240 Million GPS-Enabled Handsets Expected

Personal navigation, social spatial knowledge, and location-specific contextual information will be assumed, according to a recent market report.
The faltering economy is expected to lead to a contraction in the cell phone market, but not every mobile segment will be squeezed.

A report released Wednesday from ABI Research said handsets with GPS will continue to grow thanks to attractive new smartphones and the spread of location-based services.

The new report, titled "GPS-Enabled Handsets," said GPS-enabled phones are expected to hit 240 million units in 2009, an increase of about 6.4% from 2008. Analysts, cell phone companies, and industry watchers expect the overall mobile phone market to decline 4% to 8%.

"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," said senior analyst George Perros in a statement. "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."

High-profile handsets like Apple's iPhone 3G, Google's T-Mobile G1, Research In Motion's BlackBerry Bold and Storm, Palm's Pre, and Nokia's N Series all have GPS capabilities, and so will most of the popular smartphones moving forward. The report said the annual shipping rate of smartphones with GPS will increase by 19% through 2014.

The report also said one of the main drivers of growth will be applications and services that take advantage of a user's location, a market that is expected to balloon into a $13.3 billion business by 2013. ABI makes special mention of Google's Android operating system because it provides developers deeper access to the location functionality through its application specific interfaces than some of its competitors.

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