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AT&T agrees to first constantly connected third-party iPhone app

post #1 of 46
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With users' permission, the social networking iPhone application Loopt will report the phone's current location even when the software isn't running, based on a new agreement with AT&T.

In a report from Silicon Alley Insider, Loopt cofounder Sam Altman said the always-connected feature has been the most requested from users. The service allows people to track where their friends are at any given moment, a task difficult to constantly maintain on the iPhone, which doesn't currently allow third-party applications to run in the background.

Ordinarily, closing the application would cease any connections, but the new AT&T-sanctioned feature comes with a price: The always-on capability will add $3.99 to a monthly AT&T bill, after the 14-day trial. The initial trial will be open to 5,000 users.

According to the report, the new deal doesn't change the policy on third-party apps -- think of it more like a service than the entire Loopt application running in the background. It says that the application is running "server-to-server," with AT&T's help, but the application itself does not run in the background.

"Because Apple's iPhone doesn't yet support background processing for third-party apps, Loopt ordinarily only knows where you are when you're actively pinging its servers," the report states. "That's not as useful. (And a limitation Loopt doesn't have to deal with on other platforms.) But that's changing via this new deal.

"It also gives Loopt an advantage over competitors, like Google's Latitude service, which you must manually activate every time you want to 'check in.'"

With the new feature, users will be able to receive alerts when they are near people or places they're interested in. Altman also said that users could create a "life graph" of places they've been.

Earlier this year, Apple was rumored to be mulling the possibility of allowing true multi-tasking on the iPhone. So far, though, the Cupertino, Calif., company has only enabled push notifications. Concerns about poor battery life with multiple applications running at once have had the handset maker allow one program at a time (aside from first-party features like the iPod) since the App Store first opened.

At the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2008, Apple was critical of background applications on smartphones, arguing that users are often led to believe that they have quit programs when they remain open, thus reducing battery life and hurting processor performance.
post #2 of 46
If I'm going to pay AT&T $4/month for this service, then it shouldn't be limited to just Loopt. Google Latitude and any other opt-in location tracker should be able to be a part of this.
post #3 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

...... users are often lead to believe.....

"led"

(Apologies for a nitpicky second post).
post #4 of 46
PA Semi = multi-core

I believe apple is going to pull off this feat the smart way without turning the iPhone into WinMo's ugly grandchild...
post #5 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by ilogic View Post

PA Semi = multi-core

I believe apple is going to pull off this feat the smart way without turning the iPhone into WinMo's ugly grandchild...

perhaps an ultra-low power core(s) dedicated for small background processes?
post #6 of 46
Is it just me, or did AT&T just get done telling the FCC that it had no role in approving iPhone applications?
post #7 of 46
Apple needs to allow applications to run in the background so that I have another reason to complain about its battery life.

Next thing you know we'll all be complaining about how crappy the iPhone battery is when running the Power A Light Bulb app all day.
post #8 of 46
My question is. If the trend is only going to continue towards more and more mobile data being used and the network not being able to handle all the traffic. Is it because of nodes are actual bandwidth? If it's bandwidth, then, why don't they have tiered plans much like comcast or any other isp? You pay for speed instead of amount of data.

On another note. Why hasn't some company started a wireless isp to compete against the cell companies? Or better yet why is there no standardization like in Japan? There's no reason the have two different systems in this country.

wouldn't it be nice to have a 3rd party dock add on (about the size of a match book) that added VZW, Sprint, etc data capability?
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post #9 of 46
And this capability is for who exactly? Serial stalkers?
post #10 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by gibson10ma View Post

Is it just me, or did AT&T just get done telling the FCC that it had no role in approving iPhone applications?

Clearly AT&T had a heavy hand in rejecting Google Voice and Latitude. The lost revenue for SMS packages with GV is more than AT&T could stomach. Now we see the same reason to Latitude.

Do we really need more evidence?
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post #11 of 46
AT&T continues to "not get it". They are just going to keep nickel and diming us until they lose exclusivity of the iPhone. Personally, I'd rather pay to get out of my contract that continue getting raped over time by AT&T's ridiculous rate structures/crappy service. Can't wait to see how they botch MMS!
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post #12 of 46
The traditional GUI application has always used an Event Loop to allow for interactivity. This Event Loop constantly checks to see if the user has pressed a button, used the mouse (touched the screen in the iPhone's case), etc. This uses processor time even while the application is not being actively used. This constant checking is very much discouraged elsewhere in Cocoa (and should be actively discouraged more in other languages as well).

