Verizon Wireless is well known for disabling native hardware features on handsets but when they announced their new “open device” strategy, I hoped this would change. It really hasn’t all that much, sadly, but a new year brings new opportunities as they say. In the first half of 2009, the company will apparently be allowing internal GPS radios to work with applications other than Verizon’s own VZ Navigator. The lucky handsets mentioned include the Omnia, Saga and Touch Pro, according to an e-mail passed along to WMExperts. I’m not totally sold on the reasoning provided for the lack of GPS functionality:
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.
I’m all for testing, but the question in my mind: why don’t the other carriers routinuely disable GPS on the same handsets as much as Verizon Wireless does? Regardless of that musing, the good news is that some VZW handsets will find their way to being used with Google Maps and other map services that rely on GPS. The solution is expected via firmware updates to the devices, so stay tuned.