Home > gps, iPod, phone > Why iPod touch location awareness sucks

Why iPod touch location awareness sucks

One of the best features of the iPhone is its location awareness. Using Cell tower/WiFi proximity and now GPS with the iPhone 3G, it knows where it is and can use this information in a growing number of location aware applications. In theory the iPod Touch can do the same using only wireless access point data, but unless you live in a city the service is pretty hit and miss. I live in a reasonably sized UK town and my iTouch can’t tell where it is.

I recently found an article on macosxhints that explains how WiFi is used to calculate a location. Skyhook Wireless are the company that provides WiFi location data to Apple. Skyhook have employees driving around populated areas in cars fitted with WiFi access point scanners and location recording equipment. Once an access point’s MAC address has been logged this goes into a database, and when your iTouch or iPhone sees that access point (and has a wireless data connection so it can access the database) it knows roughly where it is. For the iPod touch that means you need a WiFi connection and a mapped access point nearby.

Wireless coverage can be checked at a page on the Skyhook Wireless site. My house is around half a mile fom the nearest mapped access point so location awareness doesn’t work in my house. To help fix this Skyhook allow you to submit your own location and wireless access point MAC address for inclusion in the database. I did this on 11th July so will provide an update if the service starts working.

The problem when this service doesn’t work is that none of the location aware application will work. Why doesn’t the iTouch allow you to manually specify your location? It can’t be that difficult to add a prompt for user input after a failed attempt at determining the location. This would at least allow use of the service for finding directions and location details. I guess the focus is all on iPhone at the moment and Apple want us to buy that device, but with rumors of an iPod Touch V2 coming soon I hope Apple will make the service work for us townies.

  1. Chris
    April 8, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Did Skyhook ever update your location when you submitted location and MAC address form?

  2. basshead
    April 15, 2009 at 7:23 am

    They did, I think it took about 3 weeks for my details to be added. I can now use any of the location aware services from home.

  3. Danuta Stephen
    August 15, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Apple should ask all iphone/i touch users to add their location and then maybe location services might start working on the itouch

  4. February 1, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    I hope you would not mind if I posted a part of this on my univeristy blog?

  5. Jim Wilkinson
    March 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    2 years later and now the v3 iPod Touch and still no way to manually set the location (grrr).

    It’s 6 weeks since I gave skyhook my wifi location and its not yet added. I live in a rural area and getting my location using just wifi is not realistic even if I do get Skyhook to register my router. The device software is so close to allowing manual setup using the maps software. Yet the geeks in Cupertino probably don’t understand real users needs so figure it’s not needed.

  6. Ed DeLay
    April 17, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I like wise have the same problem, but to top it off. I logged on line from a McDonald’s on their free wifi in my town in Alabama USA. The I-touch from that point on said I was in Los Angeles California. I take it that the Satellite connection to their corporate Headquarters is located out there and all the free McDonald’s wifi locations say they are out there. before I had logged in from a place in a town about 80 miles from home and it read i was there for a long time. This was better than Los Angeles Ca. as now I seem to be 2500 miles off target now. I guess I will have to wait till I can find a place nearer that skyhook has set up. I too registered my home access point several weeks ago and am hopping to find one day I am located at home. It does seem these apps could add a over ride to place your location in them where you don’t have to rely on the wifi points to be registered. Good luck with yours and here is hopping!

  7. Robyn
    July 28, 2010 at 5:44 am

    My location service has never worked. I have the latest OS and the location feature is turned on, but even when I’m sitting next to someone whose device sees the same networks as mine, and who doesn’t have a GPS either, my location cannot be determined. At least if you live in YT you can look forward to it working when you travel south. 😦

  8. GogeekGo
    October 14, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    After adding my location to Skyhooks website my IPOD would find my location…
    About 2 weeks ago (10/1/2010) my location is now unable to be located.

    My house and my router have not moved.

    or better yet..
    Why does Comcast Cable automatically work yet my Verizon DSL does not update the lists… Frustrated with Apple and their poor Location Service tools.

  9. January 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm


  10. March 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    3 years on and the ipod touch in its 4th generation still does not have a manual pin point of location services, as some suggested would be a good idea to incorporate into the device.

    In Australia McDonalds has free wifi (albeit slow – sometimes down to 1kbps) in which the location services works.

    Apple cannot be too innovative, as this may detract sales from the cash vows like iphone4, etc.

  11. M Elvey
    May 8, 2011 at 1:28 am

    I just drove through Oakland using google maps directions on my iPod touch and was amazed how accurate the location services were: both while going 65 on US-580, and later on surface streets, the tracking was great! I guess there’s a big database of Wi-Fi base station MAC addresses in my iPod.
    Often I have a MiFi with GPS on me but this time I didn’t. I had no WiFi connection and was shocked when I realized the iPod was tracking my location so well.

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  1. July 22, 2009 at 3:34 pm

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