Recent Articles

Headlines

5 years ago

Moto Q9h vs. BlackJack II

12
5 years ago

GPS vs. aGPS: A Quick Tutorial

56
56

GPS vs. aGPS: A Quick Tutorial

With discussions and speculation about what features the new Treo 800w will have, the convoluted and very confusing issue of aGPS versus GPS naturally arises and which, if either, the 800w will include. So what is aGPS? How does it differ from real GPS if at all? We'll fill you in on the full skinny -- which sadly can be anything from "just e911" to "Better than standard GPS."

Read on to learn what all of these terms actually mean and what it means for Windows Mobile users in general as this technology spans CDMA and GSM across the U.S on every device.

aGPS vs. GPS: The Basics

Okay, first let's do the basic definitions: aGPS = assisted global positioning system, while just regular GPS is non-assisted.

So who's assisting and why does it matter? When you use a GPS system and you turn it on, it needs to find orbit and clock data for the relevant satellites, this in turn results in what is called TTFF, or Time To First Fix how long before you get your location pinpointed. This initial TTFF is often called a cold start and on SiRF III systems (the latest GPS systems available), it can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes to acquire a signal. That time is dependent on your location, amount of interference and horizon information: open fields are faster than canyons or urban environments where buildings can interfere with the satellite-receiver line of site.

But when you use assisted GPS this whole process is much faster. Very often cellular network towers have GPS receivers (or a base station nearby) and those receivers are constantly pulling down satellite information and computing the data. This data is then passed on to the cellular phone (when requested) and acts like a cheat since the relevant satellites to your location are already identified and all that GPS computations is handled by 3rd party computers. This is the result of such a system, to you the end user:

  • Faster location acquisition
  • Less processing power is required by the device
  • Saves battery life
  • Location acquisition indoors or in non-optimal environmental settings

Sprint describes how their system is supposed to work from their online FAQ:

Q: What is Assisted GPS? How do you find me if only two satellites are available?
A: To meet the defined industry standards, a precision location fix requires a minimum of three GPS measurements. The term "Assisted" refers to how Sprint network resources are used to provide a more robust measurement when only two satellites are visible.
  • Precision fix in tens of seconds.
  • Very High accuracy (typically 5m-50m).
  • Line of sight to three satellites is not required as in regular GPS technology, but two satellites must be visible for a precise AGPS fix.
  • GPS chipset required in device. (All Sprint phones sold since Jan 2002 have the GPS chipset. Contact your Sprint account representative for additional information.)

This is why many of us in the forums often cringe when someone suggests that having a standalone SiRFIII chip in a phone is preferable to an aGPS system, although the confusion is quite understandable and that brings us to our next point: the caveats.

Caveat #1: aGPS configurations

This story of aGPS so far seems fairly reasonable and straightforward, but alas it is not. See aGPS is not some monolithic, written-in-stone-standard. In fact, Qualcomm, who makes the most popular aGPS chips (called GPSOne) has four different possible configurations for aGPS. How aGPS is actually implemented on the device appears to be up to the device OEM/cellular carriers.

These four options are:

  • Standalone - Your handset has no connection to the network, and uses only the GPS satellite signals it can currently receive to try and establish a location.
  • MS Based - Your handset is connected to the network, and uses the GPS signals + a location signal from the network.
  • MS Assisted - Your handset is connected to the network, uses GPS signals + a location signal then relays its 'fix' to the server, which then uses the signal strength from your phone to the network towers to further plot your position. You can still maintain voice communication in this scenario, but not 'Internet/Network service' ie Web Browser, IM, streaming TV etc..
  • MS Assisted/Hybrid - Same as above, but network functionality remains. Normally only in areas with exceptional coverage.

