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RealTime IT News

The iPhone My Location feature: missed it by that much

As the owner of an iPhone, my colleagues like to forward new announcements for the phone my way, either because I might be interested in it, or to check it out. In the case of Google's new My Location feature, it was both. Too bad AT&T failed me again, albeit in an amusing way.

My Location is a feature found in the iPhone's Safari browser. Select that option with a tap of the finger and it determines your location and narrows searches to where you are. So if you do a search for a Starbucks, it would find the ones around you (not like I didn't already know every one within 5 miles of my house).

So while working at home the other day I fired up the phone, selected "update" from the My Location line right below the search box and it came up with "Berkeley, CA." Which was great, except that I live in Belmont, 40 or so miles to the southwest.

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Even better was at work. Our office is right on the edge of San Francisco proper and just next door to Candlestick Park (Dave Needle is always correcting me, saying I need to be factually accurate in its name, especially when I'm giving directions. He's right, of course, but I utterly loathe corporate arena naming and won't use it for an older building/stadium. For something new like AT&T Park, I usually come up with something unprintable here).

That puts us at the corners of three cities, really; San Francisco, Daly City and Brisbane. Renewing my location on the phone resulted in all three cities being selected at one point or another. Updating it is a bit of Russian Roulette. I'm never sure which of the three cities it will pick.

So the Starbucks search finds me stores 15 miles away, smack in the middle of downtown, or Daly City stores a few miles west but on the other side of the mountains, and of course, none in Brisbane (despite my efforts. I recommended a Brisbane location to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz when I met him two years ago at the iPod Touch launch.).

One thing I can confirm is the rumors that iPhone OS 3.0 is a major power pig. Reports have been popping up on Apple and enthusiast sites that the phone can't hold a charge to save its life. The iPhone 3GS has a slightly smaller battery, around 15 percent smaller than the prior generations, but further tests found older 3G phones also had the problem.

So now suspicion now rests on the 3.0 OS as the culprit, since people with the older hardware are having the same problem. I've run the battery down to almost half its full charge with about one full hour of 3G use. That's just not acceptable.

Right now Apple has OS 3.1 in the works and is in the second beta, so fingers crossed that the problem is fixed. Despite the flaws, and now a growing crack in the plastic shell of my phone right at the base, where the USB connector attaches to the phone, I'm still not interested in anyone else's hardware. And that's coming from a PC user who builds his own computers and wouldn't use a Mac if Steve Jobs personally dropped one off at my house, since I'd just end up having to put Parallels on it to run all my Windows software.

However, I am plenty ticked at AT&T's poor network, inability to support the phone's full set of features and the $30 data bill when I know I'm not using anywhere near enough per month. I'm really ready to jailbreak this phone and switch providers.

As Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett noted, "Apple has so thoroughly stolen the customer relationship -- who would argue that Apple iPhone customers' first affinity is to the device rather than to the network -- that the network is not only irrelevant, it is rather a source of derision?"

Amen.

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