GPS-enabled handsets expected to bypass economic downturn

GPS-enabled handsets expected to bypass economic downturn

According to a new ABI study, while global handset shipments are expected to drop by 4% – 5% in 2009, GPS-enabled phones will climb to 240 million units, up 6.4% from 2008.

This surprising performance will be driven by the ongoing demand for feature-rich smartphones. Although slowing slightly in 2009, demand for smartphones (including the Apple iPhone 3G, RIM BlackBerry devices and Nokia's N series) will increase by an average annual unit shipment rate of 19% through 2014.

During this period, GPS chipsets will continue to penetrate this segment, with nine of every ten smartphones containing GPS ICs in 2014, compared with one in three in 2008.

According to senior analyst George Perros, falling component prices and increasing consumer awareness of handset location capabilities will keep the demand for GPS-enabled phones healthy, despite the global economic slump.

Other factors that will continue the trend toward the inclusion of GPS functionality in handsets include the spread of open source operating systems, such as Google's Android, which provide application-specific interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create location-based content for mobile devices, and the continuing emergence of navigation and map-based applications for handsets.

"As the quality of positioning technology in handsets improves and the cost of including it declines, GPS location technology will approach the status of a standard device feature," says Perros. "We are approaching the point where location awareness will be synonymous with smart devices, a point where personal navigation, social spatial knowledge and location-specific contextual information will be assumed handset capabilities."

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