Standalone mode is important. This means you do not need the carrier network at all to use GPS and usually you can install any GPS mapping software to boot. This is how the HTC Tilt and modern BlackBerries work and the Sprint Q9c (a review of which will be posted on WMExperts next week). Here there is virtually no difference between a standalone SiRFIII GPS system and a standalone (aka autonomous). The fact that the Sprint Q9c operates in standalone should be a sign of how Sprint plans to adopt aGPS systems in their Windows Mobile lineup (read here and here regarding possible updates for GPS for the Mogul and Touch). Interestingly, someone came up with a hack to enable the assistance servers for the Q9c to give all the benefits of a true aGPS system.

So which configuration of aGPS is important to how you can utilize the service. If it 100% relies on assistance-servers, then using it off-network is not an option, which may be the case with the BlackBerry 8830 (Sprint Worldphone):

Q  Does GPS work internationally?
A  No, the GPS chipset on the 8830 is disabled when the device is in GSM/GPRS mode due to Qualcomm requirement.

Caveat #2: The role of the mobile carriers

Now for the other shoe to drop: the carriers. Every modern cell phone has an aGPS chip on it because of the enhanced 911 requirement, which is also why you don't have many phones with a separate SiRFIII chip on board: it is redundant and expensive.

But on Sprint, Verizon and some other carriers like AT&T they have devices with aGPS on board that is not accessible to the end-user for any purpose except for e911 (like the ppc-6700 or the Treo 700wx). Now why this is the case is a matter of debate and a lot of speculation, which ranges from the carriers have purposefully disabled this feature to the APIs were not ready (API= Application Programming Interface) or maybe even a combination. Some have also suggested that these devices need an internal antenna plexed to the chip in order to gain a satellite signal, although since cheap flip phones on Sprint can do aGPS, this remains controversial. Regardless, the fact that simple flip phones could do aGPS for mapping and $500 WM phones cannot, rubbed many in the mobile community the wrong way.

The point of this caveat is that it is up to the carriers ultimately do decide on whether certain devices have:

That last option, for whatever reason, is currently the most common but it at least appears that the carriers (except for maybe Verizon who is truly draconian) are moving towards the more open system.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully you have learned how aGPS can mean everything from it does nothing except for 911 to it is superior to traditional GPS. Where new WM devices fall on that spectrum is an ongoing adventure, but hopefully you now have the knowledge to ask the right questions:

  • Is the aGPS autonomous?
  • It is locked down (e.g. hidden COM ports)?
  • Can it use assistance servers when < 3 satellites are available?

Having answers to those will allow you to better gauge what GPS or aGPS really means.

PS Feel free to bookmark or pass this article on to others to help dispel any confusion out there on the 'net ;-)

More →
5
loading...
0
loading...
1
loading...
0
loading...
5 years ago

Firefox Mobile: First Look!

3
3

Firefox Mobile: First Look!

Back a couple months ago we mentioned how the Mozilla Project was taking a serious stab at mobile browsing to which our response was "Hallelujah! What took you so long?".

Well, looks like the project is finally off the ground as Mozilla has launched their Wiki site to discuss development of their new super mobile browser, which will evidently come in Touch-screen and non-Touch screen flavors. Some of the goals are pretty basic but well thought out:

  • 1-2 taps for most frequent activities
  • Finger taps -- no stylus required
  • Familiar (to desktop users) where possible
  • Intuitive

For the non-Touch screen devices, a "virtual cursor" is on deck for easy mobile navigation. And just to whet your appetite a little more, we've tossed some screens shots of what the future browser may look like after the break. Delicious.

Touch Screen

Non-Touch Screen

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

Mogul ROM with GPS Leaked

15
15

Mogul ROM with GPS Leaked

Take a look above, folks, it's the ROM update for the Mogul we've all been waiting for. Well, almost. It's a prerelease leak. It activates GPS (which isn't locked down at all, Woo Hoo!) and seems to also address some of the Bluetooth hassles Mogul owners have come to know and love hate. Installing it is a bit of work (check out this helpful thread here. Hat tip to Strohs and Malatesta for the heads-up.

