iPhone 3G GPS cannot support turn-by-turn, says Pogue

In David Pogues’ review of the iPhone 3G:

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do with the G.P.S. According to Apple, the iPhone’s G.P.S. antenna is much too small to emulate the turn-by-turn navigation of a G.P.S. unit for a vehicle, for example.

Bummer.

For iPhone, the ‘New’ Is Relative [NYTimes.com]

Update: Apple’s Greg Joswiak puts that “small antenna” weirdness from Pogue to bed. [AppScout.com]

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27 Responses to iPhone 3G GPS cannot support turn-by-turn, says Pogue

  1. Garbanzo says:

    I can’t understand how the size of the antenna could possibly make an impact on whether or not you can do turn by turn navigation. If the antenna works well enough to get a fix on your location at all, then it should be sufficient. I suspect that the real reason is something else (battery life?)

  2. Anonymous says:

    plnguyen,

    It is in my professional opinion that you are an idiot and potentially suck at life. Sorry for you to find out this way mate…

    I’d love to continue this idle banter, but I have to go now… My bluetooth just finished cooking me dinner. What, you find that strange? Well, in your little magical world, bluetooth can do anything?

    -An Anonymous Reader

  3. Aaron says:

    No, the real reason is that AT&T and the other cell providers make a killing charging customers an additional $10 a month for turn-by-turn directions.

    Apple is lying to their customers by claiming there’s a technical barrier that keeps the iPhone from providing turn-by-turn.

    Heck, my Centro provides turn-by-turn directions once you pair it with a cheap bluetooth GPS receiver. It’s got the full TomTom package, and there’s absolutely no technical reason that the same thing couldn’t run on the iPhone… only business reasons.

    Shame on Apple for lying to customers who are already getting ripped off by AT&T’s obscene monthly fees.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Any GPS would have to have 3 birds tracked to give meaningful location so I’m sure the iPhone would have at least 6 to 8 channels. I think they are just opening the door for someone (Like Tom Tom) to sell the turn by turn Nav software instead of giving it away. Google map does not do it.

  5. hemidemisemiquaver says:

    If the API gives direct access to the GPS data, we’ll see if this turns out to be true.

    If they are lying for AT&T, it’s possible that they also crippled the API by giving it access to the data at an artificially slow rate.

    Seriously, what’s the point of a GPS that you can’t use for navigation — attaching coordinates to the low res pictures you take? You can already get rough location information through the towers, this seems like barely a step above that.

  6. Mike says:

    Here’s a thought: What if the iPhone only has a single channel GPS radio?

    I think that would give you position without enough data to figure out speed, direction, etc. If you take 15-30 seconds to get your position, you can’t do turn-by-turn directions…

    Any GPS historians in the crowd? All the GPS units I’ve ever owned were multi-channel.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just a thought, but could it have something do with the fact that the iPhone 3G “out-of-the-box” is using a version of Google Maps that doesn’t support turn-by-turn. Hasn’t TomTom already anounced they would have a turn-by-turn app for the iPhone 3G.

  8. Latente says:

    fail phone is fail

  9. yer_maw says:

    nokia ruined the n95 by asking for more cash to activate any features of the GPS that might make it useable.

    Never used it once. Greed Fail.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What does bluetooth have to do with network receivers? Bluetooth is a personal network standard. and The new iphone does have a gps chip.

  11. Anonymous says:

    People- the blogosphere people- are complaining that the API does not allow direction or speed data- but those who make those statements don’t realize that speed/direction info in even the best GPS receivers are software-calculated values based on the last few positions. There is no reason that the iphone 3G cannot do that, even if the API does not allow for it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    hi plnguyen now I just realized that iphone doesn’t have GPS chip…. :(

  13. Joel Johnson says:

    Upon waking, I have to think that Pogue unfortunately swallowed some bull shoveled by the Apple PR folk. If the iPhone 3G’s GPS can show your car moving down a street there’s no reason to think that it shouldn’t be able to do turn-by-turn. But until someone makes a proper GPS application, I guess this is as close to an official explanation as we get.

  14. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of rubbish plnguyen has written. Everything he wrote is completely wrong, and I pity whoever has to sit next to him and listen to his dribbling trash all day. Do you even own an iPhone or know what one is? I’ll let you off if you are 9 years old and have just worked out how to type, otherwise go away and play with your toy trains while the adults talk.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Chaps,

    As a GPS industry insider, here are some facts.

    1. A small antenna doesn’t preclude turn by turn nav. Think of it as 2 parts to the application:-

    a) GPS Receiver. This tells us where we are.

    b) Mapping software. This knows where we are (from the receiver) and where we’d like to go (from our human input), calculates a route and guides us there, using the GPS position to advise on upcoming junctions etc..

    2. The GPS chipset inside the iPhone is actually a very good one (it is a bought in SiRF chip at $3.60 each, according to Apples BOM). It is quite capable of turn by turn navigation, and is used in many of the other phones with GPS you are talking about.

    3. In short, if Apple don’t allow turn by turn navigation in something like the TomTom/Garmin format (ie, no data connection needed) it isn’t due to any technical reason. It’s a purely business decision based on the Apple/AT&T’ revenue
    model.

    Interestingly, according the the Bill of Materials, the 3G iPhone is costing Apple about $175 to build. This isn’t including shipping, Advertising etc.. So where do we think their profit is coming from?

    That’s right – Data services.

