making noise since 1977

iPhone 3g, xGPS

« | Sat May 16, 2009 | comments and reactions | permanent link | »

This post is more than two years old. It might be still-relevant and maybe even awesome, but it's probably outdated (and likely embarassing!) Proceed with care.

For years, we've spoken of our desire for one seemingly magical device that could be carried around easily and bring together all of the possibilities of hand-held personal electronics. While we wont clutter the Internet with yet another "OMG I love my iPhone post", we are comfortable saying that the device does come rather close to the target.

The concern with smart phones has always been "Yeah, ok it can do that, but is the feature actually usable"? There have been a lot seemingly-useful capabilities that users rarely touched after the initial "wow, cool" gimmick period expired. Mostly, the culprit tends to either be interface or speed, and Apple's pretty slick interface coupled with 3g connectivity (and prolific wifi) seems to satisfy: we actually want to use the features.

There are still some painful (and well documented) omissions (MMS anyone?). Apple's policies regarding the flexibility of the device do indeed suck. The wonderful app store which you see advertised on TV every 5 minutes may have 30,000+ apps, but 29,900 of them are rather pointless. Jailbreaking the device, fortunately, is a painless 10-minute process which satisfyingly allows a curious user to correct most of these issues.

xGPSOne great actively-developed app (only available on jailbroken devices) is xGPS, which "aims to bring a powerful and easy to use navigation software for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch." We recently put it through it's paces on an impromptu late evening off-road foray, far from the reaches of five-bar cellular signals- a trip which would not have even been attempted had the iPhone not been with us.

xGPS Night ModeFortunately, we had preloaded the phone with about 60MB of map data (an extremely valuable feature of xGPS). For a good portion of the trip there was no cellular signal available-- without preloaded map data, we would have only been able to know our latitude and longitude and would have little idea where we were, relatively speaking. Other valuable features we discovered included "night mode", which was wonderfully easy-on-the-eyes after dark on narrow trails which required the driver's attention, and the availability of terrain maps with shading and contour lines to give you the lay of the land.

While we're no Apple fan-boys and we enjoy disconnecting from the technological world as often as possible, having this kind of actually usable technology at-hand, makes us a little giddy. With a calendar, a todo list, email, instant messaging, a personal music collection, Pandora radio, a camera, a web browser, daily newspapers, and more all in your pocket on one slim device, it's hard not to feel like some part of the futuristic world we were promised years ago has been realized.

blog comments powered by Disqus