You might want to wait, though. You need your MSID to do it, after all, and that's some work. Plus we're talking heavily unofficial prerelease, but here's something to whet your appetite, EVDO REV A has also been confirmed (but not necessarily up to snuff just yet).

Someone said that 3.16.651.0 wasn't real and so the thread was closed. Well, it IS real, and GPS works with Google Maps!!!!! It's not 6.1 unless it just says 6.0 and is '6.1' behind the scenes. Memory isn't great, around 20MB or so free. I'd like to have more around 23-25, but I'll take GPS - 3.16.651.0 IS real, and so is GPS - Link inside - NOT official release - PPCGeeks

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

Treo 500 Available Unlocked - Still European Only

3

Good news / Bad News time:

Good News: As we said they would, Palm has released the Treo 500, the surprisingly cool and surprisingly successful little Windows Mobile standard device, in an unlocked form. You can pick one up for the £269 and use it any old place you like.

Bad News: It's still a Tri-Band phone, meaning that while you'll get 3G goodness in Europe, you won't get it in the US (and in many place you won't get service at all). More bummage: The 500v's neat carousel interface is most definitely a Vodafone-only option, the standard 500 doesn't offer it.

We know, the Treo 500 isn't anything special (the Blackjack and the Q9h have been one-upping it on several fronts since before it came out), but the hardware on the Treo 500 is surprisingly nice. If Palm could bring that price down just a tad, we'd be able to recommend it a bit more. Assuming, of course, that they bring it over to these shores.

Thanks to paulpenny for the tip!

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

World of Warcraft Coming to your Mobile Phone?

3
3

World of Warcraft Coming to your Mobile Phone?

Yes, I play World of Warcraft (a geek like me, are you surprised?) - the toon at right is mine. So the news that not only does Blizzard have a mobile development team, but that the rumormill is ramping up about a mobile version of WoW has some particular appeal. Of course, it's highly unlikely that Blizzard would try to shrink the desktop experience of WoW into a phone, but what about this tantalizing option:

Option three: forget mobile games, and make a mobile application instead. Something that gives you access to guild chat, or other admin aspects of the PC version of WoW. Instead of selling it through mobile operators, Blizzard might tack this onto the regular WoW subscription - pay a quid/dollar extra a month, and get the mobile app. - Rumours mount about World Of Warcraft Mobile Mobile

That sounds like something I'd pay for. WoW just passed the 10 million subscriber mark, and at an average of $14.95 per month per subscriber, that's certainly enough scratch to gin up something for our phones, no? For the Horde!

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

BlackJack FINALLY upgraded to Windows Mobile 6!!

8

Update: Bad news, folks - the updater is not compatible with Vista. Will the pain never end? Fortunately, we have an XP machine around. We're downloading the update right now - expect a hands-on soon! ...and by "soon" we mean "in 20 or 30 years, because that's how long the download is going to take given how hard the servers are being hammered right now."

--

We are not kidding (we hope. According to Crave, you can head over to this site at 5pm Eastern today and get yourself the Windows Mobile 6 update for the original Samsung BlackJack. About. Time!

We've dealt with delays, very buggy leaked Windows Mobile 6 ROMs, and the shame of the BlackJack II being released before the update. We were even starting to doubt it would ever arrive.

It's been months of waiting, now we're down to just hours. At 5pm EST, go get it.

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

Possible HTC Driver Issue Spurs User Activism, Update: HTC Responds

13

We here at WMExperts have a bit of experience with users organizing around a tech support issue and petitioning the company to just fix the darn thing already. After all, over at our sister site TreoCentral just such an effort was successful last year. This time around, it's HTCClassAction.org, a group of users who aren't actually suing anybody (yet), but trying to get HTC to fix what seems to be a persistent problem.

Update: After the break, the rest of the original post, HTC's response, and a couple closing thoughts.

Drivers Missing?

At issue, several of HTC's devices run on a certain type of Qualcomm chip that has the ability to speed up graphics, but it seems like HTC hasn't developed the drivers to take advantage of it. The result? Sketchy video playback, mainly, but also mysterious slowness on devices that shouldn't be all that slow. AT&T Tilt, we're looking squarely at you.

