GPS Issues

Every smartphone has its sets of issues. The iPhone 4 has its antenna problem, the Palm Pre has performance issues, the BlackBerry Torch needs a bit more oomph in the software department, and every Android phone has its own set of strengths/weaknesses. The Epic 4G is no different. In addition to the absolutely horrible battery life, the Epic has a pretty serious GPS issue.

The GPS antenna is not very sensitive and usually has trouble locking onto GPS satellites. This manifests itself in two ways: the phone will take an inordinate amount of time to determine your actual location, and/or it won’t pinpoint your location very accurately.

Sometimes the Epic 4G will lock on perfectly and quickly, but usually it takes several minutes longer than the Nexus One to figure out where you are. Occasionally I even got a ‘location not available’ error while using Google Maps.

Accuracy is also a problem. I don’t think I ever saw horizontal error drop below 30m on the Epic 4G compared to ~3m on the Neuxs One and ~5m on the iPhone 4.


Google Nexus One, 4m error (left) vs. Samsung Epic 4G 30m error (right)

The Epic 4G would usually tell me that my physical location was somewhere down the street while the Nexus One would pin me down at my house. In fact, I got more accurate location tracking when I was connected to a WiFi network.

It’s unclear whether this is purely a software problem or a fundamental antenna design issue ala the iPhone 4. One thing is for sure, if you plan on using GPS location a lot you should avoid the Epic 4G.

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  • Ethaniel - Monday, September 06, 2010 - link

    I have also noticed that all Android phones out there do some kind of "breakdancing". You think it has something to do with Android, but I think it has something to do with Java. Now, Java devs will probably want to eat my brain after this... but Java sucks. Big time. Making Android's UI based on Java was a bad, bad, really bad move. About four three time slower than C++, it demands more memory... completely inadequate for a mobile environment. Reply
  • meatless - Monday, September 06, 2010 - link

    It's sad, the prevalence of Java FUD to this day. It's also bad to blame Java (the syntax), as you are unnecessarily conflating the Dalvik VM with desktop VMs such as Sun's.

    C++ is fast, sure, but there is a lot more to designing a platform than speed, and the Dalvik VM is more than fast enough. iOS's Obj-C implementation is also not C++ fast, but who complains?
    Reply
  • taltamir - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    1. both Javas are shit
    2. There is more to a platform then speed... but when you are designing a platform starved for processing power and that needs to sip electricity then it makes a huge difference.
    Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Most of the platform are actually C/C++ libraries and programs, where you glue your app in isn't that relevant. You need a framework for any mobile phone platform, but the resources that framework glues into thats where a lot of performance comes from and it's in C/C++. It's better to have an accelerated framework running on a virtual machine then an unaccelerated C++ one. Rendering of menus and such would be slower on the last one. Besides on Symbian it's QT-framework that rules now, not some ultra customized embedded framework. Memory requirements have gone up there too, but capacity have grown even more. Besides nobody wanted to write mobile apps to some badly designed and awkward C++ framework and API. Java syntax was a good choice therefor. Reply
  • taltamir - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    the fact that there are more considerations than just programming language when it comes to power and speed are obvious, as is that you could make a java app thats faster than a C++ app.
    Neither make java a good choice.

    BTW, I didn't personally comment about the issue of jerkiness, I was going on a tangent as a reply to what meatless said (specifically the socalled "java FUD")
    Reply
  • zizagoo - Monday, September 06, 2010 - link

    It's an Android problem. The cause of the "jerkiness" is that unlike iOS/WebOS/WP7, Android doesn't have a gpu accelerated ui. They supposedly did this because the G1 wouldn't support it at the time.

    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=...

    Gingerbread, which is supposedly showcased next month, should fix this.
    Reply
  • deputc26 - Monday, September 06, 2010 - link

    Thankyou! this is exactly it, give the man a medal. I don't know why Anandtech never mentions this. It should be ubiquitous knowledge in the android community. Reply
  • meatless - Monday, September 06, 2010 - link

    Also, the 3-4X speed difference on non-mobile platforms is greatly exaggerated. I always find http://shootout.alioth.debian.org/ a fun and FUD-free site. Reply
  • Iksy - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Greatly exagerated? That site shows a 2.3x speed difference and it's comparring against Sun's fastest most optimizing version against g++. The unoptimized version is over 20x slower, you'll find it near the bottom of the list for compares. I do find it interesting that while they're satisfied with using an open source C (gnu) compiler, they do not include the open source java interpreter. They also do not include the Intel C compiler, even though they easily could and include the Intel Fortran compiler.

    In other words, is still in the ball park so say Java is 3-4x slower than the equivalent c++ code.
    Reply
  • dvinnen - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Wait, so the Java syntax is what is slowing down Android? Because it doesn't run Java, it runs Dalvik.

    I would also like to see evidence that C++ is 4 times faster. Not saying Java is faster but it is fast enough. I say that as a Java developer who doesn't like the language and would rather use slower languages like Python
    Reply

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