Technically speaking, there are a few ways to turn a cellular phone into a device that has GPS capabilities. The first is using an additional GPS receiver module. This can be either wired or wireless. Then you also need to sign up for a subscription-based plan for these GPS “services” with your network operator. This was one of the earlier attempts and it worked with phones that were not designed for GPS usage.
There were two drawbacks to this solution: the first was network dependency (GPRS data transfer), while the second was its monthly plan. Simply put, you were depending on the service of your network carrier and, thus, network coverage was required, and we all know that this is trickier in some areas; but with traditional GPS devices, absolute and ubiquitous worldwide coverage is provided.
Second, GPS facilities should be free. That’s the way they were designed, so we all should be able to benefit and take advantage of this global system monitoring without paying a cent. Yes, but in this case, you were paying for your network operator to support you with the required information.
The second way to hook up a non-GPS designed phone with these capabilities could be done entirely through software. This means that you purchase and acquire the software suite or package that contains the maps for the required zones (i.e. Europe, North American, etc.). Furthermore, you’re going to need the additional GPS receiver module here too. And then you are all hooked up.
The aforementioned strategy is more cost-effective in the long run and much more reliable. Your GPS facilities won’t be network dependent and you won't pay for any further subscriptions or new plans with your carrier. The “maps” are in storage.
Neither of these two methods offered sufficient portability. If portability is a must, and in this article that’s the subject we are tackling, then we must talk about the add-ons that were designed by phone manufacturers to enhance their previous releases. However, we must not confuse these with the already integrated GPS-based solutions, which we are going to cover later on. These are just workarounds.
Back in early 2005, Nokia released the Xpress-on GPS shell as well as LAM-1, which was an additional module. With the latter, another extra antenna (a bit longer) was given to increase signal catching efficiency. With these kits, you could easily turn your Nokia 9210 phones, and other alternatives, into a handheld portable GPS gadget.
Going on this same track, Sony Ericsson also launched a new line of GPS Enablers, as they called it, specifically the HGE-100. It was compatible with their K530i lines, but ultimately the “supported list of models” was thoroughly expanded. Check it out below!
Nevertheless, the time has come for us to talk about native GPS-integrated cell phones. As soon as the cost of GPS chips went down and incorporating them into mobile phones became feasible, several companies adopted this path. Lots of the already popular and respectable manufacturers of handheld and car GPS devices launched “GPS Phone” models too, such as Mio A701 and Pharos GPS Phone.
Moreover, the most important criteria can be narrowed down to absolute ubiquity (worldwide) without paying for a network operator. You see, I for one don’t like the notion of paying for a network carrier just because they have a large server that handles the requests of hundreds of people and delivers “turn-by-turn” based directions when this is possible for anyone with the right tools.
Last, but definitely not least, a rather interesting attempt is currently being made by a company called Blue Sky Positioning. Their goal is to incorporate a fully functional GPS receiver into the obsolete mobile phone SIM card. They have various patents for how they are planning to accomplish this, and apparently this GPS-incorporated SIM card would cost around 8€. Once this is done, it would benefit GSM users who want GPS capabilities without having to upgrade their phones!
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