    You might be better to look at the HTC Diamond etc.. as it at least allows TomTom software to run on it, saving money in the long term.

    Have fun…

  16. Anonymous says:

    HAHA douche bag! Looks like you have been proven wrong once again.. Bluetooth device as a GPS reviver? rotflmao! Your truly a liar, a bad one at that.

  17. Bloodboiler says:

    So, Apple’s iPhone SDK license denies trying to do something that is impossible anyway. Sounds like they were trying to cover just how crappy GPS hardware they were going to use.

  18. plnguyen says:

    you guys are missing the point of the iPhone. it was built relatively cheap and mostly just for style, as with all apple products. for example, for the price of a pretty apple macbook, you can get a way better windows running laptop from almost any other brand. apple makes cheap stuff that sells because of its name.

    the truth is, the gps functionality of your iPhone is very limited. It does not have a full-fledged GPS receiver. In fact, it is using a Bluetooth device to act as a GPS receiver to pin point a location. Sadly, this is not special. ANY phone or device with bluetooth (even my old, old phone with Bluetooth) can get a GPS location. The iPhone and all other bluetooth capable phone (nearly all phones) use bluetooth to triangulate a position from at least 3 network receivers. This is the reason why it costs you money to use GPS on the iPhone. Apple is not ripping you off. They are right about the iPhone incapable of producing a pinpoint location on its on. It uses network triangulation. Thats why you cannot use bluetooth when there are less than three network receievers (i.e., in remote locations where network coverage exists, but is sparse).

    Apple introduced the iPhone with navigation capability to compete with the N95 which has been a sweeping success world wide outside of the US. However, Apple has managed to capture the US market and got it to think that its selling its phone with a GPS receiver when in fact it has nothing but a bluetooth device. If you want a true smart phone with actual functionality, try the N95, which costs about three times more for a reason.

  19. plnguyen says:

    you guys are missing the point of the iPhone. it was built relatively cheap and mostly just for style, as with all apple products. for example, for the price of a pretty apple macbook, you can get a way better windows running laptop from almost any other brand. apple makes cheap stuff that sells because of its name.

    the truth is, the gps functionality of your iPhone is very limited. It does not have a full-fledged GPS receiver. In fact, it is using a Bluetooth device to act as a GPS receiver to pin point a location. Sadly, this is not special. ANY phone or device with bluetooth (even my old, old phone with Bluetooth) can get a GPS location. The iPhone and all other bluetooth capable phone (nearly all phones) use bluetooth to triangulate a position from at least 3 network receivers. This is the reason why it costs you money to use GPS on the iPhone. Apple is not ripping you off. They are right about the iPhone incapable of producing a pinpoint location on its on. It uses network triangulation. Thats why you cannot use bluetooth when there are less than three network receievers (i.e., in remote locations where network coverage exists, but is sparse).

    Apple introduced the iPhone with navigation capability to compete with the N95 which has been a sweeping success world wide outside of the US. However, Apple has managed to capture the US market and got it to think that its selling its phone with a GPS receiver when in fact it has nothing but a bluetooth device. If you want a true smart phone with actual functionality, try the N95, which costs about three times more for a reason.

  20. Anonymous says:

    > the iPhone’s G.P.S. antenna is much too
    > small to emulate the turn-by-turn navigation

    The “antenna” size doesn’t cause/prevent
    turn-by-turn.

    Big antenna = turn-by-turn.
    Small antenna = no turn-by-turn.

    False.

    Why does this site spread so much WRONG info???

  21. long-orange-arms says:

    I agree with JOEL JOHNSON, the explanation sounds like complete bollocks.

    The car driving along the wiggly road was moving at a decent speed and you could see the motion.

    Just like the “do the screws on the bottom mean you can replace the battery” story from yesterday this seems like pointless, baseless and implausible speculation.

    Lets just wait till Friday and see then, eh?

  22. Mikeywin says:

    @2 Garbanzo and everyone else

    I tend to agree that Apple’s story is complete BS. I have a Verizon, 1st Gen, “choclate” slider phone (I know, I know, don’t laugh)and even THAT gives me turn by turn directions, hell I’d say is more accurate than my old Tom Tom. I mean I do have to pay for the service, but it also serves as a 411 look up and all that as well. So in closing, WTF AT&T/Apple!!?

  23. booticon says:

    I almost wouldn’t *want* to use the GPS for turn-by-turn. I’ll be using it to guide me, perhaps listening to music. What happens when I get a phone call?

  24. edibiase says:

    Apple’s page describing the iPhone 3G’s maps/GPS features says, “Get directions to wherever from wherever. View turn-by-turn directions or watch your progress with live GPS tracking.”

  25. Anonymous says:

    yea boo for at&t thats why you get the iphone with tmobile….b/c you dont get raped with ridiculous charges it is complete stupidity to make plans specific for a phone….which is why at&t has no where near the customer base that other cell providers too….

  26. morcheeba says:

    Edibiase – the old iphone featured this… it presents you a list of intersections, and as you reach each one you’re supposed to manually press the “next” button. It looks like the new one doesn’t do this automatically.

    It sounds like bollocks, to me, too. A small antenna might give poor performance, so it might not work well in urban canyons… but I’d expect it to work on a country road.

    At least the speaker is supposed to be louder… we’ll see if it’s loud enough to be heard over road noise.

  27. alowishus says:

    Boo. Oh well, makes me feel better about my primitive location-aware gen-one iPhone.

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