Chadwick Martin Bailey study on smartphone & tablet usage habits, May 2011

Chadwick Martin Bailey study on smartphone & tablet usage habits, May 2011

The lightbulb killed the gas lamp. The DVD killed the VHS tape. And now, the world is preparing for the death of another invention past its prime: the standalone GPS device.

We've been expecting this funeral for some time. Google Maps' debut on smartphones was a bad omen, and each new travel app has been another nail in the standalone's coffin. We've bade a long, lingering goodbye to hardware from manufacturers like Garmin and TomTom, and it's about time to call up the pallbearers.

Why now?

The death knell for GPS units has officially been sounded by marketing powerhouse Chadwick Martin Bailey. CMB asked 1,461 adults across the U.S. about their technology habits. What researchers found was that owners of smartphones and tablet computers are using them in place of many devices they've traditionally relied on. 

For example, nearly half of all tablet owners said they now watch movies on their tablets, instead laptops, notebooks, or portable DVD players. (More alarming for cinema owners: 34% said they'd stopped going to the movies altogether.)

The statistics are equally grim for standalone GPS units: among people who own smartphones or tablets, 80% said that they use those devices for getting around. And nearly all -- 89% -- said that they're using other mapping and directional resources less.

Specifically, among people who own a GPS unit as well as a smartphone and/or tablet, 38% said that they were using the GPS unit less than in the past because they preferred to use their mobile devices. Add to that the booming rate of smartphone adoption and the fact that over 25% of U.S. adults are considering a tablet purchase, and the future looks bleak, indeed.

But this shouldn't be too surprising. After all, standalone GPS units are very limited. Like CD players, portable DVD units, and other single-function items, GPS units serve one purpose, and one purpose only. It only makes sense that such devices would be supplanted by roving computers capable of doing many things -- and of being adapted to do others.

This news might indirectly offer a few more clues as to what Garmin is unleashing this Wednesday. We'd almost bet the farm that it has something to do with app expansion or a new concierge service, since that's clearly what's trending in the marketplace. We'll give you the full report later this week.