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MapQuest Turns Cellphones Into PNDs

Denver — MapQuest announced what it believes is the lowest-cost solution to turn a cellular phone into a GPS device.

The company is offering a free downloadable application from its Web site that will convert certain smartphones to personal navigation devices (PNDs) for a fee of $4.99 per month in a limited promotion.

Most downloadable GPS software carries a charge of $10 per month.

In addition, the company added real-time traffic in 105 markets, gas price updates, AOL City Guide restaurant reviews and other information, and a new 3-D moving-map view to its new GPS software called MapQuest Navigator 5.

The Navigator software allows voice prompted turn by turn directions that announce the street names of the upcoming turns and show the vehicle progressing on a 3-D moving map.

MapQuest Navigator will be compatible with about 10 different BlackBerry devices initially and then five to 10 Windows Mobile phones within a few weeks of launch. The company will add more phone options on a rolling basis.

MapQuest said users who sign up before the end of the year will get a special price of $4.99 per month, but it will raise the service fee thereafter to $9.99; however, those who sign up this year will continue to be charged at the lower, $4.99 rate on an ongoing basis. Users must also pay for a data plan from their cellular carrier.

According to ABI Research 12 million people worldwide pay for GPS applications on their phones, a figure expected to grow to 350 million in 2010, said MapQuest which claims about 50 million visitors to its Web site.

Other suppliers offering similar software include Tele Nav and Garmin.