Nokia is giving smartphone owners free access to its mapping and navigation software.

The latest version of Nokia Ovi Maps features detailed maps for over 180 countries along with turn-by-turn voice guidance for both drivers and walkers across 74 countries in 46 languages.

Nokia said the software used hybrid vector maps, which are "high quality but less data intensive" and ensure users can continue navigating even if a network connection is lost.

The phone manufacturer also said maps were "about half the size of bulky bitmaps", allowing them to be pre-loaded on the phone and used in offline mode, reducing the likelihood of high data charges.

Users will benefit from a new-look interface, traffic information and speed camera warnings, content from Michelin and the Lonely Planet and even integration with Facebook.

In the UK, handsets will come bundled with European maps, although maps for the rest of the world can be downloaded without the need for additional licences.

Nokia said the Ovi Maps will come pre-loaded on smartphones released by the manufacturer from March this year.

However, owners of 10 Nokia devices, including the N97 Mini, the 5800 XpressMusic and the E72, can download the mapping software free of charge now from Nokia's dedicated website.

It can either be downloaded using a handset's 3G or Wi-Fi connection, or side-loaded onto the phone using a PC.

"We want to make using your mobile for navigation as familiar as using it to send a text or take a picture," said Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president, Nokia.

"Why have multiple devices that work in only one country or region? Put it all together, make it free, make it global and you have something that is truly useful and can help you get round almost any city in the world whether you're on foot or driving."

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