xGPS: A Homebrew killer App

by postbreak

Ever since the introduction of the pseudo GPS functionality of the first generation iPhone owners have been clamoring at the idea of real GPS application. I remember watching a live feed of the iPhone 3G unveiling and when GPS was mentioned  my eyes lit up. Could this phone also be my navigation tool for long commutes? I’m going to take a look at xGPS and see if dedicated GPS devices are on the way out.

Before I get started I want to mention that xGPS’s license specifically states that the application should not be used by someone operating a vehicle. This is basically the same thing as a standard GPS device, you shouldn’t update your POI’s while driving, that should be done in a parking lot.

That said xGPS blows away the Maps application on standard iPhones. Instead of a map that moves around the screen while the blue dot moves in all sorts of directions, you finally get a map that rotates while you turn. That POI on the left? Yeah thats actually on the left on the map. Auto rotation works as advertised and before long my iPhone started to act more and more like a standalone GPS device.

xgps-1

So not only does xGPS correctly display a map but it has many of the same features you will find on a ~$150 GPS device. You can enter start/stop points and xGPS will pull down the directions from Google Maps and even convert text to speech*. You can even turn night mode on within two taps for less distracting operation.


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From the screenshot above and below it would be hard to prove that this application didn’t come from Apple itself. The UI is consistent and every icon is easy to see and understand the function.

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So is this application perfect? Far from it, however I would pay serious cash if this application was in the App Store. Because I am testing a private beta there are a few options that do not work and there are a couple of minor things I would change, but before you are quick to criticize, look around. Have you seen a GPS application like this in the wild even at a beta level? I’m sure you’ve heard of others and maybe even seen a video or two but where are they?

One of the greatest features of this application is the ability to cache the maps on the device itself. I was able to download multiple zoom levels of my entire city with a Java based map manager. The database came just under 50Mb. Others have mentioned that their map databases have grown to a gigabyte but even at that size I find it acceptable. If you’re going on a road trip and plan on using your iPhone as a GPS device just sacrifice a few videos for a larger map.

So you’re probably wondering where you can get this wonderful application right? You can visit the blog at xgpsdev.xwaves.net and the cydia repository is cydia.xwaves.net.

Conclusion

No other homebrew application has peaked my interest like xGPS. The stability is incredible for a beta product (no crashes or memory problems). If you haven’t jailbroken your iPhone because you don’t see any applications worth your time then be sure to check this one out.

Now a few words about a dedicated GPS device. This application wont replace your GPS device however it might keep you from buying one if you already have an iPhone 3G and were thinking about buying a dedicated GPS. xGPS uses maps from Google Maps so it can be personal preference if you dislike their layout. The smaller screen might also play a factor in why you wont toss your GPS.

*text to speech and nightmode are included in version 1.2.0 coming February 20th

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