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Death By Smartphone: In-Car Sat Nav Doomed, at Least in Europe

Nav smartphones

New research by Comscore has underlined something we always knew, but perhaps we weren't expecting to be so significant: Cellphone satellite navigation use in Europe is rocketing skywards at an amazing pace, at the expense of dedicated systems.

The data for cellphone GPS system use in February of this year shows that in five big Euro nations (Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy) 21.1 million people used their smartphones for navigating from place to place. If that weren't a significant enough number, it's actually up an impressive 68% on the same figure for February a year ago.

And throughout these national markets, just 20.4 million portable sat nav systems were sold, throughout the entirety of 2008 and 2009. Conversely we also know that some 50 million iPhones have been sold, and about 56% of them went overseas (a significant proportion of which will have ended up on European soil, and the versions sold there are almost totally versions with A-GPS aboard.)

The final statistic in this piece of math is that Comscore's data reveals that about 68% of the people who used their cellphone GPS did so in a vehicle.

Sound the death-knell for standalone navigation units, unless they're used for very specific purposes...or fall to commodity level prices that are far below the typical smartphone cost of ownership. The future of personal communication devices is smartphones—while some "feature" phones have GPS, the full navigational suites you can find in apps on smartphones are typically significantly more sophisticated. So much so, in fact, that a standalone device with the same power would have cost you some serious cash just a year or two ago. The data also points to one other trend, which many electronics manufacturers will dislike: The consumer really does love multipurpose, Swiss Army knife-like digital devices—it's so much better than carrying around several dedicated pieces of kit.

And what's likely to be the next dedicated device on the smartphone's take-down list? Pocket digital cameras.

Kit QR TwitterTo keep up with this news in a more real-time setting, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take you to my Twitter feed too. (And if you've no idea what that spotty-looking thing is, then find out here.)