The drivers (small pieces of software that govern your device's hardware) in question are responsible for all drawing operations. This means absolutely everything having anything to do with putting something on your screen is affected. This includes normal programs, video playback, games, taking pictures, etcetera. If it's on your screen, it's affected. This makes the devices feel really slow and unresponsive. For more details about this, see the Drivers in detail page.

HTC hasn't officially responded, but there have been pitter-patters of email suggesting they're looking into it and may release a fix concurrently with Windows Mobile 6.1 updates.

For our part, we would be equally surprised and not surprised to hear that HTC isn't using the full potential of its processor chips from Qualcomm. On the one hand, HTC has its stuff really together, so it would be odd if they didn't take full advantage of the chip. On the other hand, manufacturers regularly ignore chip features for reasons of development costs and the like. Many phones, for example, actually have GPS built into them that will never work because there is no antenna to take advantage of it. Others (like the Mogul) do have the necessary hardware for GPS but not the drivers (yet!).

If you want to join up, the site has all sorts of petition options, a list of affected devices, and the like. Meanwhile - do you agree that the Tilt feels a might bit slower than it ought to be given its stupendous specs?

HTC Reponds

Here's what HTC has to say about the whole thing:

HTC is committed to delivering a portfolio of devices that offer a wide variety of communication, connectivity and entertainment functionality. HTC does not offer dedicated or optimized multimedia devices and can confirm that its Qualcomm MSM7xxx-based devices do not use ATI’s Imageon video acceleration hardware.

HTC believes the overall value of its devices based on their combination of functionality and connectivity exceeds their ability to play or render high-resolution video. These devices do still provide a rich multimedia experience comparable to that of most smartphones and enable a variety of audio and video file formats.

HTC values its customers and the overall online community of mobile device enthusiasts and fans. HTC plans to include video acceleration hardware in future video-centric devices that will enable high-resolution video support.

A few things. First, although we knew it already it's nice to hear HTC say “yep, we don't use that part of the chip.” Second, it's a bit of a bummer, but pretty much what we expected. As we said in the original post, there are all sorts of phones out there with chips that could theoretically do more than the phone takes advantage of. I'd much rather have a phone that's well thought out in terms of hardware and software integration and overall design than one that has every possible feature known to man thrown at it. That's why my current phone is a Motorola Q9h (despite the lack of WiFi).

Third thought: “future video-centric devices” sounds pretty tasty.

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

More Treo 800w Details Surface?

207
207

More Treo 800w Details Surface?

Folks looking to win in our Rumortastic Treo 800w giveaway have some more fodder to work with trying to guess the date and win that Treo. A new user in our forums, the mysterious anonuser, has two posts to his or her name, but they're interesting and sound pretty darn legit. Anon claims to have seen an internal document that fills us in on some new deets.

The first gives us plenty of reasons to be excited, as it confirms some previous rumors and gives us hope that Palm has finally seen the light and is dropping their horrendous “Athena” connector:

The Treo 800w (from Sprint) will have a mini-USB plug on the bottom of the device. It's about as thin as a Centro, and actually feels quite nice in the hand. It will ship with WinMo 6, and will be compatible with WinMo 6.1 once an update is released. Not a whole lot of feature upgrades, but does make it compatible with Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008. Along with the classic on/off switch for the ringer, there is a convenient WiFi on/off button. I tried the camera out, and at 2.0mp, it took decent pictures, though I didn't have a chance to upload them to my PC to look over. It also comes standard with an EvDO Rev. A radio, bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, and 802.11g WiFi. [...] This device is slated to be released in April of this year.

Nice, eh? The second post confirms that we will indeed get aGPS on this baby plus adds some specification goodness:

The Treo 800W has MicroSD and 256MB memory. I believe there is another 128MB for something else, but I can't remember what the document said. [...]Oh, and there's no more headphone jack on the device, you'll have to utilize the mini-usb plug with an adapter, or use bluetooth wireless.

