Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Miracle Store pops up further navigation software

Somehow, there are some applications in the navigation section available now that weren't there yesterday, but judging by their release date should have been... That App Store is becoming a bigger and bigger miracle to me...

Anyway, there is "Over Here" and the two "Here I Am" which basically all do the same: send your position by email to another iPhone user. Then there is "Path Tracker" which is a tracklogging application.
Tracklogging is a feature that is offered by almost every GPS device. It is nice to know where you have been, for instance if you want to combine your tracklog with fotos of your digital camera (not the iPhones camera, of course).
Unfortunately, PathTracker does not support export (e.g. via GPX files) at this time.

I'd like to cite a funny aspect here. Judge for yourself ;-)

This version 1.0 does not work well on the iPhone 3G. Version 1.1 has big improvements and will hopefully appear in the App Store soon. Please wait for version 1.1 before installing or reviewing this app. The iPhone is so popular that Apple is overwhelmed with application submissions, so please be patient.

The App Store version reads "1.0" at this time.

New navigation software available

Unfortunately, no turn-by-turn, but a new free piece of navigation software still is available. It is called "Here I Am" from Arboretum Software.
It is very simple. All it does is gathering your location and then sending a link to Google Maps via email. That's basically it.

This software might be also useful to people who who simply want to record where they have been. Just send an email to yourself and there you go.

There is another point about this app. It can display the accuracy of the positional data, so maybe you want to play with it while walking about in order to get a better eye for it.

Funny thing though: there is another Application named "Here I am" available, doing exactly the same but being from another developer. Yeah, we all like the App Store....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Do the SDK addons really enable turn-by-turn nav?

Well, initially I intended to have a more thoroughly look at the iPhones SDK and comparable ones like J2ME and Symbian. But, due to recent changes in Apples SDK, I'll have a quick look at those now.

Apples SDK does not feature speed and heading information at this time, although you could calculate it anyway. For example, PosiMotions G-Spot does this. Badly. But PosiMotion isn't the one to blame. I've done some experiments with the SDK myself, and location updates seem to be rather "jumpy".

Anyway, back to topic. Both J2ME (JSR 179) and Symbian feature classes that have functions like speed() and heading(). Neither of those are available in iPhone OS 2.0.
I can't tell if you really would need those functions to enable turn-by-turn navigation, but given the fact that both J2ME and Symbian have the ability to provide this data, it might be at least a good hint.

Just a last word on TomTom and their application that already runs on the iPhone. As far as I got it, first versions ran on the old iPhone which didn't have GPS at all. So in all likelihood they have built their own GPS receiver that could provide any data they needed, including heading and speed.
And, beside the fact that they might be missing crucial location API features, they also have to port their app from 1.x to 2.x!

I'll have another close look at all the location APIs, maybe also on Blackberry, as soon as 2.1 is released. At this time, unfortunately, it is just available to developers that already have been approved to publish their applications trough AppStore, which I am not.

Friday, July 25, 2008

iPhone OS 2.1 beta released, adding GPS features?

Gearlive reports that Apple has released OS 2.1 beta 1 along with a new SDK version for development purposes. The SDK is said to add additional Core Location features like heading and speed.
This might be a hardware feature of the GPS chipset as well as a software feature (just by calculation of differences between two locations). Unfortunately, Infineon still hasn't sent me any data on the Hammerhead II upon my inquiry, so I can't tell.
What I can't tell either is what is to come in the new SDK as it isn't available for me through Apples developer program yet. Also, the Core Location framework still shows old version numbers.

I'm curious if there's a way now to determine the origin of the location data.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

AT&T collaborates with TeleNav to offer global navigation

AT&T is going to offer a global navigation service in collaboration with TeleNav. At present, TeleNavs products are available for BlackBerry devicesa only, but as AT&T is the iPhone carrier in the US, the likelihood of an iPhone version increases.

The new service is going to "take advantage of supporting smart phones greater memory, data storage and overall processing power". Do I sense an offline version to avoid data roaming when traveling abroad?
They also say that "AT&T will certainly expand the offer to other devices in the future" which could include the iPhone.

[Update] No 3G and GPS at the same time?

