GPS devices: this summer's new iPods?

GPS devices: this summer's new iPods?


They find restaurants and golf courses. They locate your child or pet. They navigate in the bush, across the ocean and through the urban jungle to wherever you want to go - all to the maximum accuracy of about one centimetre.

And with Synnex reporting an overall market increase of over 80 per cent from 2005 to 2006, there is little doubt that the consumer market for GPS (Global Positioning System) devices is heating up.

While the Australian market is not yet displaying a demand for other GPS applications, Dick Smith Electronics' buyer for navigational devices, Tyson White, said the retailer was experiencing good results across its current GPS unit range.

GPS consumers fall across a wide range of demographics, White said, including young, technologically savvy people and retirees who might be doing a round-Australia trip and need to know how to get from one road in Alice Springs to another.

"[There exists] a pretty broad offer [of devices], and the units are usually pretty easy to use for different levels of understanding," he said.

While some units include many high-tech features, others were fairly simple and well-suited to those less acquainted with button-pushing, he said.

National sales manager of Synnex, Arthur Gimisis, said GPS products were categorised into different channels, with PDA/GPS units dominating the IT consumer base. The pure navigational systems enjoyed most popularity in the retail space.

"My understanding is that the retail space still occupies around 85 per cent of GPS sales," Gimisis said. "This is mainly from dedicated GPS, but we are seeing subtle changes to buying behaviour where the traditional channel is starting to promote and sell feature enriched, pocket PC GPS units to enthusiast and business users."

But will GPS devices this Christmas enjoy the popularity of iPods last year?

"It wouldn't surprise me," Dick Smith's White said.

Gimisis noted that a recent Sensis forecast predicting 108,000 GPS sales this year had recently been updated to 150,000 units. "It's expected to be a GPS Christmas," he said.

The market was expected to continue to expand to 420,000 units in 2007, Gimisis said.

But IDC research director of telecommunications and consumer markets, Landry Fevre, wasn't so sure.

"It is certainly a hot product," he said. "Price points have come down so I guess it becomes affordable to the mass market.

"But I see the GPS devices more as a utilitarian device ... I doubt this will reach iPod fever; the brand and status are nowhere close to iPods."

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