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

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 45
    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.
  • Reply 1 of 45
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


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



    "led"



    (Apologies for a nitpicky second post).
  • Reply 3 of 45
    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...
  • Reply 4 of 45
    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?
  • Reply 5 of 45
    Is it just me, or did AT&T just get done telling the FCC that it had no role in approving iPhone applications?
  • Reply 6 of 45
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 45
    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?
  • Reply 8 of 45
    And this capability is for who exactly? Serial stalkers?
  • Reply 9 of 45
    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?
  • Reply 10 of 45
    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!
  • Reply 11 of 45
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 45
    Will the FBI and the police also be notified of my whereabouts?
  • Reply 13 of 45
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 45
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 45
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,530member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 45
    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......
  • Reply 17 of 45
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 45
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 45
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    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."
  • Reply 20 of 45
    wingswings Posts: 261member
    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.
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