Mar 23, 2010

Cellphones With GPS Goes Mainstream

In an increasingly connected world, consumers are coming to expect seamless and reliable M2M (machine-to-machine) technology in everything from their cars to their refrigerators – and their cell phones are certainly no exception. As further evidence that connected devices are becoming commonplace in the consumer market, new research suggests GPS capability has moved beyond the early adopter’s smartphone into the hands of the average cell phone user.

The report by Berg Insight,, Gothenburg, Sweden, indicates in 2009 global shipments of GPS-enabled GSM/WCDMA (global system for mobile communications/wideband code division multiple access) handsets hit 150 million units – a staggering 92% increase over the previous year. The company says this is evidence that what began as essentially a smartphone feature has rapidly become a market standard.

Beginning as soon as 2010, GPS technology is expected to appear in several new lower price-point smartphones, as well as “mid-range feature phones” that appeal to the masses looking for less functionality. Berg also forecasts that with a compound annual growth rate of 38.7%, shipments of phones with GPS will increase five-fold by 2014, potentially reaching 770 million units.

Andre Malm, senior analyst, Berg Insight, says the industry will also see significant improvement and refinement of the technology. “Chipset developers and handset vendors are already working on next-generation location technologies that will address the limitations of GPS when using handsets in urban canyons and indoors,” says Malm. “Multi-mode receivers that also support the Russian GLONASS satellite system will appear in handsets in 2011. By combining the two systems, more visible satellites will increase the chance to receive sufficiently strong signals to get a fix in more locations.”

Amid the escalating demand for location-based services – including apps such as the iPhone’s Take Me to My Car, among dozens of others that rely on a GPS transmission, and location-based social networking sites such as Foursquare and, most recently, Twitter – the accuracy of mobile GPS will be just as important as having access to it.

Whether privacy issues will present a hurdle for the wireless industry that strives to provide customers the latest technology, the survey doesn’t say. But it is clear that GPS is no longer just for in-vehicle telematics, and it’s definitely no longer just for the smartphone.



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