Mobile handsets will play an increasingly important role in portable navigation markets over the next few years, lifting the sales of handset-based navigation devices to annual figures of more than 96 million units by 2012. ABI Research has found that navigation device sales continue to outperform the industry's expectations and forecasts, with the 2007 holiday season illustrating that the US market is quickly catching up to Europe in its embrace of navigation, particularly personal navigation devices (PNDs).
The PND market remains characterised by a high rate of innovation, including real-time connectivity, multimedia functionality, and community and social networking features, along with enhanced integration into the car environment. "But consolidation and fall-out is accelerating in light of recent announcements from Cobra and ViaMichelin, which intend to quit the standard PND market," said Dominique Bonte, ABI Research's principal analyst.
Handset-based navigation will not challenge the PND navigation form factor in the near future; and despite the relative success of off-board navigation in the United States -- with more than four million paying subscribers -- PNDs remain the most user-friendly in-car navigation device.
Handsets will complement, rather than displace, PNDs, with a number of users owning more than one navigation device. Important barriers such as the lack of GPS handsets, especially in Europe (and the issue of indoor coverage), will have to be removed before handset-based location services can be adopted on a broader scale.
"While traditional, factory-installed in-car navigation systems remain expensive and are offered only as an option on mid- and high-end cars, their perfect integration into the car environment guarantees ease-of-use and safety," continued Bonte. ABI Research expects penetration rates of factory-installed navigation systems in the United States and Europe to increase gradually to 30 per cent by 2012, reaching an annual volume of more than 10 million units.
Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report