Why is it that years after the first GUI applications were created that we continue to use this type of process instead of a notification or delegate pattern for event-handling at the OS level? Aside from the application's main Event Loop, programmers make use of these types of designs to prevent needlessly hammering the processor, which wastes cycles and battery power.

Apple came up with the idea of push notifications as a proposed solution to this problem. My question is, couldn't a great deal of the background process problem be solved by extending the notification/delegate pattern to the main application Event Loop? This would mean that while the app is idle, it would in fact not be using any processor cycles.

In regards to an application that is keeping a connection open to a server while idle, push notifications are still a useful solution that could be used even while the app is running in the background. Or, an implementation like launchd could be used. Launchd allows for a background process to only run if an outside condition is met (such as watched folders that have changed; network connection lost/restored; or potentially, an incoming connection, like a push notification) then wakes the bg process to handle it then puts it back to sleep. That way the bg processes are never running unless they absolutely need to handle an event.
post #13 of 46
Will the FBI and the police also be notified of my whereabouts?
post #14 of 46
Being able to see a “life graph” is intriguing the data nerd in me and the many ways to visualize and animate that…

But otherwise this is stupid as hell.
post #15 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by latafairam View Post

Will the FBI and the police also be notified of my whereabouts?

Lucky for you, AT&T's service is so bad, that the location thing won't work anyway. The phone actually needs to have service for it to know where you are.
post #16 of 46
This will be a "fad" feature for most. For most willing to pay the extra charge, the thought of constantly being tracked would indicate to me that the user has serious issues to contend with. It would be interesting though from a security standpoint if this results in say a kidnapped person being found or one's phone being stolen and found.

This will also result in those same users most likely complaining as to why their battery life is suddenly reduced.

Arguably, this should not be an extra charge associated with it. It is data after all being passed. The fact it's a background process makes me wonder why AT&T is even included in the approval process. If a user ends up using "too much" bandwidth, I'm sure the telcos have a plan "B" for it.
post #17 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Clearly AT&T had a heavy hand in rejecting Google Voice and Latitude. The lost revenue for SMS packages with GV is more than AT&T could stomach. Now we see the same reason to Latitude.

Do we really need more evidence?

I was thinking the exact same thing......
post #18 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

This will be a "fad" feature for most....

On first thought I'd agree this is something of a novelty - for now. AT&T is drawing their line in the sand now on location services because they realize how crucial it will be in the future.

That said, blocking someone from providing a free service so you can offer a paid service is not a sound business model.

I don't understand the people who think this is big brotherish. It's up to you to participate. If some people find it useful than leave it at that. The phone company already knows where you are and where you've been and they'll tell the government. If you want privacy an AT&T iPhone probably isn't for you.
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post #19 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by technohermit View Post

Lucky for you, AT&T's service is so bad, that the location thing won't work anyway. The phone actually needs to have service for it to know where you are.

That's pretty funny. Nothing funny about AT&T's lame coverage though.

I will say that I've been pleasantly surprised at how fast and accurate the iPhone GPS is. Especially compared to some Blackberrys I've tried. They took 4-5 minutes to acquire a GPS signal.
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post #20 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

"led"

(Apologies for a nitpicky second post).

No, I think AI meant to belittle people who believe this, and are using "lead" to be synonymous with "surprisingly dense."
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post #21 of 46
Problem: Background apps = short battery life.

Solution: Make the iPhone a silly 5mm thicker, equip it with a battery with 2-3 times the capacity.

I'd trade a tenth of an inch for 15 hrs of 3G web browsing between charges (vs 5). Wouldn't you?

I know, I know. Ain't gonna happen, but still.
post #22 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by gibson10ma View Post

Is it just me, or did AT&T just get done telling the FCC that it had no role in approving iPhone applications?

From what I understand, this is an agreement between AT&T and Loopt to forward location information from its user (if they opt-in) to Loopt directly. While the app will use this information, it's not actively involved in actually pulling data while the app isn't running. So this service isn't related to the iPhone application.
post #23 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wings View Post

Problem: Background apps = short battery life.

