Google Latitude on iPhone and UK T-Mobile G1

by Ben Smith on 24th July 2009

Two Google Latitude stories in one day?  It’s a blogger’s dream… Brace yourselves….  The occasionally-controversial social location sharing service is now available on two new handsets – one by design and the other… Well, read on.

Latitude on iPhone

Latitude's now on the iPhone, but not in Google Maps... do try to keep up.

The big Latitude news today is that Google’s added support for the iPhone… it’s horribly crippled by the need to leave a web page open as it’s not built into the  Google Maps application.  Good for the occasional ‘check in’ but not the continuous tracking offered previously on Blackberry, Nokia and Android platforms which support the requisite background processing.

In the comments on Google’s blog post there’s much whining speculation about why Apple seems reluctant to let Google include Latitude as standard on iPhone and iPods, but no one seems (to me) to be getting it right…

A far more likely reason (and wait for this – it’s a brilliant segue) is that they share T-Mobile UK’s concerns about building location tracking natively into a device.

Latitude on UK un-hacked G1

Googl Latitude on the G1 - no longer a passing thing.

[wavy lines... queue story 2]

It’s been a source of some frustration that whilst other Android devices have had it for some time – and it appeared and then vanished for me – that  T-Mobile UK G1 users have not had Latitude enabled without hacking, rooting and other unofficial naughtyness.  However, today Russell Heiling explained to me on Twitter how to enable Latitude on a UK T-Mobile G1 without all that messing around – install the Google Maps version 3.1 available from the Android Marketplace which includes Latitude, but oddly isn’t offered as an automatic update to T-Mobile device users.

He also pointed me to his blog where he’s documented a much more reasonable analysis of the likely problem: T-Mobile (and Apple, probably) are concerned about: that Latitude does not meet the standards set out in the ‘Industry Code of Practice For the use of mobile phone technology to provide passive location services in the UK’.

He quotes discussion on the Google Mobile support forum where GerardK gives the key passages:

They’re probably afraid that because this software is integrated with the phone that it is classified as being provided by the network operator rather than a 3rd party and it requires the implementation of some things that Latitude probably doesn’t do yet, including…

  1. Random notifications to subscribers by SMS that their location is monitored
  2. Provide information on how to contact the location service provider’s customer support service by phone (yep that’s right, Google’s phone number)
  3. Provide a link to the code of practice
  4. Comply with the Data Protection Act and the Regulations of Privacy and Electronic Communication

…and in another thread this appears to be confirmed by Google employee ‘Christopher’, suggesting T-Mobile and Google are co-operating on developing a solution that is compliant with the code (which should also answer some other critics), but no dates or details are ready for release yet.

This does, as GerardK notes, raise the question as to why Vodafone felt Latitude was acceptable built-in from launch on the HTC Magic, but it may just be their legal advisors took a different view on the status of the feature.

Regardless, massive thanks to Russell for his excellent advice and research.  I’m now happy and Latitude-enabled, so DM me (I’m @bensmithuk) or drop me a line via my on-line business card thingy if you’d like to become reciprocal stalkers.

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