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GPS Chips in Smartphones add Applications


Shipments of GPS-enabled mobile phones will hit a speed-bump in 2009, but will still manage to post year-to-year unit growth through the current economic downturn, according to a new technology, media and telecom (TMT) market study by ABI Research.

While global handset shipments are expected to drop by 4—5 percent in 2009, GPS-enabled phones will climb to 240 million units -- an increase of 6.4 percent over 2008.

This surprising performance will be driven by the ongoing demand for feature-rich smartphones. Although slowing slightly in 2009, demand for smartphones, a group that includes the Apple iPhone 3G, RIM's BlackBerry devices, and Nokia N series phones among a growing list, will increase at an average annual unit shipment rate of 19 percent through 2014.

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

Falling component prices and increasing consumer awareness of handset location capabilities will keep demand for GPS-enabled phones healthy, in spite of the slumping global economic picture.

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 senior analyst George 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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