There are a great number of concerns around GPS chips being integrated into smartphones; surveillance, third-party tracking, and profiling (to say nothing of bad results!) are all issues that technologists ‘in the know’ warn of. I don’t want to talk about any of these issues.
No, I want to say this: of the smartphones that I’ve used in the past 6 months (iPhone 3GS, Samsung Focus, BlackBerry Bold 9900, BlackBerry Torch 9800) the BlackBerry devices have the most reliable, accurate, and speedy GPS functionality. The Focus was unreliable, at best, and while the 3GS’s UI was the best it was slower and less accurate than what I enjoy with the aforementioned BlackBerry devices.
For many people the GPS is a nicety, icing on the cake. For me, I rely on my GPS and maps integration to get from points A to B. The integration between Google Maps and the iPhone was excellent, if not the fastest. Integration on the Windows Phone was poor, largely because they missed my market: I’m a conscientious traveller and so prefer public transit. Windows Phones are absolutely unable to parse transit information in any of the major or minor cities I’ve visited over the past several months. If they can’t even do a non-US world city then the integration is not ready for prime time.
While the Google Maps/GPS integration on BlackBerry has an archaic UI – it really, really, looks like it was developed several years ago (because it was) – it’s fast and reliable. UI beauty is of critical importance for getting novices to use new technologies, but UI alone is insufficient to sell consumers on the value of a device over the long term. On this basis the Windows Phone OS failed outright and iOS trailed the ‘older’, ‘archaic’ and ‘aging’ BlackBerry OS 7.1 device I’m using right now.