Trying out Bluetooth GPS on my Treo

September 17, 2007

I’ve been working on some software for my Treo to replace the Windows Mobile UI for a while now. I think marketing and executives ruined Windows Mobile, and operators like Verizon only multiple the problem with their annoying almost-functional software. The reason I liked the iPod was that it was simple.

Amidst hundreds of flashy, cumbersome and confusing MP3 players the iPod was born. This wonderful Apple device was so easy to use even dogs can use them (though it seems to make them a little fruity)…

Unfortunately Apple has joined the usual suspects and gone flashy with the new iPod Touch and iPhone. I think Apple will refine MultiTouch until the interface is simple and easy to use, but it might take a while. My point is that they didn’t get it on the first try like they did with the iPod, and their new sales figures prove that.

Back to my software, I think your mobile phone should simple know where you are if you have GPS. I don’t want to fiddle with settings and menus. I simply want my phone to know where I am. Is that asking too much? So far I’ve written the interface to the device and the background service. …Next I need to finish my mapping, directions and phonebook services. I’ve only done %5 of the total work, but the rest is http parsing and UI.

Right now most people will have to use an external GPS solution because cell phone carriers are criminals. However, external devices have at least one advantage; they use their own batteries so they won’t be draining your phone.

I chose the GPSlim240 and paid something like $120 for it about a year ago. You can buy one today at MWave for $79. I’ve already got my money out of this gadget, and it lived up to my expectations. That’s rare.

This unit tracks 20 satellites (normal but not great) for up to 8 hours under continuous use (much longer when used sporadically). It connects to your phone using Bluetooth, which is a really special (think small-bus) wireless networking technology. It’s not perfect, but it does exactly what I wanted it to and it’s smaller then I thought it would be. This is what it looks like…

I tethered mine on my keychain because it’s small, and my jeans aren’t going to stop satellite signals. It works well in my pocket and while my key is in the ignition. This is what it looks like while I’m driving…

Here’s a picture of what Microsoft’s cumbersome Live Search Maps program looks like…

I’ll probably blog more about the software I’m working on later. Right now I just wanted to show you the GPSlim240. Hopefully Microsoft will just fix their software before I finish my own, but I’m not holding my breath.

2 Responses to “Trying out Bluetooth GPS on my Treo”

  1. gus Says:

    Hi and thanks for the review. I have tried Live Search Mobile and think it is very nice to have, in my case I am using a Deluo Bluetooth GPS with my phone which is also a SiRF III GPS. I like Live Search and IMO the maps are a little bit more clear than Google Maps. Being both of them free is another good thing. How about your app? sounds interesting? Which maps will it use? oh, BTW it would also be nice to see a version of Live Search Mobile for the iPhone, the phone may have some issues but all in all it is a great device. Anyway, I think I will wait until the 2nd generation is released to get one.

  2. 8r13n Says:

    I think Google maps is the current standard. I prefer them because of their Mashups (real estate, businesses, web-cam maps, etc).

    I’ll probably use my “backdoor” technique (I’d explain that, but then I’d have to kill you). You’ll see when I release the source code.

    On the iPhone, I was worried the 2nd Gen iPhone could ruin my plans. …But now that it’s apparent Apple is going with the Closed-OS strategy I’m not worried. Who wants a phone that’s controlled by a corporation?

    I think the world needs a rad phone that’s totally unlocked and open-source. I realize others are working towards this same goal, but I think those projects need some real competition. The open-phones I’ve seen look like more of the same. It’s almost as if the open-phone projects are trying to copy the “corporate” phones.

    My current plan is to release the software for free and go the donation route. If no-one donates I’ll start charging a small fee for download bandwidth. I also want to sell kits and parts to build phones.

    My first phones will sport a Samsung 4.3″ touch-screen (480×272@24bit), sliding keyboard (with a big keystroke buffer so it can keep up), integrated USB Host, Ir, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, Quad-Band, Unlocked, 16GB hard drive, 128MB RAM, Intel 600MHz Marvell XScale CPU, etc.

    My phone’s motherboard supports CCD cameras (that’s what digital cameras use). Cell phones use CMOS cameras, that’s why they look like shit. I’m trying to find a nice tiny 5mp CCD camera, so far I haven’t been able to find any under $300.

    To be totally honest, this is a huge undertaking. Some people think I’m crazy for trying to do this, but I’ve been waiting for “the cellphone” for 13+ years now. I’m not waiting for the usual suspects anymore. They could easily build my phone but they won’t because it’d cost them money. Mine is designed FOR THE USER, not the carrier. For example, ALL communications happen on the data line whenever possible, the voice line is for emergency/roaming access. They won’t like that, but the calls will sound cleaner on VOIP (and VOIP has sweet free features like emailed-voicemails).

    I’ve already invested a year into this project and I don’t have a prototype yet. I may never finish it, but I’m learning a lot so I doubt I’ll regret these efforts.

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