Does Apple’s next-gen iPhone need GPS?

“If there’s anything the iPhone has lacked compared with other phones in its class, it has been high-speed connectivity and the ability to determine its location accurately. Apple will address the first shortcoming in a matter of days, when it unveils the second version of the year-old iPhone on June 9,” Arik Hesseldahl writes for BusinessWeek

“I’m hoping Apple also tackles No. 2—by including support for Global Positioning System navigation. For one thing, most of the handsets in the iPhone’s peer group contain GPS chips by default,” Hesseldahl writes. “What’s more, navigation applications can make a lot of money for carriers, and by extension, Apple, which splits service revenue with AT&T, its partner in the U.S. A survey last year by Nielsen Mobile found that navigation applications were second only to games as the most popular downloadable wireless application.”

“The iPhone currently employs a system [that] determines its position in part by using the nearest cell towers, using technology from Google. It also fixes its location based on Wi-Fi access points using another technology from Skyhook Wireless,” Hesseldahl explains. “The result is adequate for the casual pedestrian user, and will even work for basic driving directions… till, the accuracy of iPhone’s location services is hit-or-miss. It’s not unusual for Google Maps on the iPhone to show you a block or two away from where you actually are. Sometimes it will put you within 100 feet. Any civilian-grade GPS receiver worth having should be able to pinpoint your location to within 10 feet.”

“So is GPS on the way or not? …My money’s on GPS being included in version 2. But even if it’s not, there’s a strong case for including it in the third version, likely to be released sometime in 2009. Adding GPS would give the iPhone an indisputable grand-slam lineup of features: navigation along with best-in-class music and video, Web browsing, and voice and data communications,” Hesseldahl writes.

More in the full article here.


  1. It all depends on whether it has GPS or not. As fanbois, we don’t think, if Steve says it has a GPS then we need it. However, if Steve tells us that is doesn’t have GPS, then we don’t need it….

    I don’t know any other way a fanboi could possibly answer. I know that whatever Steve says to buy is the best and I’m buying, regardless of the price, features, and quality. Period….

  2. Dunno.

    I drive for a living, and the cell/wi-fi triangulation has worked quite well for me.

    If you need directions down to the last ten feet, you’re too stupid to be on the road.

  3. I just use google maps because it’s free and it works very well actually. Some spots not so much but for what it is… you cant beat it. Putting in GPS will probably be another $10 a month addon like it is with my blackberry.

  4. I personally don’t want GPS in my iPhone… the Google maps and location assist works well enough, and I get great battery life. Already the 3G service is going to eat battery life… I’d prefer not to have the GPS eating it also. I get 2 full days between charges with heavy use right now… If I really need/want GPS, a separate device would be fine. Or a map. Oh, wait, I have that already.

  5. im pretty sure it has gps. my dad is a digital electronics tech at att and he got a company wide email that was talking about the next gen iphone. He said it said something about gps and a much better camera.

  6. I also think GPS should be something you can turn on/off. I mean, iphones already transmit a cell signal for the towers, a wifi signal, a bluetooth signal, and now they might add a GPS signal? That’s an awful lot of microwave radiation to be putting next to my body/head. Maybe I need to go out and buy some lead lines clothes.

  7. Arik seems to have it wrong.

    AT&T;’s network has software to determine your position based upon cell tower triangulation. It uses this for the government-mandated E911 support. AT&T;sends this information to the iPhone, which then also does some triangulation based on any WiFi routers it can find in order to come up with a more accurate location. AT&T;’s system, alone, is accurate to around 150 feet.

    Other cell-phones have GPS mostly because other carriers, rather than doing triangulation to support E911, basically went to the cell-phone companies and said, “Change your phones to support E911 or we won’t sell your phone.” So the only way for the phone to know it’s location is GPS.

    Where GPS beats cell-tower triangulation is in tracking applications. Cell-tower triangulation isn’t efficient for always-on applications. If I want my iPhone to continuously know my position and warn me when I need to turn, a GPS is far more energy efficient than using the cellular radios to call AT&T;every second.

    On the other hand, cell-tower triangulation is much faster than a “cold start” of a GPS. If your GPS is turned off, it can take 30 seconds to a minute to sync itself up to the GPS satellites. So for the current iPhone “off-and-on” system, a GPS would probably be less efficient.

  8. “I mean, iphones already transmit a cell signal for the towers, a wifi signal, a bluetooth signal, and now they might add a GPS signal?”

    GPS receivers are like the radio receivers in your car. They don’t transmit.

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