The Global Positioning System devices that can help people navigate an unfamiliar city or find the nearest pizza joint are moving off the dashboard and into the cellphone.
Cellphones with location technology are already a hit in Japan and South Korea. In the United States, millions of cellphones already contain GPS technology by order of the federal government, which sought to ensure that emergency workers could locate cellphone users who place emergency 911 calls.
Now, three of the four leading cellphone providers are beginning to widely market phones that include location-based services, or LBS, which allow subscribers with GPS-capable phones to navigate from wherever they are to wherever they want to go with the push of a few buttons.
Sprint Nextel sold its first GPS telephone in 2002 but marketed it only for use by truckers and other mobile businesspeople. "All of the phones will have GPS capability in the future," said John Redman, spokesman for Sprint Nextel Corp. of Reston, Va., the nation's third-largest cellular carrier, which offers 30 GPS-capable phones.
Meanwhile, the most-popular cellphone carrier, Cingular, introduced its first navigation phone in October. In January, Verizon Wireless introduced a new Motorola Inc. GPS handset with software that can generate driving instructions for a traveler in any part of the United States served by Verizon. The company has since added a second GPS phone made by LG Electronics of South Korea. It's all a part of Verizon's plan to eventually introduce all its customers to location-based services.