One of the most powerful functions on the new Apple (AAPL) iPhone 3G is its ability to pinpoint your location via GPS. Yet, at least in New York City, it’s been one of the phone’s most disappointing features.
In our experience, routinely — especially indoors — the iPhone’s Google Maps app and other location-hungry apps seem like they can’t get a precise GPS location, and seem to use the iPhone’s 1.0 location tools — mobile phone tower and wi-fi triangulation — to narrow my location down to a neighbourhood or a few-block radius. Real GPS, where I can follow my precise location as I walk, has only worked when I’m outdoors and away from tall buildings. This, I’m told, is a problem specific to New York City — lots of tall, old buildings with lots of concrete and metal, and lousy sight lines.
For most practical purposes, a less-precise location is fine — Google (GOOG) will still be able to show me the closest Starbucks (SBUX) store or post office. But the iPhone’s location services have also failed on me completely several times, searching for my location for more than a minute and never finding anything. Very frustrating.
The good news: Location-hungry app developers (and Apple) are working on it. One major iPhone developer tells us his company is working on an enhancement to their app that’s more reliant on network-based location — and less on GPS. And Apple’s latest iPhone firmware/developer kit, version 2.1, reportedly includes a lot of GPS improvements, too.