Smartphones transform vehicle navigation market

  • 16-Mar-2012 10:37 EDT

Smartphones are altering the automotive market, displacing personal navigation devices and prompting GM to invest in wireless charging.

Smartphones are transforming the automotive infotainment segment, forcing personal navigation device (PND) makers to alter their strategies as the PND market plummets. The growing use of consumer products in cars is also changing automakers’ strategies for in-vehicle navigation and rechargers for portables.

The PND market is in a free fall. ABI Research predicts a decline of over 40% by 2016. Improvements in smartphone apps, coupled with the huge growth of these phones, are the driving factor. Some are focusing on low-volume, high-value markets such as fleet management, according to a new research study by ABI.

“Free smartphone navigation applications have started to match the performance of PNDs on a number of levels,” said Lim Shiyang, ABI research associate.

However, market analysts don’t feel that smartphones will eliminate the competition. In-vehicle navigation sales will remain strong. Over the next seven years, Strategy Analytics predicts that 36% of vehicles sold globally will include some form of OEM embedded navigation.

PND manufacturers are also revising their strategies in a bid to remain viable. Many are focusing on specific industries.

TomTom, for example, is liaising with automotive insurance companies to provide individual driver statistics via PNDs for more accurate premium pricing for fleets while others, such as Garmin, are making inroads into mobile applications,” said Dominique Bonte, Garmin, Group Director, Telematics and Navigation.

This change is also altering the look and pricing of PNDs. Nearly one-third of all products cost more than $500, well beyond the sub-$100 price of consumer versions. Screen sizes for these higher-priced units are larger, going up to 7 in, as opposed to the 3- to 5-in screens of consumer units. Microsoft's Windows Embedded Compact remains the dominant operating system for PNDs, with nearly 45% of the market.

The shift to smartphones is also changing the way automakers view recharging. As more consumer products enter the vehicle, plugging cables into cigarette lighters or USB ports is losing popularity.

IHS iSuppli noted that global automakers are investing in wireless in-vehicle charging. Portable products can be placed on mats that use electromagnetic induction or magnetic resonance to recharge batteries.

The research house explained that General Motors, Volkswagen, and Audi are all investing in equipment. Though automotive-grade products are still rare, the overall growth of wireless chargers is growing rapidly. IHS iSuppli predicts sales will exceed $900 million this year.

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