Google navigates Latitude for iPhone around background limits

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Google has released a web app version of Latitude for the iPhone, enabling users to both share their location with friends and view a live map showing their friends' location.



In announcing the new app on its mobile blog, Google made it clear that the iPhone version was limited by Apple's restrictions for third party apps in a number of respects.



First of all, the blog noted that Apple suggested that Google release Latitude as a web application rather than a native title in the App Store to avoid confusion with the Maps application. Apple may be planning to add Latitude location sharing features to Maps in the future, but of course has announced no plans to do so.



Background location reporting

The biggest limitation facing the new app, however, is Apple's prohibition against installing third party background apps. This prevents Google from constantly updating the user's location automatically unless the Latitude app is running in the foreground.







On other mobile platforms, including Google's Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Window Mobile, Google runs a Latitude service in the background. Google does not currently offer a native Palm Pre/WebOS version, and Pre users report that the web version targeted toward the iPhone does not currently work correctly on that device.



In order to conserve battery life on these platforms when running in the background, Google currently only uses cellular tower or WiFi triangulation and not GPS. It also adapts to lower battery levels by sampling the phone's location less frequency. Google also warns that backgroun location updating "uses lots of data," noting that "an unlimited data plan is strongly recommended."



Not being able to run location updates in the background defeats much of the utility of Latitude, which is expressly designed to keep an updated tab on friends' current location. However, if Apple were to grant Latitude the right to do this, it would also be pressed to allow similar friend-tracking services, such as Loopt, to do the same thing in order to avoid accusations of unfair competition.



Apple maintains stance on prohibiting background apps

Outside of location updates, there nearly as many other reasons for developers to want to install background processes as there are iPhone apps. Even installing a few of these would result in regular battery drain on users' devices, in addition to the performance hit each might add, not to mention a steep increase in data access which would be particularly bad for users who roam internationally.



So far, Apple has insisted that dropping the ban would result in unacceptable tradeoffs. Rather than exploring options to enable background processes, Apple has instead instituted a push notification system that allows developers to ping users when updated information is available, enabling users to launch the app in order to obtain the new information.



That solution doesn't solve the core problem for Latitude however, which would prefer to stay open in the background in order to send location updates rather to receive new data. However, Apple's own Find My iPhone tool already allows users to obtain a location fix on their own phone; Apple could enable users to authorize third party apps to obtain their location the same way. Doing so would still incur some new demands on battery, processing, and network data use.



There already have been demonstration mashup web apps that log into MobileMe and regularly request the given user's location. Were Apple to enable it, this facility could be used to allow users to regularly report their iPhone's location to services such as Latitude or Loopt. However, liberally sharing GPS location tracking is a sensitive area already limited by legislation, so any such system would require full disclosure and adequate security to prevent spyware or other legal liabilities from popping up.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    oc4theooc4theo Posts: 294member
    Don't want anyone to know where I am. I tell you where I am at any moment, if I want you to know. It is already bad enough that the phone company and the big brother can use your phone to determine where you are. Don't want anyone to spy on me.



    I can already see lovers fighting over this. Can you imagine your girlfriend or worst your wife, waiting for you at the motel parking lot when your stupid was fooling around with another woman, just because you were dumb enough to install Latitude on your iPhone.



    How about your lying ass getting fired from work because you are at the beach when you are supposed to be at home sick like a dog?



    I won't install it in my phone even if Google is giving out a fat check. No way, it's just plain stupid. You might as well hang yourself.
  • Reply 2 of 18
    I love Google's innovations, but I can't help thinking the potential abuses on this one are just too great... Casual invasion of privacy by parents who demand the app's installation? Stealthy installation of the app by future obsessive ex-boyfriends? Out and out hacking?



    Then again, this would have saved that San Francisco technology columnist that died from exposure--I'm sorry, I forget his name.



