GPS.........kinda

The two major hardware changes to the iPhone are the inclusion of a 3G cellular modem and support for Assisted GPS (A-GPS). Despite what many have interpreted the name to mean, A-GPS is not in any way an inferior type of GPS, it’s simply a bit more efficient.

The deal here is that A-GPS relies on cellular data as well as an assistance server to help pinpoint where the A-GPS receiver is, when conditions are less than optimal. The standard iPhone can get a general idea of where you are based on what cell tower you are connected to, but the iPhone 3G with its A-GPS support can actually pinpoint you with much greater accuracy.

The fact that the iPhone 3G’s GPS is A-GPS isn’t its shortcoming, it’s the software that’s the problem. Like the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G ships with a version of Google Maps that works incredibly well with the iPhone’s multi-touch interface. Google Maps on the iPhone is almost as useful as a standalone GPS thanks to the speed of the interface, the problem is that you need a second person using it if you’re driving as it will give you turn by turn directions but won’t speak them to you.

The iPhone 3G unfortunately doesn’t fix this problem - the Google Maps software is identical to what shipped on the original iPhone. The iPhone 3G’s A-GPS will pinpoint your exact location, but it won’t combine with the turn-by-turn directions to automatically guide you to your destination. You still need to manually advance the directions. If you’ve got a someone with you, this is enough to make the iPhone 3G an even better car-navigation tool but if you’re alone it’s not much better than the old iPhone.


No GPS


GPS in action, precision baby

With the app store and the 2.0 SDK there’s a great chance that someone will come along and develop a voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation system for the iPhone 3G, but there is always the chance that it’d be something AT&T would want to sell as a service. Given that Apple has already ceded power to AT&T with the way the iPhone 3G is sold, I doubt there’s much Apple could do if AT&T really wanted to charge for such a thing.

The A-GPS is also currently used by both first and third party applications to help improve the experience. If an app tries to use the A-GPS you must first tell it that it is allowed to use your location (a process that is honestly very Vista User Account Control-like, but I get the security benefit). The iPhone Camera app can use the iPhone 3G’s A-GPS to tag your photos with geographical data, while applications like Urbanspoon can use it to help find restaurants nearby.

The only other major complaint I have about the iPhone 3G’s A-GPS is that it appears to be a CPU hog as the entire Google Maps interface stalls a lot more with it active. Thankfully it doesn’t appear to remain active after you’ve quit Google Maps (hooray for no background tasks?), but this is further proof that Apple needs more processing power in the iPhone. Intel had better hurry up with its Atom strategy, the iPhone is ripe for such a powerful core...

Battery Life Please Get This Thing a Faster Processor
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  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - link

    Yes 3 articles on Iphone. Sad, pretty sad change of course for the site.

    When can we expect to see a preview, review, and feature set of the Ford Escort, or Bud Light with Lime? I await with anticipation!
    Reply
  • michael2k - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Like it or not, the iPhone is hardware.

    AnandTech is run by Anand, and whatever strikes his fancy (be they MacBook Airs or iPhones) gets reviewed.
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Monday, July 21, 2008 - link

    "Like it or not, the iPhone is hardware.

    AnandTech is run by Anand, and whatever strikes his fancy (be they MacBook Airs or iPhones) gets reviewed. "

    Yes its hardware, so is a toaster..I away his review on the latest model toasters that come out, as well as the top of the line flashlights... i rest my case.
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    Its sad that you aren't realistic enough to know that currently lots of people are looking for a decent and unbiased iPhone 3G review, and Anandtech (A technology site I recall) offers a very good and highly technical review, the best I've seen. Where's the issue there? Are you annoyed that the iPhone is again in great demand and in the news? Its hardly the iPhone's fault that the HTC *fill in this weeks model* garners about as much press attention as a comeback by Kelly Clarkson, its fundamentally outdated and playing catchup to the new kid on the block. Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    You really need to roll over and die. Reply
  • at80eighty - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    you ungrateful morons don't seem to get a simple fact. this site is FREE

    Anand & Co. owe you nothing & yet they keep putting up good/great articles

    Lately all i see is whine & cheese about how anandtech has lost its hardware focus , while commenting in 'the third' article of hardware

    more often than not this is a one stop place for getting your info. don't like it , don't click.

    and im not a mindless fanboy - someone here was recently criticizing the AT staff over something , but he made clear , precise & constructive points why he felt so - and thats a good way to go about it. your stale WAAWAAWAA is just a stupid annoyance
    Reply
  • Dennis Travis - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    VERY well said. Almost the exact words I was thinking.

    Keep up the EXCELLENT work Anand and Staff!
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    What he said, roll over and die. Reply
  • Brianoes - Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - link

    What are you talking about? I think that Anand's article provides one of the, no, the clearest and most consise iPhone article, and I'm done hunting for them to learn some more random details that I may have been interested in. His conclusion was not the standard three paragraph garbage you see on most other review sites - thanks for the really in depth final conclusion and summary.

    The first and last good iPhone review I've read, coming from an iPod Touch user for the past three months.

    Brian
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, July 17, 2008 - link

    What am i talking about? I guess you are oblivious to the fact that the iphone is a niche market. Like every smart phone out there. Yet they review a iphone and no other phone? You know why they don't review others phones..because there are millions of sites that do that all the time.

    Stick with actually HARDWARE analysis like next to Anandtech on top of page. Leave the phones/cars/apple related stuff/ game reviews, etc to other sites who do it 24/7.

    Reply

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