Thursday, July 23, 2009

Initial thoughts on Google Latitude for iPhone

I had heard about Google Latitude awhile back and wanted to try it out, but alas it didn't support the iPhone.  That is until today!  The Google Mobile Blog today announced support for the iPhone so of course I had to try it out.

As they highlight in the blog, this is not an app but rather a web-app you access in Safari.  Apparently Apple didn't want to confuse users with a new Google Maps type of app when there is already the native Maps app.  Since keeps things simple, but the downside is it apparently only can update your location when you are actually running Safari on the site as it can't run in the background.  That is awfully limiting and I'd think its fatal flaw, but we'll see.

When I first pointed Safari at the app, it came up with a login form to log in to my Google account and, whoa, what just happened?  Suddenly Safari disappears and I'm back at the iPhone home screen.  This is the first outright crash of Safari on the iPhone I recall.

So, I try it again and this time there is no crash and I'm able to login.  Along the way though I'm asked to allow using my location no fewer than three times which seems a little much.  Oddly, getting all the way out of Safari, and running it again it only asked me once.

In any case, it tells me I have a friend request (I'd gotten that far when I tried to look at it awhile back) so I accept it and then go to try to add more friends myself.  It lets me scroll through my address book, but oddly the app has a floating menu bar at the bottom that it has to try to reposition while scrolling and the scrolling is much jumpier and frankly annoying than the scrolling in any other app I've seen on the iPhone.

Another first, and potential flaw, is that while I am inside and thus GPS assist isn't working, the location it has for me using its triangulation method isn't accurate, and in fact my actual location is about 400 meters outside the displayed accuracy circle.  I'm sure it probably has something to do with my specific location and isn't a widespread problem, but I swear before the OS 3.0 upgrade in the same situation Maps was more accurate.  And Maps is consistent so it isn't unique to Latitude.

In summary, great idea, but a few rough edges, particularly having to have Safari on the app in the foreground for it to work, probably make it more toy than genuinely useful app.  Have you tried it?  What do you think?  Your comments are welcome.

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