Google Latitude: Will it Kill your Phone’s Battery?

google-latitudeMaybe I’m just put off since I can’t play with Google Latitude like everyone else. The new location sharing service looks awesome to me, but it’s not yet supported on the iPhone. For now, I’m simply testing it in iGoogle on my laptops and I’ve shared my general location (shown) with a long-time jkOTR reader and my exact location with James.

While there’s a valid case to be made for how location sharing with Google has privacy implications, I’m not that concerned. You can hide your location at any time, and you get to pick and choose which of your contacts can see where you are. Even better: you can define how much detail those chosen contacts get. They either get your city-level, general location or as close as Google can pinpoint you.

No, it’s not the opt-in privacy bit that bothers me. I’m wondering what it’s going to do to handset batteries.

Obviously, I can’t test any theories since I don’t have a supported handset. But I have to believe that any very active users will quickly see their battery life disappear. The app will be checking for and posting location updates far too often in this case.

It’s going to be fun to play with Google Maps and the new Latitude feature, but after leaving Maps running in the background for a few hours or so, I think folks will see my point. They’ll then offer their location only at certain times of the day instead of having Maps running in the background. If anyone is using the new feature and has real-world battery run data or impressions, you know where to find me.

In fairness to Google, their Help section addresses this issue… sorta:

“Google Latitude is designed to use minimal battery power so that you can continue automatically sharing your location in the background of your phone.

For example, Latitude will automatically decrease how often your location is updated when your phone’s battery is low or your location has not changed recently. Keep in mind that enabling WiFi or GPS connections on your device to acquire your location can drain your device’s battery more quickly than using Google Maps for mobile’s My Location feature.”

That could mean that the location updates are scheduled for intervals like five or ten minutes apart. Hard to say without details — and to be honest, I’d like the ability to configure how often updates occur. While it’s good to minimize the updates when the battery is low, it’s a little after the fact at that point, no? ;)


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