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Saturday, July 26, 2008

iPhone 3G is its ability to pinpoint your location via GPS

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 -- cellphone tower and wi-fi triangulation -- to narrow my location down to a neighborhood 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 to cell signals.

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 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.

Apple has finally posted an update regarding the extended MobileMe email outage that has affected approximately 1% of users. Their updated support document reports that they have restored web-access to affected MobileMe accounts. This will allow affected users to see emails that they have received since July 18th, the day the outage started.
As Apple details, users still do not have access to emails prior to that date and are unable to access their email from their desktop email clients. This functionality will presumably be restored over time. This temporary web-access is meant to allow users to access their recent mail that has been unavailable.

Apple warns that users should not make changes to their MobileMe password, email aliases, or storage allocation while this temporary solution is in place. Doing so could result in technical errors.

Apple also admits that while the majority of email messages will be fully restored, approximately 10% of messages received between 5:00 a.m. PDT on July 16th and 10:20 a.m. PDT on July 18th have been lost. Additional details can be found in their tech note.

The writer explains that he or she will be updating again this weekend to report on progress.

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