blackberry is…like…my favorite…

regular readers of the blog (wait a minute…people are reading this…right ??) 😉 will know that I’m not a huge fan of developing for the RIM platform.

Well it’s another one of those blog posts. Just to clarify I LOVE the speed of blackberry. There’s very little lag on the cursor and the address book (let’s just leave the abortion that is the Storm series entirely out of this discussion) and by and large things work like you’d expect them to work.

However – the word/feature of the moment is locations, locations, locations.

RIM was very early to this party – blackberries were amongst the first handsets to regularly include GPS etc etc…but nowadays the game has moved way beyond GPS.

We have A-GPS (using other methods to help the GPS lock onto sattelites faster), or cellid/wifi methods used by companies like Navizon and Skyhook as a sort of “Hybrid” approach to positioning.

The upside of cellid/wifi is that it works indoors. (or to be more precise – when you can’t have a satellite lock for your GPS). It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this is a huge upside since most mobile phone users in urban environments spend significant amounts of time outside of a GPS lock.

Hence – companies like Navizon, Skyhook (there are others but those are the biggest two) help your phone get a quick location lookup without needing to use the GPS chip.

For the record on the leading smartphone platforms you have

Iphone – Skyhook provides the wifi/cellid location service (although this is transparent to developers) – as it happens there are rumours that Apple will take this business away from Skyhook.

Android – Google has its own database of wifi/cellid points so developers can access the phone’s location with a single API call

Symbian – A few companies (Navizon, Skyhook etc) provide libraries for developers to use.

Windows Mobile – Currently a few companies (Navizon, Skyhook etc) provide libraries for developers to use. Navizon has an exclusive license for providing location technologies for Windows Mobile 7 – it will be very interesting to see how that evolves.

And that leaves….RIM/Blackberry. Not only can 3rd party software NOT access any wifi information on the blackberry (to be fair to RIM I believe this is a limitation of the way in which Java interfaces with the hardware so it’s not necessarily their fault) – failure to use Wifi for positioning means that the accuracy in urban environments is drastically reduced.

HEY RIM!!! – where do you think most of your Blackberries are used….yeah exactly. Urban f***ing environments.

But it gets worse – developers can only see a single cell id on a Blackberry – which means cellid triangulation techniques (which are possible on most other smartphones and increase accuracy in the absence of both GPS and WiFi) are IMPOSSIBLE.

Come on RIM – get your act together. Location is vital. There’s still time to pick up the ball you dropped and run with it. You cannot rely on carrier locations solutions anymore – that ship has sailed. Buy or license a location technology that can work – and let your developers loose…


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