Integrated GPS receivers are a must-have features in today’s high-end handsets. Location-based applications are becoming ever more popular, and has thrust GPS functionality into the spotlight. That is, unless you’re sporting hardware emblazoned with Verizon Wireless’s logo.
Verizon Wireless has earned the distinction of being one of the most closed and controlling wireless carriers in the US. So controlling, in fact, that Verizon Wireless has insisted on crippling the integrated GPS receivers in its high-end smartphones to work only with the carrier’s VZ Navigator service – which costs an additional $9.99 per month.
But, Verizon is apparently looking to turn over a new leaf. Following on a software update that enabled the GPS receiver on some Verizon BlackBerry handsets, a Verizon memo details the company’s plans to open up the built-in GPS receiver in many of its handsets. Rather than continuing to cripple features that may not meet Verizon’s performance “standard,” Verizon will be working with handset manufacturers to roll out software updates that will fully enable the GPS hardware to work with any applications.
The first handsets in line to be blessed with fully-open GPS functionality will be the Verizon Omnia, Saga, and Touch Pro. Verizon is looking to unlock the trio’s GPS hardware by 1H 2009.
Verizon Wireless, like all carriers, orders devices to meet certain specifications inclusive of features. Each of these specs is tested to determine if it meets our performance goals. There are instances when the phone will pass our extensive testing process but a specific feature may not meet the standard. We will often choose to introduce the phone without that feature but ask that the manufacturer come back to us with revised software that has to be tested to make sure the service works the same across our entire wireless footprint –from Maine to Hawaii. In the case of open standalone GPS, we are partnering with the Windows Mobile device manufacturers to provide a software upgrade that will add this capability to the existing assisted GPS capability. This is a complex development project to provide open standalone GPS while maintaining the assisted GPS capability with the level of performance and security that our customers expect. The recently introduced Windows Mobile devices including Omnia, Saga, and Touch Pro are targeted to add open standalone GPS in the 1st half of 2009.
HQ Executive Relations Supervisor