Solution: Make the iPhone a silly 5mm thicker, equip it with a battery with 2-3 times the capacity.

I'd trade a tenth of an inch for 15 hrs of 3G web browsing between charges (vs 5). Wouldn't you?

I know, I know. Ain't gonna happen, but still.

i totally agree. it always seems to odd to me that people complain about a phone being 'too heavy'. unfortunately i think that somebody at apple seems a little too obsessed with keeping the iphone as thin as possible...
post #24 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

Arguably, this should not be an extra charge associated with it. It is data after all being passed. The fact it's a background process makes me wonder why AT&T is even included in the approval process. If a user ends up using "too much" bandwidth, I'm sure the telcos have a plan "B" for it.

stalkers unite!

agreed about the data plan and charges. i already have an unlimited data plan (which is really only 5GB). why is it every time i want to send a few more bytes of data does at&t charge me more?

at&t even disallows app store downloads where the app is greater than 10MB. do it over wifi or via itunes, they say. and they say they're doing that to protect me from exceeding the 5GB (er, unlimited) amount of data. i'm on the 850 voice plan and i make a lot of 30-40 minute calls. why don't they terminate those calls at, say, 15 minutes to prevent me from going over my 850 minutes?

hey, at&t, how about some justification for charging me even more for a data plan that i'm forced to purchase, am screwed on, and for which i'm already am not allowed to properly use?

i don't need protection from myself, at&t. i need protection from you.
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post #25 of 46
Nothing runs on the iPhone. No 3rd party nor 1st party service. This is AT&T telling Loopt where you are based on their cell phone tower information.
post #26 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

... That said, blocking someone from providing a free service so you can offer a paid service is not a sound business model.
...

I disagree, it's HIGHLY profitable and sound... as long as you don't run into the law.

I'm not sure whether it's just unethical or illegal, but I don't like the practice of AT&T being a gatekeeper on this kind of activity.

Let's hope that carrier independence finally puts AT&T in their place and frees Apple to gain marketshare while trimming margins based on exclusivity.
post #27 of 46
Wonder if backgrounder on a jb phone would work?
post #28 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by latafairam View Post

Will the FBI and the police also be notified of my whereabouts?

Hahaha. They already know. You don't need to be subscribed to a cell phone company for that feature. But yeah since you are so important to the FBI I suppose your question is legitimate. If you were really worried about the FBI knowing where you are. Which they already do or are able to find out in a split second. After all, you leave so many trails behind. Even Hansel and Gretel are nothing compared to you. But if you are really serious about disappearing from this globe you could knock all you teeth out and lay them on you couch. Light your house on fire. Forensics will conclude that you are dead and note that in their systems accordingly. In the meanwhile you should get yourself an identity of an other person. That is, of course, if you are really serious about this FBI stuff. If not, don't bother about worrying about this loopt stuff.
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post #29 of 46
We get to pay $4/iPhone-month for something we should be able to get already. What an amazing deal!
post #30 of 46
I am not sure I really agree with the article headline. AT&T hasn't so much agree to allow the the app but is simply profiting off of it. If Apple allowed background processes as a norm, apps like this would be common (if approved). What exactly did AT&T agree to? It not like this app would send more than a tiny amount of data to update the user coordinates.

Though I believe it should be up to the user, it is up to Apple, not AT&T to agree to allow such a trivial app to run, back or foreground. AT&T just found a way to revert back to the days of carrier approved and provided apps, at an outrageous price. I wonder how much of a cut apple is getting.

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post #31 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"Because Apple's iPhone doesn't yet support background processing for third-party apps, Loopt ordinarily only knows where you are when you're actively pinging its servers," the report states. "That's not as useful. (And a limitation Loopt doesn't have to deal with on other platforms.) But that's changing via this new deal.

If, as we all know it is, this is a problem specific to the iPhone and other platforms can track a users location in the background, then isn't ATT just taking advantage of iPhone users by charging them extra to use a service that users of other platforms get for free? Seems a little unfair to me. \
post #32 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synotic View Post

From what I understand, this is an agreement between AT&T and Loopt to forward location information from its user (if they opt-in) to Loopt directly. While the app will use this information, it's not actively involved in actually pulling data while the app isn't running. So this service isn't related to the iPhone application.

