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. Here is the way I see it. Apple already realizes that people want to know exactly where they are at with the google maps application. So they added cell tower triangulation for a temporary fix, but they know that they need something more for the second generation. (not to mention the bold has it… so the iphone will)

  2. While we are at it can we add a heart rate monitor. This along with a GPS ads many features for the athlete. Speed, Distance, Averages, Training logs, Calorie and much more. (See garmin’s 305 ) Than I would not need my Garmin and iPhone when training.

  3. For what its worth:
    I don’t See GPS as a necessity for the iphone. Of all the features a phone could have i would vote for longer usable battery life or maybe ichatAV. or how bout something simple like an SD card slot? don’t get me wrong … I like the idea of a consolidated device but at what cost? Gps features could easily be added to any iphone through the use of a Bluetooth GPS device like this one in this way you can get a superior GPS receiver AND have all the fun toys that Iphone has to offer. Besides all this when i try to navigate in the car with my garmin 60cs Handheld the unit often loses the satellites if my sun roof is not open … id much rather have a nice little device i can through up on the dash with a link back to the phone … so i can have the phone in a convenient position while im driving … and NOT have to worry about GPS reception.

  4. o.. and not to mention cell tower triangulation is pretty faulty. I live in maumelle arkansas (YES ARKANSAS its a real state). The town is close to the arkansas river, but its a couple of miles from here.. but according to my iphone I am swimming in the river.

  5. @Brock

    Cell Phone Triangulation has been around for YEARS through at&t;even before they were cingular. they implemented in as a Buddy list type feature where you could request the location of your buddy (if you had there permission to do so) it was more accurate in Urban area and less accurate in rural areas … but it got the job done. Of course back then we didn’t have google maps so you location was sent out as being near a particular intersection. back then this was pretty cool (gas was cheap, and text messaging was FREE)… but nowhere near as cool as the current implementation on the iphone.

  6. i agree… I think its a cool technology but it doesn’t meet todays standards. I like att and love apple but I would like to have gps. I know Arkansas is a rural state but maumelle 10 minutes outside of the capital little rock so its not like I live in the woods. Im sure the 2nd gen iphone will have the gps though… I can’t imagine apple not including it.

  7. I like the Swiss Army knife comparison. But I would like to see GPS on the iPhone. I like to carry around as few items as possible. I do travel quite a bit and would like to have one device that does it all.

    The iPhone is nice because it already combined the ipod and phone and a great web browser. I like the idea of having it all with me because I always carry my cellphone but may not always carry an ipod or GPS device.

    I do like Google Maps but would like to see it incorporate either a built in GPS receiver or a bluetooth receiver similar to Google Earth.

  8. It is very cute to hear people talk about GPS like its only use is for turn by turn directions. I agree it would not safe to use GPS on an iPhone in the car, but neither is doing anything else on an iPhone all that safe while driving. I would probably use it occasionally for directions, but more often for the Geo tagging possibilities. Finding new restaurants, shops, friends, in your present area is more interesting.

  9. brock
    I just went by the Promenade at Chenal or whatever, and it looks like the whole place has another 2 months before opening (other than the Imax Theater…or is that ‘iMax’?) I was hoping the Apple Store would be open by mid June. Have you heard anything?

  10. The reason why Apple should put GPS in the iPhone comes down to this…take a look at the top 25 in electronics on

    Consistently, GPS units rank higher than the iPods. The GPS units on top of the list range from $200-300 and pretty much suck as compared to what *could* be done with the iPhone.

    For those thinking cell/wifi triangulation is “good enough”, sorry, but it isn’t when you’re trying to drive to specific addresses or trying to navigate via boat or someplace where cell/wifi isn’t available at all or enough to triangulate.

    I have GPS built into my car, and handhelds that I use for boating and other things. Having GPS in my iPhone is something that I would pay a ton of money for beyond the current price of the iPhone.

  11. it is very cute to hear that anyone believes GPS is required for geotagging.

    As a matter of fact, there’s this super-secret-stealth app out there (called Google Earth, for those of you too new to the web to have heard of it), that offers this capability WITHOUT GPS.

  12. Mac-nugget wrote:

    They already know your approximate location. GPS will only provide with exact location. Not much deference as far as Big Brother goes.”

    GPS only provides an accurate position to the receiver, there is absolutely no way to track someone carrying a GPS.

    the iPhone is the ideal phone for Google Earth (that would be a first), because it combines a good processor, lot’s of storage, the accelerometers, and a GPS.

  13. @ mrboma

    a GPS does not emit anything, it’s a receiver.

    the satellites have a very very accurate clock, and all they do is send the current time.

    the GPS has a similar (but much smaller) clock, it calculates the position of the satellites, and uses the time delay to determine it’s distance from each satellite.

    the satellite doesn’t “know” the GPS receiver at all.

    just like FM radio receivers are not detected by radio stations.
    saying that GPS allows the NSA to track us is like saying that TV stations can see you when u watch TV

  14. Macslut;

    I drive for a living.
    My entire paycheck depends on my ability to be at a specific address, being there at the specific time that I said I’d “be there”, and I can’t begin to stress how strongly I disagree with you.

    Triangulation puts you within 150 feet of your intended destination (for those of you too dense to equate “feet per address”, it’s roughly TWO WHOLE HOUSES from your destination, and if you’re TOO STUPID to see your destination from 150 feet away, you’re TOO STUPID to possess a valid drivers license.

    And for the Goddesses sake?

    If you’re on a lake, and you’re telling me that you can’t see your destination when you’re 150 feet from it? You’re grossly incompetent, grossly negligent, and you ought to surrender your license to the nearest old folks home.

  15. 2 Years ago I bought a Motorola Q with a Street Atlats program and a blue tooth base GPS receiver that linked to the Q and tracked you progress on the map which came on a 2GIG mini SD chip. I still have the bluetooth GPS receiver. Maybe I should download SDK 2 for the Iphione and write an application to tie it to Google maps. That should shut up the lot a ya!!! Not to mention it would be pretty usefull to me too.

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