GPS – Gimmick or essential in a modern Smartphone?

GPS   Gimmick or essential in a modern Smartphone?

This weekend I’ve finally gotten round to finish off writing up my review of the ThL W8s, you can click here to read my initial impressions  and the actual review should go live on Monday. As requested in the comments field of that  post I tested the GPS on the device. The particular chip-set (MTK_GPS_MT6628) on this phone is unfortunately infamous around the mobile tech online community for having deep set problems and to cut a long story short, after extensive testing without any tweaking it simply didn’t work.  It recognised satellites were up there but didn’t lock on to any so essentially couldn’t function in confirming my location. Check back on Monday for the full story in the review.

It got me thinking about GPS as I’ve never really needed it before and indeed, wouldn’t have even turned it on apart from being reminded by one of the CSP writers I needed  to test it. Why was this? To be honest it’s totally unnecessary in my day-to-day mobile phone needs. ‘But what about location information, surely you use it?’ I hear you cry. Yes indeed I do. However I’m already covered by the other systems in almost constant use on my phone. The ‘cell-to-cell’ nature of mobile telephony means that if you have a signal then the networks know where you are to an accuracy of approximately 1-2 miles, normally more accurate in built up areas such as cities as they can cross reference your distance from several cell-towers. Combined with the ability of gaining location information from any wi-fi signals within range this means using Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and Google maps is normally very accurate without draining my battery further and so I never have GPS turned on.

GPS   Gimmick or essential in a modern Smartphone?

I know that not everyone lives in big cities and that if you’re out hiking on the moors it may well be a vital tool but it seems to me, for the vast swathe of people, GPS is a bit of a gimmick that only serves to drain your battery further. I remember when having an infra-red sensor on your phone was all the rage. Many phones of the noughties advertised this as a big bonus but no-one really came up with a concrete, must-have beneficial use for the technology. When Bluetooth came along which transfers data a lot faster and therefore can be used for wireless headphones/ headsets it kind of saw the end of infra-red in all but really high-end handsets. It was made pretty redundant as Bluetooth works out better in every way (apart from as a remote control for your TV I suppose). Very similar to using wi-fi / network data instead of  GPS in any area with a modest population…?

Is GPS destined to disappear on mainstream phones or is it an important feature that is ubiquitous on mobile phones? Feel free to post your feelings and experience with GPS in the comments section below.