Cellphone satnav use booming

Europeans are increasingly using their cellphones for satellite navigation in cars..

The shift in behaviour could threaten the standalone satnav market.

Competition for satellite navigation users increased in January when Nokia followed Google and started offering free navigation on phones.

In February 21.1 million consumers in five large European markets, the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, used their cellphones for navigation, 68 per cent more than a year ago, according to research firm comScore.

In comparison, a total of 20.4 million personal navigation devices were sold in those markets during 2008 and 2009, according to research firm GfK.

Satnav device makers such as TomTom and Garmin have seen in-car navigation as their stronghold, but comScore said cars are already the most common place to use cellphone navigation.

Some 68 per cent of cellphone navigation users accessed the service in a car or other vehicle, with 27 per cent doing so while walking, running or cycling, the research firm said.

ComScore said mobile subscribers using handsets with advanced positioning technology, known as assisted GPS (A-GPS), are even more likely to use maps in a vehicle. The A-GPS technology is increasingly common in smartphones.

"The higher incidence of A-GPS usage in cars suggests that the superior speed and precision in these devices are being used for more than just identifying locations - they are being used as full in-car navigation systems," said Alistair Hill, a comScore analyst.

"That these services offer similar functionality to premium services without the significant price-tag has certainly contributed to their early success," said Hill.

Satnav device makers such as TomTom are fighting back, though, by offering their navigation software as apps to run on handsets such as the Apple iPhone.

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