Location Based Apps

This new category of software came into existence because of the unique nature of cellphones: They are portable and can be made to know where they are at any moment. The HTC/T-Mobile G1 particularly excels at this; it can determine its approximate location using just the coordinates of the cell tower that it is currently locked to, but it also has a genuine GPS satellite receiver built into it. Getting a fix via the GPS takes a little longer than with the tower method, but this method has far better accuracy. Consider the advanced applications in this category:

■ GPS Status—This app, from EclipSim, gives you detailed location and orientation information on a single display that is both visually pleasing and comprehensive. With information such as heading, orientation, pitch, latitude, longitude, accuracy, altitude, time of last fix, magnetic field flux, relative speed, acceleration in G force units, and a running count of the satellites that it is in contact with, you couldn't ask for a better program if you want to know where you are.

Optionally, GPS Status enables you to choose the units to display the information in (distance in meters or feet, speed in kilometers per hour, miles per hour, meters per second, or knots; position in DD.DDDDDD, DD MM.MMM, or DD MM SS.S; and so on) and even provides a choice of color theme (default, daylight, or night).

The default theme simulates the look of a pocket compass, with eyecatching yellow lines, red and blue pointers, and white text on a black background. This advanced application belongs on every Android cellphone, with a built-in GPS, accelerometer, and magnetic compass.

■ Maps—The built-in Google Maps application has been around for a few years and can be run by many non-Android cellphones. It is an astounding application that, based on your current location, can display a list of nearby businesses, including restaurants, service stations, government buildings, and more. It can give you driving directions to any of these and can even be embedded into other applications to supplement their functionality. As a perfect example of this, the Weather Channel application (described later) can overlay Google Maps with weather information. Simply amazing!

But there's more to Google Maps than being location based. You can enter any existing address, city, state, zip code, and more, and it will display that location and allow you to search for what is also nearby.

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