According to iPhone Atlas, several users have reported problems about usage of 3G and GPS at the same time. This might be an issue espechially for applications like Maps that use GPS and 3G radio at the same time. Still, it seems a bit odd that GPS and 3G cancel each other out while EDGE and GPS will work anyway?

Let's have a look at the situation. First of all, Apple put the GPS antenna at the top edge of the phone and the GSM/UMTS antenna at the bottom, placing both as far away from each other as one could. This is a good idea and it seems that the fault isn't by layout design.

As EDGE is an enhancement to GSM, we should have a look at all the frequencies involved. That are GSM, UMTS and GPS frequencies.
Apples site states UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) and GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz). GPS frequencies are 1575,42 and 1227,60 MHz. So much for the obvious.

But wait! UMTS isn't just 2100 MHz! This is just a "label" for the frequence band used to run UTMS. As UTMS uses bi-directional communication, there is an uplink and a downlink involved, both running on different frequence bands. These are 1920 to 1980 MHz for the up- and 2110 to 2170 MHz for the downlink.

I played around a bit with that numbers above, but I coudn't find a overtone common to both UTMS 2,1 GHz band and GPS. Given this and the UMTS transmitting power of a maximum of 0.25 Watts (GSM has a maximum of 2 Watts!), it seems quite a bit unlikely that UMTS interferes with GSM...
The GPS chipset and the UMTS chipset and amplifiers are situated at opposite edges of the logic board (which also makes sense, considering the position of the antennas), so...?

Well, considering the following quote and the facts listed above, it clearly seems to be some sort of software related bug.
"Readers have reported, however, that turning 3G networking off, pegging a location, then turning 3G back on results in persistence of the accurate results."
Or, to put it the other way round, it seems that the issue isn't related to hardware in any way.

We'll see if firmware version 2.0.1 fixes this, which, according to rumors, might be around the second week of August.

[Update] Well, I just tested my iPhone using UMTS and GPS at the same time. I had an UMTS connection with almost full level and started Maps. Almost in an instant I had a GPS fix. So, whatever issue causes problems on other iPhones 3G, it is no deal on mine...
Lucky me, I'd say ;-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

App Store everything but smooth

PosiMotion recently reported that their G-Spot has been updated to version 1.1. Anyway, in App Store, all you get is version 1.0.
G-Park is available in version 1.1 (also in App Store), but you won't get any updates through iTunes.
Doesn't look like working as intended to me...

Speaking of iTunes: this morning, the App Store on my iPhone didn't report any programs to be updated (and I don't remember that it was the case at any time in the last few days). In iTunes itself, there was a whole bunch of apps that offered an update. Why not on the iPhone client?!?

It seems that Apples new services (like App Store) run everything but smooth at the moment. Have a look at Mobile Me for example.

Well, at the moment, we can't do anything else but wait, but I still hope the waiting will end soon ;-)

Geopher Lite brings geocaching to iPhone 3G [Update]

Geopher Lite is a geocaching application for the iPhone. It can connect to geocaching.com in order to select a cache location nearby.

While I don't do anything related to geocaching, I find the programs website, which actually is a blog, very interesting as it unveils a bit of the process of making an application available in App Store, so go and have a look!

Geopher Lite costs 2,99 Euros. The developer also plans features like GPX file handling for future versions.

[Update] I had a look at the Geopher Lite blog. The Application was submitted on July 9th and became available online today, two weeks later.
I can't tell wether this was fast or not, but given the fact that the deadline for App Store submission was July 7th, maybe there are still some (awesome?) applications waiting for approval?

G-Park 1.1 available

The latest G-Park update to 1.1 is available since a few hours. What puzzled me is the fact that the update is not available trough the update feature in the iPhones App Store application. I had to update it trough iTunes.

I did not have the opportunity to test it yet, so stay put for a short report.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Things I dislike about the iPhone: missing car nav"

Yeah, right. It is the iPhone's fault, that there isn't a car navigation yet... This is like comparing apples and oranges (pun intended).

Wake up! The iPhone is a piece of hardware running a certain OS. It doesn't become worse because a certain software isn't available (yet).

I really had it with that people who don't seem to look even at the surface. Like all those who report about "iPhone killers". It takes more than one swallow to make a summer, and to make an iPhone it definitively takes more than a touchscreen!

