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GPS iPhone: Part II

Jun
1
2008

We talked quite a bit in the past about GPS on the iPhone as it pertained to the original iPhone. Now, with the second generation just days away from being announced, speculation is running again about the possibility of full-fledged GPS navigation on the iPhone. Brian Lam from Gizmodo says he doesn’t want it– and list four drawbacks to having GPS on the iPhone. Here is our response to Brian’s post.

The location tech in the current iPhone is much quicker. No matter what chip, even SiRFstar chips in full blooded GPSes take awhile to lock on. When using the very capable N95, I’d often drive across town or walk half way to my destination before I’d get signal lock.

That might have been true with most GPS devices a couple of years ago, but not today. As I sit inside my office right now I took out a Garmin, Magellan, TomTom, and DeLorme GPS, and turned each of them on. All of them had a signal within five seconds of boot. Acquisition time is measured in seconds, and almost always in under 15 seconds.

I’d never use an iPhone as a car GPS. Not even with updated software. The amount of work and expertise that goes into a high end, 5+ generation Garmin is some serious stuff. The logic is all proprietary. It’s not easy to do. And GPS antennas need to be somewhat pointed. If it’s on your dash, it needs to be on the back. If it’s for walking, it needs to be on the front. Which is it?

For the first part, I agree it would take way too much work to build a full fledged navigation application– Apple wouldn’t likely do it themselves. But nobody says they have to. As we speculated about a couple of weeks ago, get Dash to provide a GPS application for the iPhone. We outline in that link why they would be a good partner.

For the second part of the question my answer will be similar to that of the first question– that was true a couple of years ago, not so much today. Those same four GPS devices I took out for the first question all still get a very good signal regardless of orientation, and that is indoors as well. Upside-down, right-side up… it makes virtually no difference in most devices.

Battery life gets screwed when you keep the GPS on with constant updates.

In the current iPhone the user has the ability to turn off the Wifi radio and the Bluetooth radio. Give the user the ability to turn off the GPS radio, or even leave it turned off by default until the user wants it on.

These chips aren’t exactly small, although they have been known to fit in things like Suunto watches. That going to make this thing thicker?

Perhaps. This might be cause for concern. The Broadcom (formerly Global Locate) BCM4750 chip is pretty darn tiny though.

One Response


  1. Excellent point by point rebuttal Tim.

    Gatorguy - June 2nd, 2008



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