i recently wrote a post about my attempts to find some figure for how many mobile users own a location-aware device – or more simply put, a gps phone. it turned out to be quite hard, and i’ve mostly ended up with statistics for smartphones, and then having to guess roughly how many of the smartphones have gps receivers.
but now i have gotten hold of what i take to be a more reliable estimate: according to mobile consultant tomi ahonen, the total worldwide installed base of gps phones should be somewhere in the range of 550-700 million this june. this is not an official estimate – ahonen simply gave the estimate as i asked him by email – but he seems to be a quite reliable source for information of this kind.
ahonen bases his calculation on a report from ABI research that 225 million GPS phones were sold in 2008. i haven’t seen the report, but on the face of it this figure sounds incredible, given that they also reported only 171 million smartphones sold the same year! my guess though, is that the japanese market accounts for a lot of the difference – as far as i understand, gps phones are very common in japan, whereas most of their phones are not counted as smartphones because the user can not install apps on them (which says more about the locked-in nature of japanese mobile networks, than the state of their technology).