Developers of location-aware applications are shying from creating apps for the Palm WebOS or Symbian platforms, according to a survey conducted by Skyhook Wireless, provider of the hybrid location system XPS.
The survey found that the respondents’ primary application development environments included iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, J2ME and Symbian. While Symbian remains a strong source of application innovation in general, the survey found that those developers wishing to create location-aware applications are staying away from that platform.
The report states that “despite Palm and Nokia’s best efforts to lure developers with the Pre and Web OS and Nokia’s Ovi Store, very few developers intend to port to these platforms.”
Skyhook notes that only a few years ago, location was most widely used in navigation applications. However, today developers are implementing location in an increasingly varied set of situations. The report cites developers using location in 21 different types of applications, ranging from education to entertainment, finance and music.
The report also looked at the level of accuracy required by developers. Seventy-three percent of respondents’ applications require exact location. Neighborhood level positioning is required by another 19 percent. Very few want a broader city- (3 percent) or country-level (5 percent) approximation.
Similarly, 73 percent of developers agree that very fast location results are important to their application’s performance. “As developers make plans for investing in new platforms, location capabilities play a big role in their decision criteria,” said Kate Imbach, director of marketing and developer programs at Skyhook Wireless.
More than half (56 percent) of respondents will port their applications to other platforms. Fifty-eight percent of non-Android developers plan to port to that platform, while 40 percent of non-iPhone developers plan to port their application to the iPhone.
However, regardless of which OS the developer chooses, consistent accuracy may be a few years off. The accuracy of phone-based location technologies has suffered due to an array of challenges, including urban clutter and satellite availability. Most applications use back-up technologies such as Wi-Fi triangulation and Assisted-GPS (AGPS) when pure GPS fails. However, those technologies can be significantly less accurate.
“There’s been a fair amount of disappointment in the performance of these location technologies, particularly in the more challenging environments,” says Nigel Wright, vice president of wireless product marketing for Spirent Communications, a company heavily vested in developing standards to increase the accuracy of the LBS and A-GPS technologies.