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Nokia Steps Up With Free Mobile Navigation, but PNDs Needn’t Worry

by Chris Schreiner | 1月 22, 2010

Nokia announced yesterday that Ovi Maps will now be free forever on all GPS-enabled Nokia devices. This announcement was more a matter of “when” than a matter of “if”, given last year’s move by Google to offer free turn-by-turn nav on the Motorola Droid and future Android devices. While Google’s announcement shook the navigation world, SA maintained that it would not spell doom for PNDs (see “TomTom and Garmin Will Survive Despite Google's Entry Into Turn By Turn”). Nokia’s announcement will have much less impact. From an industry perspective, once Google’s announcement was made, PND manufacturers realized that basic navigation functionality was commoditized, and began hatching plans to differentiate their products by focusing on connected devices and other location-based service enhancements. The announcement has the potential to have a greater impact in Europe given Nokia’s market share in that region and how consumers, at least in the UK, are ready to embrace mobile navigation. However, impact is still going to be limited by the number of consumers who shell out for data plans. From a user experience perspective, our research has shown that the user experience for mobile navigation is poor. Can you picture driving 60mph down the road trying to key in a destination on a 12-key Nokia 6700? Then squinting to see the next street name on the small display? Consumers want to interact with a navigation system while driving that has a large display and touchscreen within easy reach. Mobile devices – even smartphones with full touchscreen displays – just aren’t as compelling an experience as a dedicated PND. While free mobile navigation will challenge PND manufacturers to quickly develop new compelling experiences to differentiate themselves, many consumers will still choose them for a better overall experience provided by a dedicated navigation device. There are similar parallels in the mobile industry. Integrating cameras and music into mobile devices didn’t bring wipe out the market for digital cameras and portable music players. Consumers still own those devices for better quality, dedicated functionality, and a better user experience. The same will happen with PNDs.
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