Though the newly released Apple iPhone has seen a great deal of critical acclaim, it has by no means been impervious to criticism. Though naysayers have found many an iPhone shortcoming to nitpick about, critics and advocates alike have been able to agree wholeheartedly about two major iPhone omissions: support for AT&T's 3G (third generation) data network and the lack of GPS.
The latter, as it turns out, is a missing feature that can be added to the iPhone without requiring Apple make any hardware alterations to the device. In other words - without the soldering of a single chip, the turning of a single screw, or even so much as the removal of the iPhone's outer casing - all the iPhone owners out there could have a GPS receiver and antenna added to their phones.
But wait, there's more. Not only can the iPhone become fully GPS-enabled without physical changes, Apple wouldn't be required to make any software changes, either. No driver additions, no modifications to the iPhone's underlying first generation mobile version of OSX. Nada.Thanks to an innovation by French company BlueSky Positioning, who have integrated both an A-GPS (Assisted GPS) receiver and antenna onto a SIM card, the Apple iPhone and other SIM-based mobile devices that lack GPS support can add full featured GPS capabilities through the use of the BlueSky Positioning SIM card. From a software perspective, all phones which possess the STK or SimToolKit (a mandatory requirement on all mobile phones since 1998) can support and utilize the SIM and it's GPS.
There appear to be no roadblocks, other than those self imposed, to AT&T and Apple offering GPS on the iPhone. Thanks to the BlueSky Positioning SIM GPS, adding GPS to significantly less robust devices than the iPhone is seemingly quite breezy. Velipekka Kuoppala, BlueSky Positioning's Vice President of Sales and Marketing, told iPhoneFAQ
"The AGPS SIM works with all legacy handsets without any software or hardware modification. We have been testing plenty of different phone models with different ages, models and shapes, all work [as expected]."
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If the GPS SIM were utilized within the iPhone and supported by iPhone service providers, the phone would immediately offer GPS capabilities. With the SIM in place, emergency operators and iPhone service providers would be able to accurately locate the handset.
Then the real payoff comes in. Once GPS-enabled, Apple and it's service providing partners (currently AT&T in the US and T-Mobile/D. Telekom in Germany) can offer value-added services on the iPhone. Imagine a GPS-enabled Google Maps on the iPhone, one able to locate your phone on a map and provide GPS navigation, now that's a truly useful application. Other already on the iPhone applications would see increased utility as well. Take the weather widget for example, with GPS enabled, your iPhone would be able to tell you the current conditions and forecast for where your phone is - not just pre-programmed locations. As for new applications that could benefit from a GPS-enabled iPhone, well, the sky's the limit.
BlueSky Positioning is currently in the "pilot development phase" of providing it's SIM A-GPS solution to providers outside the US and has had "initial discussions" with service providers in the United States, said Kuoppala.