07-26-2009 08:27 PM
I was recently told by a developer that Verizon locks out the GPS functionality for the Storm for third-party developers. Does anyone know if there any hope of this being changed?
Since I got my Storm 6 months ago, I have been on a quest to find an app that does topographic maps on the Storm under Verizon. I know people who have iPhones and use an app called MotionX that works beautifully, giving them topo maps that can be cached so they even work when outside of cell phone range. This is what I need to find my location when I’m in the wilderness.
Here’s a summary of what I’ve tried so far:
1) The “Maps” app that comes with the Storm only shows streets, not topographic maps. It also will NOT display the latitude and longitude coordinates, and does not work at all when outside the cell phone coverage area.
2) Trimble Outdoors costs $40 per year, compared with a flat-fee of $10 for MotionX on the iPhone. Trimble Outdoors actually works pretty well – but dies as soon as you leave cell phone range. The company claims that you can use its Adventure Outdoors PC-based app to plan your trips in advance, and use these maps when you are out of cell phone range. I can create maps using Adventure Outdoors and download them to the Storm, but the maps become unavailable so I’m still out of luck when I’m out of cell phone range.
3) BlackStar is a simple app that shows latitude & longitude coordinates, as well as speed and elevation (but not topo maps). When there is a strong cell phone signal, sometimes it works well. When the signal is weaker, it seems to give coordinates and elevation that are inaccurate. When out of cell phone range, it does not work at all.
4) TopoExplorer claims to work even when you are out of cell phone range. It is “free” but requires users to purchase a map pack to be useful. I paid $29 for a Washington State map pack. It did NOT work because this app fails to get a GPS fix, under all conditions. After wasting 40 hours on this problem, the developer finally confessed that this app does not work with the Storm under Verizon, because Verizon “locks out the GPS for third-party developers”. The developer is based in Hong Kong, and they say it works fine on the Storm, using a different carrier (not Verizon).
At this point, I can try waiting for Verizon to finally start carrying the iPhone (perhaps next year??) – but I worry that Verizon will then turn around and do the same thing to the iPhone (disable the GPS for third-party apps). I’d switch to AT&T and iPhone now, but my family is on Verizon, so I’m stuck.
Can anyone offer any hope?
07-27-2009 03:12 PM
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07-27-2009 04:21 PM
Oh yeah - I should have mentioned, I called Verizon, and they finally admitted that they lock out the GPS for third party developers (which is contrary to what they said when I called a few months ago). They said I should call RIM's BlackBerry support to find out how they might be able to get around the problem. When I called BB support, I got a phone message saying I would need to have my credit card ready for a pay-per-incident fee. Aargh! So I decided I'd get onto this forum in hopes that someone (maybe even a RIM person) might have some further info.
It would seem that the application developers should be responsible for researching such conflicts, and for reporting the details to their customers. But the developers of TopoExplorer and Trimble Outdoors have been very slow to even admit there are problems with Verizon, and they offer no further help.
Anyone out there know if there's a way to get past the locked-out GPS, or if there's a way to send an email to BlackBerry Support without having to pay?
07-27-2009 08:25 PM
The Storm is the only BB that Verizon does not disable GPS on. Make sure that your GPS has the "location on" setting active and not the "911 only" in the Options menu.
When I got my Storm I asked the Verizon employee about the GPS and if it could be used as a stand alone GPS unit, he said, "only with VZnavigator", the manager corrected him and said that the Storm does in fact have an unlocked GPS.
It pinpoints my location to within 3 meters with Google Maps, a free download. I have not yet purchased a topo map for it.
07-29-2009 10:26 AM - edited 07-29-2009 10:38 AM
The "Maps" application that comes with the Storm seems to work fine for me too - but only when I'm in cell phone range. Is this the same as the "Google Maps" application you refer to? The title of the app does not mention Google, but the "About" screen mentions Google, Tele Atlas, IGN France, etc.
My quest is to find a 3rd-party app that can get the built-in GPS signal from satellites, even when I'm in the wilderness outside of cell phone range. (Please see my first message for a detailed history of all the apps I have tried.) And yes, I have the GPS options set to "Location On". I have also tried enabling and disabling the "Location Aiding" option.
I have called Verizon numerous times over the past 6 months, and they have finally admitted that they lock out the GPS signal for third party apps. I think this means the stand-alone GPS signal, since cell-tower-assisted GPS seems to work OK.
Verizon told me to call BlackBerry support to see if they could unlock it, but RIM wants to charge my credit card before they will even talk to me.
Does anyone know if there's a way to ask a question to RIM without getting charged for it?
07-29-2009 12:21 PM
Blackberry Maps that comes on the phone and Google Maps are not the same. Google Maps is a third party app that you must download. I am not sure if Blackberry App world has it I got mine from Google mobile. Google Maps is not a topo map like what is available on most GPS units, it is primarily streets and roads, but also has a sat view, and will pinpoint your location based on GPS sat.signals.
The Storm, even on VZW network, can be used as a stand-alone GPS unit, it will access the sats. You need the third party map app to render your location. Either a free app like Google Maps, or paid one, Trimble, GPSed, as well as VZNavigator, they are all a pay by the month service.
Google Maps is free, you can download it right from google: m.google.com/maps
If you, like me, are looking for a topo style map to be used on the Storm with all of the features of a handheld GPS unit the pickings are slim. I have not been able to find one that is suitable. But I don't believe that this can be blamed on Verizon, the app just isn't there to my knowledge.