    It will certainly be interesting to see how the pro's and con's develop.
  • Reply 3 of 18
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,234member
    oh bollox. I was just building an app like that grrrrrrr asolutely no point in continuing it now
  • Reply 4 of 18
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    oh bollox. I was just building an app like that grrrrrrr asolutely no point in continuing it now





    Yeah me too. Where's my crack dealer.app
  • Reply 5 of 18
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member
    Hopefully Apple will add background app support in OS 4.0 and all these silly hacks will go away.
  • Reply 6 of 18
    elliots11elliots11 Posts: 288member
    I sometimes can't play BClassicLite while listening to MP3's without the mp3's stuttering. I can't remember if the app slows down for sure, but I think it does. This is on a 3G. The game is basically brick breaker, it's not resource intensive. Plus maps is super slow, even when just running on its own.



    I don't know if early iPhones are powerful enough to do background apps. Maybe the 3GS is, but I don't get what kind of processor power these other platforms must have to be able to pull this off.
  • Reply 7 of 18
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by elliots11 View Post


    I don't know if early iPhones are powerful enough to do background apps. Maybe the 3GS is, but I don't get what kind of processor power these other platforms must have to be able to pull this off.



    Symbian has been able to handle multitasking since before it was even called Symbian. The Psion organizers ran on a 16Mhz CPU and a set of AA batteries. Pocket PC has done it since 2002 as well. The only "traditional" handheld platform that couldn't multitask was Palm OS - and it was consistently criticized for it.



    The original iPhone is powerful enough to run apps in the background. The only difficulties are providing a power-efficient way to handle background tasks (relatively simple on any *nix-based OS) and how to vet apps for the App Store.
  • Reply 8 of 18
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,234member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    Yeah me too. Where's my crack dealer.app



    If you are insinuating that I'm on crack and making that up please grow up. Otherwise my apologies I have wasted a whole week and im a bit grumpy today.
  • Reply 9 of 18
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RichL View Post


    Hopefully Apple will add background app support in OS 4.0 and all these silly hacks will go away.



    I wouldn't expect background apps to appear until Apple releases an iPhone with significantly better battery life than the current models.
  • Reply 10 of 18
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by OC4Theo View Post


    Don't want anyone to know where I am. I tell you where I am at any moment, if I want you to know. It is already bad enough that the phone company and the big brother can use your phone to determine where you are. Don't want anyone to spy on me.



    I can already see lovers fighting over this. Can you imagine your girlfriend or worst your wife, waiting for you at the motel parking lot when your stupid was fooling around with another woman, just because you were dumb enough to install Latitude on your iPhone.



    How about your lying ass getting fired from work because you are at the beach when you are supposed to be at home sick like a dog?



    I won't install it in my phone even if Google is giving out a fat check. No way, it's just plain stupid. You might as well hang yourself.



    Seriously? ha ha ha - oh wait you really were serious, let me laugh harder - HA HA HA.



    If you are doing something that you do not want to be caught doing and you are dumb enough to A install an app that shows your location and B share that information with those who you do not want finding you and C take that device/app with you when you go - then you deserve to be caught.



    Now I suppose there may be some way to compromise the security - but it sounds to me like you get to pick and choose with whom you share the information - meaning that installing this app would not automatically give everyone in the world - or even everyone in your contact list - automatic access to the data.



    Also - do you think that no one has ever been caught being somewhere or doing something other that where they should have been before this technology? Sure this might make it easier - sort of like the electronic tracking of criminals that can monitor where and when they move around to check if they are violating parole - perhaps that is what some folks are thinking that the technology will be used to assume that we are all misbehaving and only by virtue of a tattle tale device will we be kept in line. As with just about any technology - the tech itself is neither inherently a benefit or a detriment - but rather in how it is used.



    Imagine a concerned parent checking to make sure their kid is somewhere safe if the don't make it home on time - or maybe a new commercial - help me, I've fallen and can't get to my cell phone. Might some interesting uses if you could have it take a picture of where you are and upload that - might help find someone who is lost or unconscious for example.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by OC4Theo View Post


    Don't want anyone to know where I am. I tell you where I am at any moment, if I want you to know. It is already bad enough that the phone company and the big brother can use your phone to determine where you are. Don't want anyone to spy on me.



