03:21 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

Smartphones Eating Into Navigation Device Sales

According to data from Berg Insight, smartphones are already replacing dedicated personal navigation devices in North America and Europe.

Nearly all smartphones ship with GPS and navigation services on board. If its not Google Maps, its Bing Maps, Nokia Maps, or BlackBerry Maps. These services are all free to use for basic navigation. Many mid-range feature phones also ship with GPS chips inside and navigation software from the likes of TeleNav or others.

Berg Insight says that of the 200 million world wide users of turn-by-turn navigation services, fully 44 million (about 25%) are using those services on their cell phones. About 40 million of the world's PNDs are pre-installed in automobiles. The remaining 120 million PNDs are after-market systems purchased at electronics retailers.

Berg reports, "Europe has been the main market for PNDs, but North America has now caught up. Shipments in Europe declined to about 15.5 million units in 2009 while shipments in North America increased to 18 million units. In the rest of the world, shipments grew by one million to an estimated 6.5 million units in 2009." However, the picture isn't rosy for PND makers hoping to move units in Europe and North America. "PND shipments in Europe and North America have peaked and will gradually decline to about 10 and 14 million units per annum respectively in 2015."

A large reason for that decline is being attributed to the availability of GPS services baked into mobile phones. For many, there's no reason to spend money on a dedicated PND when the same features and services are available in a device they already carry.

What can PND makers do to stem the tide? Target the high end. Berg notes, "It is very likely that several navigation enabled devices and services will co-exist for several years to come. Many consumers will use more than one device or service concurrently, with different devices and services tailored for specific purposes. Handsets are well suited for occasional users or for pedestrian navigation purposes. PNDs are better suited for use in cars by having screens and interfaces specialised for car navigation. Consumers also show a clear preference for large screens that can display realistic scenery. PNDs with 4.3- and 5-inch widescreens now outsell PNDs with 3.5-inch screens."

Berg concludes that 81% of all PNDs will have embedded cell radios -- to pull data such as real-time traffic info, weather reports, etc. -- by the year 2015. The bad news, however?

"Worldwide shipments of PNDs are forecasted to peak at around 42 million devices annually in 2011–2012 and gradually decline to 34 million units in 2015." In other words, PND makers will need to rely on more than just their hardware moving forward if they want to stay in the game.

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