I'm curious how many people will nag on launch of Android because there is no turn-by-turn navigation ready... :->

TeleNav made a boo boo.

Well, it seems that TeleNav might not be the best choice for european customers. The website is obviously a bit strange because of some translation errors you might not expect from a "global player".
But that is not the whole story. Recently, I invoked the european support of TeleNav to get some additional information about their (BlackBerry) product.

Well. The mail bounced. There is a mail address reading eusupport@telenav.com which failed to deliver. It looks like a general address, not a country specific one, so I think this is a general issue.

Maybe, they're just too busy bringing their app to the iPhone? ;-) Just kidding...

GPS not working after a few days?

Arstechnica reports location based services will stop to work after a few days of iPhone uptime.

I have to admit that I restart my iPhone almost every day - for several reasons ;-) So, I can neither confirm nor deny that at this time...
Maybe I can leave my iPhone turned on for a while... but somehow, I doubt that ;-)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yet another look at the iPhones GPS antenna...

...and other hardware related GPS issues came from Adrian Kingsley-Hughes in ZDnets hardware blog.

As he doesn't write anything that sounds new to regular readers of my blog ;-)) there are also some nice close-up pictures and citings of Apple representatives... so go ahead and have a look!

The last first impression

Actually, I wanted to do this last week, Friday, June 11th. Unfortunately, it took PosiMotion a whole week to publish their G-Spot. Anyway, it is available now and I had a closer look to it. To be precise, I had a close look about what the location provider provides, not what G-Spot does.

I startet the application inside the house. This didn't just give me the usual cell tower based location with an imprecision of 1799 meters, but also another funny bearing of somewhere around 77° N, 12something° W with an imprecision of 5000 meters.
This is an interesting issue, as Google Maps on my other cell phone sometimes does the same when I try to determine my position by not using GPS (the only difference was that with Google Maps I was supposed to be somewhere off the russian coast, just nordwest of Japan).
I wonder how this can happen anyway. The cell phone can "see" several BTS at a time, all identifying themselves with several parameters, including MCC and MNC. How could anyone ever think that there might be a BTS with MCC 262 right in the middle of the arctic ocean?

Being outside, a 3D GPS fix could be acquired really fast, so the download of the latest almanach seems to work (and also to speed up acquiring satellites, as it is supposed to be).
While travelling, accuracy readings kept jumping between 47 and 17 meters, when going real slow (like in a jam) even 9 meters of accuracy were reached. Those readings are a little disturbing, because usually you should get readings in between.
Unfortunately, I don't know how G-Spot works internally, so I don't know if they just took "raw" accuracy readings or not.

If you want me to investigate further, just donate $99 to me so that I can get an appropriate SDK license to.... just kidding ;-)

47 meters is bad, real bad. 17 meters might be okay for road navigation, but you have to do some tricks, so I'm still curious how (good) TeleNav will solve this problem. Nine meters would be okay, but only if you had that accuracy all the time.

Which leads me to another assumption: I don't think that WAAS (or EGNOS resp.) is enabled because of power consumption. There might be other power saving technologies used that degrade accuracy as well.
Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to my inqiry to Infineon yet, so that I don't know what the chipset is capable of. Perhaps, it can't even use WAAS?

G-Spot finally available

PosiMotions G-Spot is finally available trough App Store. I have asked PosiMotion for the reason of the delay, because they claimed technical problems with Apples App Store, but there was no word on that.

With G-Spot, I finally can have a little closer look to things like the iPhones GPS accuracy (or to be more precise: the location providers accuracy...). More to come soon...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

TeleNav available in Europe!

Shame on me. I missed the european site of TeleNav. So, TeleNav already offers navigation services for Western Europe, from Norway to Greece (without Balkans) and from Portugal to Austria.
TeleNav offers its services in Europe for BlackBerry devices only at this time. The software itself isn't charged, but to use it, you have to buy a license, ranging from a 3 months license for 27 Euros (9 Euro/month) to a 18 months license for 121,50 Euros (6,75 Euros/month).
A free trial period of 30 days is offered.

Map coverage seems OK, although the map preview doesn't show things like one way roads, so that I can't determine too much details by just looking at the maps.