    I can already see lovers fighting over this. Can you imagine your girlfriend or worst your wife, waiting for you at the motel parking lot when your stupid was fooling around with another woman, just because you were dumb enough to install Latitude on your iPhone.



    How about your lying ass getting fired from work because you are at the beach when you are supposed to be at home sick like a dog?



    I won't install it in my phone even if Google is giving out a fat check. No way, it's just plain stupid. You might as well hang yourself.



    You might do better to provide some examples where it would be bad for at least somewhat honest people. It's hard to have pity on the Governor Sanford types.



    Google isn't the first company to have a location sharing app/service for the iPhone. Apple showed off one company's location sharing app when they introduced the SDK, I think it was called Loopt. I am sure there are several others.
  • Reply 12 of 18
    walshbjwalshbj Posts: 864member
    I can't even begin to understand the arguments about invasion of privacy. You don't want to share? Turn it off. It's pretty simple.



    There's room for a small argument about kids being forced to use this. But that's a much more complex issue than the availability of this technology. And like everything else, kids who want to deceive you can work around this. Managing kids takes a lot more than Google Latitude.



    I'm still hoping that a future firmware update makes changes to Google Maps to allow this to run in the background. I'm wondering if that could present a problem to Apple: Allowing their sometimes-cozy partner Google to have background access, like Mail, that other app publishers don't have.
  • Reply 13 of 18
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    If you are insinuating that I'm on crack and making that up please grow up. Otherwise my apologies I have wasted a whole week and im a bit grumpy today.





    No insinuation intended, that was the joke around the office when I told people what i was working on. We were just brain storming on what people might use it for. But because of the same issue of no background apps I gave up on it anyway.
  • Reply 14 of 18
    dancdanc Posts: 3member
    I hope Apple will allow background transmission of coordinates at least exceptionally in the case of google's Latitude. If used judiciously (the gps sampling rate in the order of minutes (5-10?)), the battery impact should be small. Also, the data traffic is not a lot (gps coordinates take so very little space that this is a non-issue for GB data plans).

    Latitude (properly working) would be one of my favourite apps. It was the promise of functionality like this that lured me into buying the second gen iphone. My wife and several friends have iphones and we would all turn the feature on between ourselves. Maybe it shouldn't but it would annoy me seeing all other smartphones being able to do it. I hope Apple is listening...
  • Reply 15 of 18
    the title of the article seems to imply that Google figured out a way to get around Apple's limitations and enable background updating of Latitude. Unless I'm missing something, this not the case.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    hezekiahbhezekiahb Posts: 448member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RichL View Post


    Symbian has been able to handle multitasking since before it was even called Symbian. The Psion organizers ran on a 16Mhz CPU and a set of AA batteries. Pocket PC has done it since 2002 as well. The only "traditional" handheld platform that couldn't multitask was Palm OS - and it was consistently criticized for it.



    The original iPhone is powerful enough to run apps in the background. The only difficulties are providing a power-efficient way to handle background tasks (relatively simple on any *nix-based OS) and how to vet apps for the App Store.



    I thought the push service was designed specifically to try & help apps send & receive updates in the background without the app running. Is there no way for Google to take advantage of that?



    I setup Latitude on my BBerry & a buddy of mine is on it too. He's always bothering me about where I am, so I don't care to much to run it anymore.



    Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't someone release an App that already did what Latitude does way back at iPhone OS 1.0 release?
  • Reply 17 of 18
    filburtfilburt Posts: 398member
    I can't help but think that this feature is built-in to iPhone OS 3.0 already, in the form of "Find My iPhone" feature. It is probably locked to MobileMe subscription, without API access. It would be nice if it is opened to 3rd party though.



    In any case, Google Latitude highlights just how Google throws many many balls before hitting the strike zone.
  • Reply 18 of 18
    And it's out!
Sign In or Register to comment.