One thing that makes a smartphone really smart is knowing where it is and being able to tell you about it. Most people are comfortable with using the mapping capabilities of the satellite navigation systems in their car, but there’s no reason not to take that functionality everywhere with you.
Most of the high-end Windows Mobile smartphone (non touch) and Professional (touch-screen) devices come with GPS capabilities (and some with Assisted GPS which allows cell tower triangulation to get an initial lock while the phone locks on to enough satellites to get an accurate location).
Useful as it is, some older devices (like my trusty old Wizard, or the T-Mobile Dash) and even newer handsets like the Shadow don’t include GPS – often it’s driven by battery capacity (as running GPS all day can take its toll).
That doesn’t mean you have to go without though. If your phone has bluetooth support then there are a number of options available. I’d tried a couple of reasonable solutions but not found one that was convenient enough for everyday use. When my last device died I almost didn’t bother replacing it as most of the phones I was using had GPS. But my trusty Shadow was feeling left out and I was still using it as my day-top-day phone.
So I had a look around and found what has turned out to be a great little GPS unit. The Freedom Keychain GPS 2000.
This receiver is tiny. It hangs on my keychain and it’s hardly noticeable. It charges via a standard miniUSB connector so it’s easy to keep powered and gives about 8 hours use before needing juice. Pairing with the Shadow was incredibly easy and I’ve not had a connection problem (first for a Bluetooth device!). It takes about 15-30 seconds to get a lock from turning on when outside (longer indoors) and it’s accurate – most mini GPS units are 20 channel, this is a 51 channel device. One final thing I love about this is the fact the status lights are very discrete.
So, what can you use GPS with on your smartphone?
If you’ve got a built-in or bluetooth device then the most obvious application is Windows Live Search for Mobile (see review of latest version) but I also use Navizon to keep an eye on where my buddies are. For turn-by-turn navigation similar to your in-car navigation solution there are application from CoPilot, Garmin and Mobium. There is a list being maintained at Mapping4Mobiles that details a number of other options for various devices.
At the moment there are a huge number of opportunities that are missing out of the box for location aware services – geotagging photos probably being the most obvious, but one-touch sharing of location via BrightKite or FireEagle (though Navizon works just fine for that). In an ideal world services like Yelp or similar would be able to adjust their offering if they know where I am…
One added bonus of using a bluetooth device is you can pair it with more than one device. My Keychain works fine with my Shadow, but also pairs perfectly with my Samsung UMPC which opens up a whole new set of options for navigation – including Microsoft Streets and Trips or IntelliNav (and because the Keychain uses a standard USB charger cable I can power it from the UMPC even when it’s paired via Bluetooth to drive the software!)