We don't know anonuser (he or she is, after all, anonymous, but we will say that the info has the ring of truth to it. April is quite a bit later than we'd hoped for, but for a thin, touchscreen, GPS, WiFi, 320x320 power-device like this, we're willing to wait!

...just might be time for you to change your guess in the Treo 800w contest, eh? (remember, kids, the date has to be two weeks out from the day you guess)

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

More on the Verizon XV6900 Touch

7
7

More on the Verizon XV6900 Touch

Well it looks like the Verizon Touch that surfaced last Friday is coming a might bit quicker than we expected, given that Engadget Mobile just scored a bunch of pics and details. Check out their Gallery to find out that, uh, it looks identical to the Sprint version (except for that white thing).

No word yet on what they'll be putting on the TouchFLO cube, but it does look like there's a shopping cart on the Today screen. In other words - expect it to be Verizon-alicious just like the Sprint Touch's cube is Sprint-app'ed up. Bummer, we were hoping for more customization - like, oh, a 4th side to the cube to add our own links.

Specs are out of the box too - EVDO (duh), WM6, 2 Megapixel camera, and the GPS is turned on in this one! Hopefully Sprint will follow suit on their version very soon, as expected.

More →
0
loading...
0
loading...
0
loading...
0
loading...
5 years ago

Fully Unlock your Tilt / Kaiser - SIM and SuperCID

1

Big ups to jockyw2001 over at XDA-Developers, who has furthered the cause of unlocking your Tilt (HTC Kaiser for you international folks). He's put up two sets of instructions. The first is a Kaiser Sim Unlocker, if you need to use your device on a different network. The second is a SuperCID and Security Unlocker, which is something you'll probably be able to ignore. To vastly oversimplify: a

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

Windows Mobile 6 on the BlackJack - Video Hands-on

3
5 years ago

Review: Palm Hard Case for Treo 700wx

0
5 years ago

Time to Start the Sprint Deathwatch?

49
49

Time to Start the Sprint Deathwatch?

Is it time to start the deathwatch on Sprint? They've had nothing but bad news lately. Xohm, their 4G, WiMAX-based network is still in a sort of “coming soon” limbo, given that nobody is really sure whether or not their new CEO intends to keep it. They're also on the verge of They have already started hemorrhaging subscribers - the number of their customers who plan to switch and who are unhappy with their customer service are both off the charts. Now we hear this:

Wireless phone company Sprint Nextel Corp. said Friday it plans to slash 4,000 jobs and close 125 retail locations to gird itself for an expected slowdown in subscriber growth and revenue.
Shares in the company, which has been struggling to keep up with rivals AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless, fell 26 percent in midday trading. -

That's 6 different kinds of bad news. It's a real pity, too, because we still think that Sprint has the best plans around as far as data and SMS rates go. ...But that hasn't stopped them from losing 683,000 (that's six hundred eighty three thousand) subscribers last quarter.

We jokingly claimed that Sprint is going to lose their spot in the carrier size rankings to Alltel soon and that Alltel might just have to buy them out. That's looking less like a joke and more like a premonition right now.

So, Sprint customers: will you go down with the ship or jump off?

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
5 years ago

Verizon to get White HTC Touch

2
2

Verizon to get White HTC Touch

Well take a look at what hekidnappedher at HowardForums discovered - the HTC Touch with a Verizon logo. According to his post, it will be available in March and only in white. Has anyone else noticed that white is making a comeback - it used to evoke iPod but now it just evokes cute.

In any case, it's possible that Verizon will hard-headedly (and bone-headedly) follow their idiotic naming conventions and brand this puppy the XV6900. It's also possible that it will be slimmer and faster than the Sprint version. While we're sorta doubting that, we are loving that the Touch is getting around to more carriers.

More →
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
-
loading...
Show More Headlines

Pages