Although TeleNav might work well with the iPhones data plan or even using WiFi, one fact leaves a bad taste in my mouth: what about holidays? Either, you use prohibitive data roaming or you just don't use TeleNav at all...

As I'm abroad on a regular base, I would prefer a road navigation solution that stores its map on the iPhone itself... We'll see, hopefully in the near future ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

DMN Tech Team claim Garmin on iPhone

Dallas Morning News' Jim Rossman recently stated that also Garmin had plans about bringing navigation software to the iPhone. He also said that the tracking was "very accurate ... as I drive". Well, it isn't. Maybe he is also wrong about Garmin?

First about that "very accurate" GPS inside the iPhone. The blue spot he talks about can be seen in the Maps application only. So far, no other navigation software like this is known.
That spot is only "accurate" because a technique is used that snaps the dot to the road and follows it. Ever made a turn?
Also, the latency is much higher than anything else I ever used that could display a map (but I will do a comparison some time in the near future).

Then about Garmins plans on the iPhone. Why should they compromise their own plans about the nüvifone by developing navigation software for their direct competitor? At least, doesn't make any sense to me...

So, no Garmin on iPhone in my opinion. But I'm waiting for Jims answer to my email ;-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GPS - So where's the antenna?

"Normal" GPS devices usually feature either antennas that look like ceramic squares or like a helix. Square antennas are intended for horizontal reception while helix types respectively work in an upright position. Have a look at the pictures and you will figure out.

Those antennas are well for use in navigation only devices like those manufactured by Garmin or TomTom where space is not a so big matter, but obviously they're too big to fit inside a small device like a PDA or cell phone.

I had a look at some mobile devices like PDAs and mobiles in order to figure out how a GPS antenna might look like. I searched a bit and found out that the GPS antenna might look like this. Or like this. Or even like that. To make it short: it could look like anything.

So what now. Having a look into my brand new iPhone? Fortunately, those brave guys from ifixit and rapid repair already dismantled an iPhone 3G, so I didn't have to destroy mine ;-)

Have a look at the PCB layout and how the ICs are positioned on it. You will find an explanation in techonlines "under the hood"-article. As you can see, the GPS chip from Infineon is situated in the vincinity of the SIM slot, just left of it. So, if you hold the phone in the normal upright position, the chip is almost where the upper left corner of your screen is.

So, it seems obvious that it would be a good idea to have the antenna placed right next to it instead of routing the GPS signal across the whole PCB. And there it is!

Have a look at the rapid repair site. As the screws are at the bottom of the iPhone, it is opened from bottom to top. At the top left of the iPhone (after lifting the top cover and the display, look at the picture of step 5), a sticker with a 6 printed on it ca be seen.
According to David Carey from Portelligent, this is the GPS antenna! It can be seen well in rapid repairs step 14 picture.

Given the fact that this is the GPS antenna, reception quality is fairly ok in my opinion. Be the GPS chipset as good as it may, with that funny piece (sorry) of antenna, no better reception quality can be expected.

Which leads to another issue. Given the fact that the antenna is situated in the upper left corner of the housing, (car) navigation apps that use landscape mode should have the iPhone rotated so that the home button is on the left, not on the right!
So, like this would be okay, like that not. In reality, that doesn't have to make a difference, but I think one shouldn't take chances. In the end, best thing would be to have the choice by rotating the device 180 degrees. If this wasn't for GPS reception, at least you can improve cable handling ;)

TeleNav car navigation is "America only"

Recently it was announced that car navigation will come to the iPhone 3G soon. This sounds good, but has a major flaw: maps are available for the north american continent only. So lucky you if you live in the U.S., Canada or Mexico. Everywhere else, TeleNav seems pretty useless...

So TomTom, what about you guys? ;-)

Monday, July 14, 2008

GPS under the hood (of the SDK)

I had a look of what the iPhones SDK offers in terms of GPS. I found it a bit interesting, that you will get accuracy alongside positional info, but there is no flag that would report the origin of the data.
This means, that you won't be able to know if you just received an accurate GPS bearing or just a kind of cellular based triangulation "guess". Also, this implies that you can't choose if you want GPS data only upon initialization, although the chipset used would feature such functionality.

