gps

Google again is expanding its footprint on the mobile world. Its "My Location" feature, which uses cell towers to roughly triangulate your position in Google Maps, is now coming to mobile Web apps, thanks to the Gears Geolocation API.

"But, Phil," you say, "I already know where I am. What can this possibly do for me?"

For devices without GPS, it should mean a lot. We're talking about (eventually) more than just smartphones here. The Gears Geolocation API allows Web sites, both mobile and otherwise, to get your location and then customize their content.

Offered as an example is U.K. site m.lastminute.com. Simply click a link and the site tracks down your location. You then tell it what kind of food you want to eat, and it returns the restaurants closest to you.

If you're in the U.K., you can try it out now (IE Mobile only) at m.lastminute.com and m.rummble.com. For the rest of us, see the example video after the break.

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AT&T's TeleNav goes global

 

If you're anything like us, you're tired of getting lost for those weekly lunches in Paris. (Note to Dieter - start hosting weekly lunches in Paris.)

But if you're a fan of TeleNav, AT&T's got you covered. The company's subscription navigation service has gone live outside the U.S., offering 3-D maps, voice and turn-by-turn directions in 20 other nations. And that includes a number of cities in China, just in time for the Olympics, of which AT&T is a sponsor.

Currently, the only Windows Mobile devices AT&T lists as supporting its Navigator Global Edition are:

  • AT&T Tilt
  • Samsung Blackjack II
  • Motorola Q9h

Seems they only like integrated GPS. What, no love for us Freedom Keychain users? Hey, AT&T, if you're looking for testers, our passport's up to date. Just sayin'.

Via CNET

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5

Sprint Touch & others get aGPS & Rev A (Unofficial)

As noted a couple of days ago, the Alltel Touch got a new ROM update that added EvDO Rev. A, fixed some BT issues and added video messaging.

But no aGPS.

And while Sprint and Verizon users wait for that coveted Rev A. update and WM 6.1, some enterprising users at PPCGeeks have gone ahead and not only added RevA to their Touch but GPS to boot (!).

Interested in taking the plunge to void your warranty and beat everyone to the punch? Then follow the links for the threads and be careful:

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28

How's that Mogul Update Treating You?

When we heard that the Mogul updated was coming, we were excited. When we heard that the Mogul update had arrived, we partied like we always do when there's a ROM Update (yes, we are nerds). EVDO Rev A. (first ever!) and GPS will do that to you.

However, just like when we party too hard in real life, we're hearing that some folks are experiencing a bit of a post-update hangover. Sure, EVDO Rev A is rockin', but as we feared the GPS is a little wonky. Fortunately, it doesn't require a com port hack like the BlackJack II and the Q9h do (but really those folks just need to download MoDaCo's GPS Config). Unfortunately, some folks in our forums are reporting that the GPS has the nasty little habit of randomly turning off, or not turning on, and so on.

Our very own HobbesIsReal hooks us up with the config detail on how to get GPS going and

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I am not one to take rumors of ROM updates very seriously as you can see from my last thread on the topic in the PPC-6800 forum. But it appears that this time might be different. One of our newest members to the forums, Charlesclai, was the first to post that a Sprint rep shared that Monday March 10th is the date that they were just given in their Window Mobile Training this last week for the release of the newest ROM update for the Mogul. After doing a little snooping around it quickly became apparent that the same report was being posted on multiple forums from different independent Sprint sources.

This update is the one that we have all been waiting for that should include unlocking the Rev A radio and the GPS chip in the phone. It will probably also include a BT stereo fix, but unknown if it will address any other BT issues. The new ROM version is rumored to be 3.35.651.2.

It is not expected to have WM 6.1 or SprintTV, so don't get your hopes up too high for these.

I am still not willing to hold my breath until 9:00 am on Monday March 10th, but with as much confirmation as anyone can reasonably expect from a rumored ROM release date, you can bet that I will be at the HTC site to see if I can download it then.

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Sprint Mogul Updated with Rev A, GPS

Although the Official download site isn't showing the new update, HTC has posted the long-awaited update to the Sprint Mogul, just as we predicted over the weekend. Go get it:

Direct Download from HTC America

Update: HTC is getting hammered. We'll host a mirror here for now:

Mirror

Since HTC hasn't yet posted the official update list, we can't say for sure what we're in for. However, we're darn sure that we are getting EVDO Rev A. and GPS is getting turned on in some way, shape, or form . Not to mention, version 3.35.651.2 should also hopefully include yet another fix for persistent Bluetooth problems.

Update: Here's the press release for you folks that love that sort of thing. GPS confirmed for really real and apparently the Mogul is the first Rev A. Handset. Seems odd that it's the first, no?

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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.

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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

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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 ;-)

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BlackJack II Surfaces, GPS Confirmed

When we had our hands-on with the BlackJack II a month ago, the AT&T reps at CTIA weren't exactly helpful on the subject of just what flavor of GPS was onboard - was it real or was it the tower-triangulation-fake-out kind. Well it's starting to look like it's really real for sure, at least according to the “coming soon” info now popping up on AT&T's website.

In one spot we see “GPS support,” but poking around more reveals “integrated GPS” and PDADB tells us it's SIRF III. Boom. Still no word on whether they've really managed to lock it down to just TeleNav (as was hinted to us at the CTIA conference), but let's hope not.

Otherwise the specs remain what we expected: slightly better than the original but not mind-blowingly better. You should be able to go get yours on Friday.

Oh, and AT&T - just one more thing. This doesn't count as the promised upgrade of the original Blackjack to Windows Mobile 6. We're all still waiting for that one. Remember us - your customers? You know, the ones who were disappointed when we thought it was delayed until Q3? (ah, if only we would have had it in Q3). Yeah, we're still here. Mmmhmm, yep, that's right, we didn't forget. You going to release that anytime soon?

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GPS On the Mogul Coming: CONFIRMED

Listen up, Mogul owners: we have some happy news to report, following up on some previous noodling and speculation about GPS on the Mogul. Sprint has posted an official statement about their ROM hijinks:

The Bad News:
So the last ROM update for the Sprint Mogul didn't go so hot - Sprint is currently suggesting you downgrade to deal with some nagging bluetooth issues - the very issues the upgrade was supposed to help with.

The Good News:
They intend to make a fix available by the end of the month.

The Awesome News:

Additionally, HTC is currently developing a separate ROM update which enables the EV-DO Rev. A and GPS capabilities that are already built into the Mogul hardware.  Sprint and HTC plan to make this software ROM available in early 1Q 2008. We would also like to extend our thanks to those customers that have taken the time to identify and report these issues to us.

Read: Buzz About Wireless

Thanks to Doc31 and TC99 for the tip! Looks like Malatesta was right, Sprint is indeed turning on GPS for WM devices!

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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.

Read on as Malatatesta collects the evidence that gpsOne (though not full gps) for the Mogul, Sprint Touch, and even the 800w!

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 ;-)

Further Information

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)

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