Download Google Maps, turn off the radio in your phone so that it can't access the cell towers and then bring up Google Maps and see if it pinpoints your location, if it does, it's getting the info from the sats as it can't access the cell towers. It works on mine.
You can also do an internet search on BB Storm GPS and get all kinds of articles attesting to the fact the the GPS function in the Storm has not been disabled.
07-29-2009 02:44 PM - edited 07-29-2009 03:13 PM
Thanks for the detailed reply - you are beginning to shed some light on this problem! As it turns out, I had already installed Google Maps (duh!), but I forgot about it because it doesn't do topos.
I verified that it pinpoints my location nicely. At startup, it says "Loading..." then gives my location within a few seconds. But the plot thickens .... I went into the "Manage Networks" icon and unchecked the "Mobile Network" box. Is this the same method you used to turn off the cell phone signal?
So then I launched Google Maps again. Now, it says "Loading....", then a few seconds later it says "Data connection lost, retrying". It stays like that (I waited over 5 minutes in the sun with a clear view of the southern sky ... despite the 100 degree F temperature in Seattle today). No luck - it can't seem to get the GPS signal with the cell phone signal turned off. I verified that the Storm's GPS settings are "Device GPS" and "Location On". I also tried it with "Location aiding" set to "Enabled" and then to "Disabled", with same result.
It's starting to seem like there might be a GPS hardware issue with this phone. I'll call Verizon again, but based on the inconsistent information they've given me in the past, I'm not too hopeful.
If you could be so kind, please verify that you also used the "Manage Networks" icon to uncheck the "Mobile Network" box? Or is there another setting somewhere?
Also, it's a shame that when Google Maps is working, it doesn't seem to want to divulge the latitude and longitude coordinates. If it did that, and if I could get it to work out of cell phone range, I could use it in conjunction with a printed topo map when I'm in the wilderness. Crude, but better than nothing. There are some situations where I can do this with BlackStar when cell coverage is too weak to use Trimble Outdoors. But when I'm totally out of the cell network, BlackStar also fails.
Thanks again for your help, and for any additional suggestions you can provide!
P.S. I'm re-editing this message with late-breaking news: I just called Verizon, and they are as puzzled as I am. They suggested I contact Google. This person did say that Verizon does indeed disable GPS for most third-party apps .... but Verizon has enabled GPS for some apps (like Google Maps) once they are sure everything is OK. That would explain why TopoExplorer doesn't work through Verizon.
07-29-2009 05:27 PM - edited 07-29-2009 05:28 PM
I am sure you tried this but it's worth posting anyways. My GPS had been working fine with Google maps and Garmin and then yesterday when driving home it would not find a signal(Garmin) just kept telling me it was searching for satellites. I thought it was odd but blew it off, I didn't really need the use of a gps at that time, I was just playing around.
Well tried again this morning. Stood outside for 8 minutes with Gramin running, still searching for satellites. Hmm, tried Google maps, same thing. What the heck! Ok, I thought I'll run Quickpull and see if that helps. Nope, still same problem. Then I thought why not actually take the battery out. So I did, pulled it out while the phone was on. Left it out for about 4 minutes. Put it back and an poof, Garmin and google both find satellites right away.
Maybe it's not your problem, but it couldn't hurt if you haven't tried it.
07-29-2009 05:27 PM
Yes, manage networks and uncheck mobile network, I get the same message, data connection lost, retrying. But after about 2 minutes the little blue dot starts flashing at my location. The way that I read it the blue dot flashes at your location when getting the info from the sats. If it is just getting the info from the cell towers it has a blue circle around the dot. For example, if I use it inside the house where it can't read the sats, I get a blue dot with a large blue circle around it and a message saying, your location within 3100 meters. When I go outside the blue circle disappears and the message says your location within 3 meters.
Maybe I'm wrong, I have yet to test it out in the boonies.
Yeah, I wish it had lat, long, and a compass. Hopefully someone will write an app that works.
07-29-2009 07:25 PM
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I tried the battery trick - no improvement. In fact, now Google Maps is acting whacky even with the phone network turned on. Sometimes it puts me out in the middle of Puget Sound. Other times, it gives me my approximate location, but only to 2500 meters (with the infamous blue circle and blinking dot). I'm going to have to play with that some more. And still no luck with the mobile network turned off.
I had another interesting conversation with Trimble Outdoors support. They say that their software should give me my latitude and longitude coordinates even when I'm out of cell phone range. And if I download maps in advance when I'm in cell phone range, it should be able to show me my location on those maps even when I'm out of range. It doesn't do that ... but it would be really cool if it did.
At this point, after 6 months of banging my head against the wall, I'm about ready to give up and move to AT&T and iPhone. The amount of time I've spent on this has been unbelievable. Feels like some kind of addition - like gambling -- ooh, if I just spend another 3 or 4 hours on the problem, maybe I'll solve it! I'm beginning to understand where the term "CrackBerry" comes from - but it's not a positive addiction for me.
But anyway, thanks again for the ideas. If anyone thinks of anything else to try, please let me know.
In the meantime, JPD217, I'd be interested to hear if you have tried BlackStar. It's free and on the AppWorld site. It's a very simple app designed to just give your latitude, longitude, elevation, heading and speed. For me, it works great when cell coverage is strong, unpredictably when cell coverage is weak, and not at all when outside cell coverage area.