A nice win for Boston-based mobile location company Skyhook Wireless: Motorola will build Skyhook’s location service into “much” of its Google Android-based phone lineup worldwide, replacing Google’s built-in location service. This should, in theory, provide better location positioning for apps that need it, such as Foursquare, maps, Yelp, etc.
Skyhook’s location service is interesting: It’s based on a huge grid of wi-fi hotspots. Your phone triangulates itself based on how far away you are from certain wi-fi hotspots. This tends to be much faster than GPS, more precise than cell-tower-based location, and works indoors. (Motorola phones will also have access to cell tower location and GPS.)
Motorola is the first Android phone maker that will replace Google’s built-in location services with Skyhook. We understand developers won’t have to do anything different to use the new core location service. (Though some Android developers have already licensed Skyhook on a per-app basis.) Rival Apple already uses Skyhook in its iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and in the latest version of its Mac OS X operating system.
We anticipate more Android phone makers will eventually do deals with Skyhook, as Google itself won’t: It’s not free, and Google is not in a hurry to add per-user licence costs to Android, which it gives away for free. But we’ve heard that developers are not thrilled with the built-in location services on Android devices, so Skyhook could be a better alternative.
So far, we doubt “better location” would be a feature that would make consumers pick one phone over another, but as location-based mobile services become more important, it’s probably a feature that phone makers should pay more attention to.
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