Insight

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