Sure, you can be almost sure, that an inaccuracy of 300 feet and more almost definitely means the data was collected by triangulation, just as well as an inaccuracy of 30 feet and below means that you got GPS positional info. But - you cannot be sure about that.

However, upon defining the interface (trough creating the corresponding instance), you can request a certain level of accuracy, thus being sort of able to "filter" any positional data gained by triangulation.

There is another interesting fact. Usually, you get an update of you location e.g. every second (at least a device providing NMEA data, like a Garmin GPS receiver or an external bluetooth device would do so). On the iPhone, you can provide a distance threshold, meaning you would receive a update event if the location changes more than the threshold distance.

NO(!) Broadcom GPS inside iPhone!

According to iFixit, the guys who always do a great job in disassembling and explaining Apple hardware, the iPhone 3G does NOT feature the Broadcom chipset mentioned before. This comes as a surprise, as also Business Week confirmed the Broadcom A-GPS to be inside the iPhone.

Instead, the iPhone was equipped with an Infineon Hammerhead II PMB 2525 chipset. Beside being from an other manufacturer, the Hammerhead II features basically the same as the firstly assumed Broadcomm, including "standalone" mode (which doesn't seem to work in iPhone 3G) and -160 dBm sensitivity, which should make it more sensitive than a SiRF III, but doesn't.

I'm curious where the antenna was hidden... let's just hope the guys from iFixit will discover it soon ;)

"GPS with cellular network only" no Maps issue

So, G-Park is released. I tested it with flight mode. First, I was surprised, because it seemed to work! Then I knew why... the program just used "something" to determine where I was.
For me, it looked much like cell tower triangulation, so I guess even in flight mode the iPhone still can receive cellular signals (but not send them).
Anyway, it seems that without cellular connection, you are just f***ed. :-(

PosiMotions G-Park available trough App Store

PosiMotions first application available in App Store is G-Park. It should help you finding your car in a big parking lot. When returning to your car, it directs you there by the Maps application. Price is 0.99 US$.

G-Spot is yet to come... (ouch *g*)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Maps hit the road

I just used Maps App in the car. It could be seen that Maps uses a technique to snap your local position to the road you are traveling on at that time, causing the GPS spot to seem a bit confused somtimes ;-)
Besides, either display or map update seem very slow, because if you are at a turn you should take, Maps will display it a second or two later.

Considering this alongside with the fact that you don't get no voice directions, Maps is useless for realtime car navigation (although it still can be an aid if you already know where you're going).

iPhones GPS: what it does, what it doesn't. [Update]

So, I tested the iPhones GPS. To make a long story short: doesn't work without cellular connection, is less sensitive than SiRF III.

To make it long again: I fumbled around with the GPS a bit. To compare results, I also used my Nokia E61i together with a Bluetooth SiRF III chipset based receiver and Google Maps.

iPhone and "Generic SiRF III" compared

Take a look at the picture. The accuracy seems quite acceptable, however, the inaccuracy on the iPhone is a bit higher (note that blue "circle of inaccuracy" that reaches beyond the yellow road while on the right it just touches it).

Beside of the accuracy, the sensitivity seems quite bad compared to the SiRF III. This is a bit surprising, compared to the specs of the Broadcomm chipset that is assumed to be inside the iPhone. I had to go on my balcony in order to get GPS positional info on the iPhone. As soon as I left the balcony, GPS positional info was lost. At that time, the SiRF III still receives positional info.

To make things worse, it seems that iPhones GPS won't work without a cellular connection. This might be an issue that is related to the Google Maps software, but still is a disturbing issue.
First of all, I put my iPhone to flight mode before using Google Maps. Then I started Google Maps and hit that crosshair button on the lower left. The spinner showed up, but nothing else happened.
After turning off flight mode, I almost immediately got positional info relating on cellphone towers and a moment later even a GPS position. So I turned on flight mode again. The GPS dot showed up in Maps, but it went grey.

As I didn't exactly know if the GPS worked in flight mode, I power clycled the phone, this time leaving the SIM locked. Again, the spinner spun but nothing else happened. Unlock the sim and GPS works.

