As has been previously discussed on WMExperts, all modern CDMA phones on Sprint and Verizon have Qualcomm’s gpsOne chipset in them for e911 purposes and they have also been used for 3rd party services like TeleNav, offering GPS services directly to the consumer via the carrier. Part of the reason why the carriers want to charge for these services, besides the obvious, is to recoup the cost of being forced to implement the e911 initiative, something that we all help pay every month (e911 tax). This may also be the motivation for why Sprint legally threatened the developer of Mobile Gmaps, who offered a free aGPS mapping solution to Sprint customers.
However, to much dismay of a lot of device owners, Windows Mobile (and Palm OS) devices are not included as having user accessible aGPS on Sprint, despite some of their cheap flip phones and high end BlackBerries having the feature available. Speculation as to why this is the case has ranged from the function being blocked by the carriers to the unavailability of an API (application programming interface) for gpsOne and Windows Mobile. In order to solve this problem, it presumably involves the clumsy cooperation of Sprint, Microsoft, Qualcomm and the device OEMs to implement and flash the firmware (side note: perhaps a reason to be skeptical of Android?). No small feat, yet one that has been lingering now for well over 2 years since WM5 was introduced.
To add to the confusion, Sprint itself has unintentionally misled some of its own customers, initially listing “GPS” as one of the features on the Mogul and continuing to list all WM and Palm OS devices as GPS-enabled (not just e911 capable). No wonder why everyone is confused!
So will we ever get aGPS and Location Based Services (LBS) on our Windows Mobile devices? Rumors have been floating that indeed the HTC Mogul will be getting access to aGPS when it gets it long touted EvDO Revision A firmware upgrade (now pushed back to January 2008). These rumors have come from various places including the Site Administrator and Sprint Master Agent at EVDOinfo.com, who goes on to say that it “...will allow GoogleMaps, GPS Directions and Sprint Locator Service to all work.”.
But now we have this bit of information which nicely corroborates the idea that indeed Sprint is finally preparing to roll out aGPS/LBS on Windows Mobile devices. It turns out that listed on Sprint’s own HTC Touch specifications page, they have added this gem:
GPS Enabled: View your approximate location and use available applications to navigate roadways throughout the country. (will not be available until Q1 2008 upgrade)
So assuming this is not more misinformation or technological confusion, this appears to be the first (some-what) official acknowledgement by Sprint, which is quite significant and it jives well with other information.
What does this mean in the long run? It seems safe to assume that if this is information is accurate, the HTC Mogul, HTC Touch and presumably every forthcoming WM device will have this feature enabled sometime in 2008, including the Palm Treo 800w. To what extent will the end-user have access to the feature? That is not known. It may be that customers will have to subscribe to a pay service like TeleNav or, due to increased competition from other carriers and flashy feature-phones, maybe Sprint will actually allow open access by 3rd party developers to take advantage of the technology.
Here’s looking to 2008. Let’s hope Sprint comes through on this one ;-)
For those interested, you can read about aGPS HERE. It's actually preferential to traditional GPS as the cell towers/servers do the work of pulling data, decreasing your "cold start" times dramatically, as well as increasing accuracy when in valleys or urban environments. It can be a combo of just satellite, satellite + server, server and variants there in.
To see a demonstration of how gpsOne actually works, go HERE.
(Hat tip to j10376 at ppcgeeks.com for the Sprint Touch link)