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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  • medi01 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Java's JIT could create code that is faster than C/C++. Because unlike C++ compiler, it also has runtime info about executables, it could know for sure, which of the if branches is more likely to be true, for instance.

    The only part of Java that was much slower than C++ was (and I think still is) sin/cos related functions. Since Sun had to guarantee "runs anywhere" with the exactly the same results, instead of using CPU's features they "manually" calculate it.
  • Voo - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Well java WAS slow - around ten years ago, but people have already made up their mind, it's hard to get new ideas into some heads. Though the lack of a JIT in dalvik hampered performance, but that's hardly something where you can blame the language for..

    Ah, just like all those people who still believe that manual memory managment is inherently faster than GC..
  • medi01 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Java is not inherently slower than C++, but it does need more memory.

    The problem with Androids up to 2.2 was Dalvik VM that had no JIT.
  • designerfx - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    what a brilliant troll, or accidental. I'm not sure, but plenty of debunked this.

    What really brings down the entire samsung line of phones is that the GPS is horrible. I have one myself, and have the same issue on the vibrant as on the epic. Samsung really screwed the GPS up bigtime.
  • lwatcdr - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Well when faced with such a brilliant technical argument like "but Java sucks. Big time" what can one say.
    Is an article from back in 2004 about how those idiots at NASA used Java to control the Spirit rover on Mars.
    If only they had you available to show them how to do right.

    Man I get sick of this crap. I heard the same thing way back when. People complaining when programmers used high level languages to write programs instead of assembly.
    The thing is that it was all silliness just as it is now.
    What really counts isn't the language but the programmer using it.

    Android's speed issues tend to because by.
    1. Not using the GPU for the UI
    2. Using multitasking from the start.

    IOS has only just now gotten official multitasking and even that is limited.

    But really just drop the
  • Iksy - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Umm... to be clear, this is just the user interface used on Earth, which is something Java does well. The rovers themseves are controlled using VxWorks RTOS. VxWorks itself is written in C or C++ I believe. Reply
  • Ethaniel - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Well, it's not the kind of technical argument everyone would like, but it gets to the point. Anand reviewed like half a dozen of Android phones, all with the same problem. So, or the companies are making exactly the same mistake with each and every model they launch, or Java is to blame. And no, I'm not trolling because I do want to Android to succeed. A troll is based on hate, and it usually doesn't check back the thread he/she started. And you haven't seen a single insult in this thread, right? ;) Reply
  • ktwebb - Monday, September 6, 2010 - link

    Sounds like an IPhone Fanboy that is trying his best to be subjective. Samsung actually did not get it right performance wise. They use an antiquated and slow file system. For a pleasurable UI experience on Android, the N1 is still king, especially on 2.2. The only way the samsung galaxy variants fly is with root access and ext2, 3 or 4 fixes. there are GPS fixes as well however where Samsung let down actually is in the UI with Touchwiz and their ridiculous homage to Apple. No wonder this twit liked it. Android people IMMEDIATELY change the launcher. Anyway, the Hardware on the Galaxy S is excellent. Samsung did their best to eff it up and only with tweaks and root level access is it a really strong phone. Google and Androids main problem is OS sprawl and fragmentation. They get that cleaned up and the IPhone 4 is a distant second mobile OS. Right now, with the clear advantages Android phones have, specifically customization and an open source community among others, it's essentially a wash. It's about what you prefer and are comfortable with. I'm an Android guy because I like to make my phone do what I want it to, not what Jobs wants my phone to be. Reply
  • StealthX32 - Monday, September 6, 2010 - link

    ktwebb, I don't think Anand reviewed it w/ the ext2 FS hack/fix (whatever you want to call it). The UI speed is fine from the factory; it's much better than the EVO 4G (even with Froyo) and on par w/ the N1, just not as good as it *could* be once you root it and fix the filesystem. Reply
  • ktwebb - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    N1 Froyo is faster than stock Galaxy S Variants. And yeah, he didn't review with hacks and I certainly understand why he wouldn't. Shouldn't need them. But that is a Samsung issue, not Android. Samsung has the potential for a very good handset with the Galaxy S. They are trying their best to eff it up though. I haven't played with the EVO but had android phones since the G1 inception. The N1 was the best UI experience after Froyo was pushed. And far better than any IPHone I've used, although my experience with 4 is limited. Reply

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