There might be a third option, just having no cellular connection but still clear view of the skies. Unfortunately, I don't know where I could go to test that, because you get a cellular connection virtually "everywhere" ;)

But still, I'm strongly convinced that GPS will work with a cellular connection only. This leaves another question (and also a bad taste): What about roaming?

Update: I just put an other SIM module that isn't meant to work in the iPhone, so it wasn't able to log on to the cellular network (but, of course, still can scan its vincinity for cellular base stations and determine its parameters like BC, CI, LA and so on).
Still, I was able to use GPS! So, at least, you don't have to have an active cellular connection.
I'm still wondering where I could find a place without any cellular reception but clear view of the skies ;-))

GPS worse than expected? Is it?

Jalopnik reports, that the iPhones 3G GPS was "worse than expected". Well, I don't think that this is true, although I didn't have the time yet to test the iPhones GPS functionality thoroughly. What I can say at this time is that the hardware embedded is supposed to be quite fine and my tests in the car yesterday were quite promising.
Besides, car naviation also is announced, so who would do so, if it didn't work?

"Car navigation" coming to iPhone

everythingiCafe reports that TeleNav will bring a "car navigation" suite with turn-by-turn-directions and voice directions and all that other fancy stuff you will get e.g. from Garmins nüvi or TomTom devices.

So, it seems that the SDKs legal agreement is not the problem, or is it? TomTom, we are waiting for you!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

App Store experiencing technical probs?

PosiMotions G-Spot seems still unavailable trough App Store. It seems as if App Store experiences technical problems at the moment. At least, this is what PosiMotion says. So, the release date for G-Spot is not 11th of July any more but "soon".

Well, maybe there will be more interesting navigation apps. "Soon".

Friday, July 11, 2008

First impressions

Well, I received my iPhone about 6 hours ago. Since then, I was able to play around a bit with its GPS receiver. Unfortunately, there was only Google Maps, because no other GPS (mapping) application was available.
I'll do some closer tests tomorrow, but here are my first impressions:

It seems as it is a bit harder for the iPhone to get a fix in my living room, where my Garmin GPSmap or my bluetooth GPS receiver don't have problems. But approaching a window a bit will lead to a fix very soon...
Accuracy is displayed by a blue shaded circle that noticeable grows larger while moving away. Looks nice :)

So, first impression is "is okay, might have been better?"

It's alive!

Well, it seems as if the App Store is everything but static at the moment. For example, some applications have been added in the navigation section that weren't there yesterday.

So, I'm still confident that PosiMotion apps will be found until 11:59 PM today ;-)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

App Store is open!

Yes, it indeed ist. But now, what about GPS?

There is a "navigation" section in the App Store. But what's in it?

Well, to tell the truth: it looks... spartan. All you get is some public transport network stuff and GPS based POI finders. That's basically it.

Most obviously, PosiMotion didn't make it in time :-(

Rumors about App Store launching today

There are rumors that App Store might launch today, one day before the official launch of iPhone 3G. The launch ist said to be on 9:00 AM PST (which corresponds to 18:00 MESZ).

Still, no information on what's coming up is available, so we'll have to wait, at least 9 hours or even until tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Will App Store launch early?

There are some rumors that say that the App Store might launch even before Friday this week. If so, this would also mean that the iPod/iPhone Software 2.0 would have to be released before Friday...
Beside this, more and more information is leaking about what's to come in the App Store, as more and more developers already announce their apps.

PosiMotion offers funny named GPS apps

PosiMotion will offer some GPS applications with funny names, like G-Spot. Yep, no kidding.
G-Spot offers a compass functionality and will display your GPS-Coordinates, presumably WGS84, as well as height etc.
G-Park looks like a tracklogging app that will help to find your car in a parking lot.

Tuaw reports that the apps will cost $1,99.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wary approach to iPhone Nav Development

Forbes reports that developers are wary about developing nav apps for the iPhone. Even TomTom says that they don't have any plans to offer their navigation app on the iPhone on a commercial base. Small wonder, considering the SDKs agreement.

Still, there is no iPhone and we still don't really know what's what.

Apple's deadline for AppStore submissions ends today. Perhaps, we'll be lucky enough to get some details before Friday. Who knows? ;)