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A-GPS and Verizon VZ Navigator
has been helping spread the GPS-is-hot message with its generally well regarded service. One major downside to this though is that it is spreading confusion in consumers minds as to the GPS capabilities of the current generation of cell phones. "Oh I have GPS on my new phone" is something I often hear from friends and customers. What they don't realize is that although these phone do have a GPS chip in them, they rely on being within the cell phone network, because it is their network provider's processing servers that do the actual location calculation.

It's called Assisted GPS, or A-GPS. The phone receives signals from the GPS satellites just like a true GPS receiver, but the phone forwards them to an "assistance server" on the network to perform the triangulation calculation based on the timing information in the signals. If you are out in the boonies, skiing or hiking or whatever, the GPS capability of the phone will not function.

On the plus side, when you are in civilization the cell towers in the network themselves help pinpoint your position, which compensates for you being in an "urban canyon" with reduced satellite visibility, resulting sometimes in a faster and more accurate position than a true GPS might be able to manage.

See for a more detailed explanation.

has a number of phones with true GPS capabilities in its Nextel and Boost brands, and you can also use separate Bluetooth GPS receivers with Windows and Palm-based smartphones and on some phones with Java.

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Mountain Dynamics Inc. is not affiliated with some of the ski resorts mentioned herein.
SnowRanger and SnowRanger Uplink are trademarks of Mountain Dynamics Inc.
Garmin is a registered trademark of Garmin Ltd.
Magellan is a registered trademark of Magellan Navigation, Inc.
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