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As is to be expected when nearing a major Apple (s aapl) event, the normally active rumor mill has gone into overdrive, with each day bringing fresh reports, speculation, and confirmation of existing theories surrounding new hardware and software. Yesterday, AppleInsider posted an article in which they appear to have discovered evidence to support the appearance of a digital compass in the upcoming iPhone revision.
There are references in the code of the latest iPhone beta SDK to Japanese manufacturer Asahi Kasei (s 3407), which is currently responsible for components in the iPod touch. In the past, it has mainly provided liquid submersion indicators, the scourge of those trying to get their water-damaged devices repaired under warranty since time began. The newly spotted references to the company are in a directory labeled “Compass”, however, which strongly suggests that it’s branching out into new territory.
But isn’t the iPhone already location aware? Yes, but not as aware as it could be. I’ve noticed considerable improvements in location services since installing the iPhone OS 3.0 beta, but those familiar with T-Mobile’s (s dt) G1 Android (s goog) phone will be familiar with just how much a magnometer (the technical term for digital compass) could potentially benefit Apple’s existing geolocation tech. The magnometer would allow the iPhone to know which way it was facing, in addition to its GPS location and degree of tilt.
The combination of the above functions would allow the iPhone to perform truly magical feats, like identifying any landmark or building that the device is pointed at. Obviously, this tech would open up a whole new playground of opportunities for innovative developers to explore. Off the top of my head, I can see geo-caching apps getting a big boost from the addition. Turn-by-turn and Google street view will also apparently benefit from the new hardware, so hopefully, iPhone users have two fewer reasons to envy the G1 come July 17, if the release date rumors are also true.