I think you may have been one of the few who actually read the whole thing. This is more of a service running to connect you to Loopt even when you are not using the App, hence the charge for the service. AT&T or Loopt or whoever is enabling a 3rd party service to complement the App. Without doing this...it would not work...because iPhones do not allow programs to run in the background...so all this stuff about App aprovals really have nothing to do with this particular news.
post #33 of 46
I like my iPhone a lot, but don't get Apples take on not allowing apps to run in the background. All they need to do is make it clear running background apps will drain the battery, so people can't complain, but give users that option. If I decide to run bckgnd apps and my (anyones) battery dies faster, then I have myself to blame, but I am in control of my phone. A lot of users use the phone while connected to a computer or charger and when not conncted it's just a risk we take. But empower us to make up our own minds and use something we paid for as we want. If you run your cars a/c all day in summer and run low on gas, you don't complain about the car, it's understood that it's a consequence of running the a/c all day - drains gas faster. Treat us like adults Apple, and allow bkgnd apps if we want. To me, it makes 'em look bad.
post #34 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by r00fus View Post

I'm not sure whether it's just unethical or illegal, but I don't like the practice of AT&T being a gatekeeper on this kind of activity.

They're not being a gatekeeper. AT&T and Loopt entered into a unique data sharing agreement that forwards AT&T's location information to Loopt. This requires infrastructure and resources on AT&T's part. Whether its value is worth it or not is up to you.

The article is perfectly clear but the title is misleading. What's happened here is similar to if Google entered an agreement to let users relay their voice messages to Google, which could then be accessed via an iPhone app, or anything else. There are no background processes or privileged apps here.
post #35 of 46
You got to hand it to AT&T, they know how to make money even if it's on the back of iPhone users.
post #36 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by mesomorphicman View Post

I like my iPhone a lot, but don't get Apples take on not allowing apps to run in the background. All they need to do is make it clear running background apps will drain the battery, so people can't complain, but give users that option. If I decide to run bckgnd apps and my (anyones) battery dies faster, then I have myself to blame, but I am in control of my phone. A lot of users use the phone while connected to a computer or charger and when not conncted it's just a risk we take. But empower us to make up our own minds and use something we paid for as we want. If you run your cars a/c all day in summer and run low on gas, you don't complain about the car, it's understood that it's a consequence of running the a/c all day - drains gas faster. Treat us like adults Apple, and allow bkgnd apps if we want. To me, it makes 'em look bad.

While logical and true, the fact is that that's why Windows computers have a bad reputation and Macs have a good one. Give the users control of the details, and while the educated consumer might blame themselves for any problems, the uneducated masses will never understand why their iPhone sucks.

If Apple was struggling with phones, then you could say sure, they're idiots for not doing it. But as it is, the market is telling Apple it is doing EVERYTHING right, so why would Apple second guess itself?
post #37 of 46
People will pay extra money just to have more prying eyes on them. Might as well have a sign that says, "Slavery - SIgn Up Here."
post #38 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by latafairam View Post

Will the FBI and the police also be notified of my whereabouts?

Maybe...
post #39 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by latafairam View Post

Will the FBI and the police also be notified of my whereabouts?

We know where you are, who you are with and what you are doing to that stuffed chicken. You should be ashamed of yourself. Come out with you hands up and we might go easy on you..
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post #40 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by alansky View Post

And this capability is for who exactly? Serial stalkers?

Well, to answer a flip question seriously, I could use it with my wife. Often I have been held up at work and I wonder--is she close enough to pick up the kids? If I knew her location I could avoid calling her if she was still at work or already home. Or if I remembered something left off the grocery list, I could tell if she was already on her way home or still in the store.
I can think of dozens of little situations like this. Most could be solved with a phone call but sometimes it is not convenient (like when she is still at work) but also, who isn't tired of the "are you almost home?" check in phone calls...

Quote:
Originally Posted by latafairam View Post

Will the FBI and the police also be notified of my whereabouts?

If you think they need this service to track your location, then I hope you are not going to try to make a living off of breaking the law...
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