Verizon Wireless to customers: GPS issue? What GPS issue? | webOS Nation
 
 

Verizon Wireless to customers: GPS issue? What GPS issue?

by Jonathan I Ezor#IM Tue, 14 Sep 2010 10:35 am EDT

As many within the PreCentral and broader webOS community know, I have been actively working with Verizon Wireless to try to resolve the longstanding, well-reported, and serious GPS problem with the Palm Pre Plus smartphones it has sold: Assisted GPS, the quickest way to get a fairly accurate fix, is (probably deliberately) limited so that it can only work with Verizon's for-pay Navigation software. When users don't have or wish to pay the $10/month for VZ Navigator, they must still launch the app as far as the splash screen (either manually or via James Harris' excellent GPS Fix app and patch) in order to wake the GPS for other location-enabled apps (Foursquare, Minimap, Twitter clients, Navit, YPMobile, etc.). This problem has existed since the launch of the Pre Plus on Verizon Wireless in January 2010, and has persisted through continued (and delayed) webOS updates, including last evening's 1.4.5.

The saga of my efforts to get a straight answer from Verizon and their MiniTrue-inspired final answer after the break.

My active efforts began in late May via a call and e-mail exchange with VZW's Executive Support team, and after no action for six weeks, I escalated in early July by copying VZW's CEO, Lowell C. McAdam, on an e-mail message. That led to a few weeks of back-and-forth e-mails and conversations with two more Exec support staffers, finally leading to a meeting with Verizon Wireless's local Data Solutions Manager, David Besemer on July 28th. At that meeting, I demonstrated the issue to Mr. Besemer, and even (at his request) traded my Pre Plus for a brand-new one so that he could return mine to Palm "for testing." Throughout this time, I at least felt I was making some progress, however slow, to justify my extensive time and effort spent.

A few more weeks went by without any follow-up by VZW until a conference call on August 25th, led by yet another VZW person, Bruce Simon. That call took a sharply negative turn, as Mr. Simon repeatedly claimed that Google Location (a software-based option within webOS that reports data to Google, and that does not provide the speed, altitude, and similar information available from the hardware GPS) was "acceptable to other customers." Mr. Simon also confirmed the VZ Navigator workaround, but stated that it was a "hole" that Verizon Wireless intended to close. At the close of the conversation, Mr. Simon requested that I write a memo to him with my summary of the call and that, before I posted anything publicly about the discussion, I give him and his colleagues a reasonable time to draft their own response. I agreed to do so, and offered to wait until Friday, September 10th for the reply.

In fact, the reply arrived late last night (September 14th). Here is the gist of their response:

Verizon Wireless admits that aGPS is limited on the Palm Pre Plus and their 'resolution' is a promise to offer Verizon-specific APIs instead of using the standard location services built into webOS.

Or, to be more detailed, here is how Mr. Simon puts it in the letter:

Both standalone GPS and assisted GPS (aGPS) are available from Verizon Wireless on the Palm Pre Plus, however, aGPS is only available in support of VZ Navigator. We are working on offering location APIs / LBS enablers for our developer community. Please check the http://developer.verizon.com for updates. Later this month at our VDC Conference 2010 event, we will be talking about these LBS/location enablers in detail. More information can be found at http://www.vdcconference.com/techtrack.html. Standalone GPS is available to support third-party applications. David Bessemer confirmed this availability in tests of Google Maps and Minimap; he conducted his test outdoors, with auto-locate turned off.

There are some other troublesome bits in the letter, but that's the key part.

As for me, I'm done trying to get this fixed. I appreciate the support I've gotten from the webOS user community, but I have two day jobs (outside of my freelancing here!) and a family, and can no longer waste any more of my time or energy on this failed attempt to 'collaborate' with Verizon Wireless. While I do not know (and will not speculate) whether the GPS issue is by accident or design1 , Verizon Wireless expressly refuses to acknowledge its existence in the face of overwhelming evidence. As for my own Pre Plus and Verizon Wireless account, I'll continue with both for now, because (other than the GPS issue) they're still my best choices for my needs. Your mileage (and decisions) may vary.

1. Ed note from Dieter: Jonathan is very generous in his restraint. I am compelled to suggest that readers looking to gauge whether this is a bug or an intentional decision by Verizon should note two things: that Verizon has a longtime practice of hobbling GPS and that aGPS works by default in webOS. I suspect it would take more work to break it than to leave it fully functional


Excerpts of some of my communications with Verizon can be downloaded at this PDF link. Here is Verizon Wireless' 9/14/10 response in full:

Dear Mr. Ezor:

Thank you for your feedback and for your patience in explaining your questions and allowing us to investigate the answers. As I now understand it, your basic concern is the availability of standalone GPS and assisted GPS (aGPS) on the Palm Pre Plus, particularly to support third party applications.

Both standalone GPS and assisted GPS (aGPS) are available from Verizon Wireless on the Palm Pre Plus, however, aGPS is only available in support of VZ Navigator. We are working on offering location APIs / LBS enablers for our developer community. Please check the http://developer.verizon.com for updates. Later this month at our VDC Conference 2010 event, we will be talking about these LBS/location enablers in detail. More information can be found at http://www.vdcconference.com/techtrack.html. Standalone GPS is available to support third-party applications. David Bessemer confirmed this availability in tests of Google Maps and Minimap; he conducted his test outdoors, with auto-locate turned off.

A secondary issue raised by your August 25, 2010 memorandum was the disclosure regarding aGPS and GPS on the Verizon Wireless website. At the time you wrote, the disclosure read “Assisted and Standalone GPS”. It seems that you may be reading that disclosure as “Assisted and Standalone GPS in support of third party applications”, however, the underlined language is not part of the advertising. While Verizon Wireless believes this reading is a stretch, we are in the process of removing the reference to “Assisted”.

We recognize you are disappointed with your experience with third-party applications and that you sought an explanation within the original 30-day Worry Free Guarantee return period. Because you first raised the issue during the 30-day Worry Free Guarantee return period, we will extend the Worry Free Guarantee return period to October 13, 2010. This will allow you the opportunity to return the Palm Pre Plus you purchased for a full refund (issued as a credit to your account) and a restoration of your equipment upgrade eligibility date. To take advantage of this offer, please return the phone, along with the battery and charger to the attention of Dory Kincaid at the following address by October 13, 2010:

Verizon Wireless
Executive Relations Department
3601 Converse Drive
Wilmington, NC 28403

If you have any further questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me at 908-626-8482. If you have any additional concerns regarding Verizon Wireless services please contact Customer Service at 800-922-0204.

Sincerely,

Bruce Simon

 

Category: