SiRFStarIV Will Give Cellphones and Cameras GPS For RealS

We don't usually go on about chips, but after years of selling the same hugely popular (but power hungry) SiRFStarIII GPS chip, SiRF launched a new chip platform acknowledging that cellphones now rule the GPS business.

Since portable navigators have the luxury of plugging into the 12V jack on your car's dashboard, the SiRF chip found in most of them (70% market share at one point) didn't mind sucking down the juice. Besides its power demands, it could only report a GPS reading when it got one—there was no memory. And needless to say, when the navigator was asleep, the chip wasn't tracking anything.

The SiRFStarIV line, starting with the GSD4t chip, addresses all of those flaws:

1. It's much lower in power than its predecessor, while being twice as efficient as getting a GPS lock.

2. Even while the phone is asleep, it can be run in a "micropower" mode, which gathers strong signal info when it can, without expending too much power but without sleeping completely.

3. It can be used indoor and outdoor, by storing the last most reliable location reading in memory, and reporting it when there's no new fix.

What this will do is finally bring GPS up to speed on phones, since now it's compromised: accuracy vs. battery life, not to mention the lagginess inherent in the old architecture.

Not only will it be useful to cellphone makers, but it help GPS finally make its way into mainstream cameras and camcorders. Though GPS on a camera seems obvious, SiRF co-founder Kanwar Chadha says that camera-user behavior makes GPS applications "very tough": People take pictures, then switch the camera off for a while, then switch it back on again, quickly snap some photos and then off it goes. The SiRFStarIII can't keep up with that, but the SiRFStarIV, apparently, can. I'd like to see one in an iPhone, thankyouverymuch. [SiRF]