Galaxy Nexus Barometer Should Speed Up GPS Location


Every once in a while we see a barometer listed among the specs of an Android device, right next to the accelerometer, gyroscope and other sensors. We saw it in the Motorola XOOM and now we are seeing it included among the components that make up the Samsung Galaxy S II. What has never been quite clear has been the exact purpose of such a sensor. It’s a bit naive to think a barometer crammed inside a cell phone has the power to divine the weather, even if that is among the first conclusions most reach when trying to peg the usefulness of including one. This is not the case, as Google’s Dan Morrill pointed out in a recent blog post.

The actual reason for the barometer’s presence is tied directly into GPS. For GPS to function it must first locate a person in three-dimensional space. To make this process quicker, aGPS helps to identify two of those coordinates (latitude and longitude) quickly, the third (height) is where a barometer comes into play. By getting a read on estimated atmospheric pressure, the Galaxy Nexus is able to make a quick determination about how far the phone is from sea level. Knowing the general location of the handset thanks to aGPS and the barometer, it becomes easier to get an accurate GPS lock. It is worth noting that Morrill states that the Galaxy Nexus’ barometer  isn’t quite powerful enough to make any meaningful predictions about the weather.

[via AndroidPolice]

Kevin Krause
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  1. This is a great news since I currently use my og droid as “primary” gps. :)

  2. Neat.

  3. Aw darn, I was hoping to amaze all my i*hone friends with my weather-predicting phone!

    1. Weather Channel App????

    2. How about you put a weather bug elite widget on your homescreen, unlock your phone and show your friends the weather. Have the radar map as your live wallpaper and you have 3 things your i*hone friends take forever to do with Siri. With Siri it’s “What is the weather like today?”, “What will the weather be like tomorrow?”, “Open radar map”. So after the 20 seconds it’s taken for your i*hone friend to find out the weather, during which you’ve tied the laces of your friend’s Heelys together (because an i*hone user still thinks Heelys are amazing). You walk away and watch your friend fall flat on their face and break their i*hone as it hits the ground.

  4. Might be good for fishing..knowing when a low pressure system is coming is always good to know.

  5. Uh, I call BS. If the barometer isn’t strong enough to be useful for weather, trust me, it isn’t useful enough to assist the GPS. As someone who has used electric barometers a lot in the mountains, I can tell you that it doesn’t take much at all to throw them off and require them to have to be recalibrated. If anything, you need GPS to assist the barometer.

    1. You’re right. Of course you have access to such tech and have been testing it for 18 months? I’ll take Google and Samsung’s word over the industry powerhouse known as JamesS anyday. Isn’t it milk time for you?

      1. Oh, boy! The 1st actual troll I’ve seen on Phandroid! Can I have your autograph? 3 instances within 2 hours of you just plain bashing other people’s opinions, yet still maintaining the persona of hypocritically switching opinions yourself. I’m actually fascinated. Can we be Facebook friends?

      2. Well, since I’m not a derelict, yes, I’ve had access to and have extensively used GPS and electronic barometers for years in the backcountry. This IS NOT new technology at all.

  6. If the barometer isn’t powerful enough for weather predictions and only meant to help the accuracy of the GPS then it seems strange to explicitly mention this as a sensor during the Galaxy Nexus spec. It’ll only lead to consumer confusion and disappointment. Where as giving the GPS sensor specification some differentiation to indicate it takes atmospheric pressure as an input then this would be better.

    1. That is the difference between a apple release and a google release, apple will dumb it down, google will say this is what it is and go figure out the usefulness on your own. They make it vague so that you have to google it…

      1. I guess I was hoping for something in between.

  7. So we’re getting things like barometers but we’re not getting standard things like MicroSD card slots? Not cool.

    1. My SII has both :)

    2. The phone has 16/32 GB. You don’t need more than that, unless you’re one of those 15 year-old’s who thinks they need to carry all 10k songs in their library for that eventual trip to Mars? 16/32 GB is enough for anyone.

      1. Way to be assuming, arrogant and insulting all in a few short sentences. It really reflects well on your argument and you as a person.

        1) I already have 32GB in my current phone and it’s almost full. Between apps, backups, podcasts, TV shows and movies, it fills up fast.

        2) Part of the value of the removable storage is data security in the event of a phone hardware failure. This has already happened to me more than once, and the fact that all my data gets automatically backed up to removable SD has saved the day. I can just move the card to the new phone, restore, and I’m good to go.

        3) The whole “X GB is enough for anyone” is a rather stupid and arrogant argument. It is not your place to assume nor dictate how everyone else does or should use their device simply based upon how YOU use YOURS. Having a MicroSD card slot gives options to the consumer… allowing the low-end users (like yourself) to be content with the built-in storage, while at the same time allowing extra storage for those who need more now or may later on down the road. All without the manufacturer needing to manufacture separate models with more storage.

  8. Also, imagine a weather prediction system that has the location and barometric pressure of millions of devices around the world. I imagine google is collecting this data (as long as you opt-in) and we will see some sort of uber-weather system by google soon.

  9. What is the story behind that photo?

    1. The phone is jerry-rigged onto a dolly, I assume for doing panned pictures or even panned time-lapse photography. You can do some cool stuff with the ICS camera straight out da box.

  10. tv shows and movies? really? watch and delete…how many times do you need to watch episode 23 of Friends?

    1. nice… in reply to sremick

  11. Is there no way, once enough barometers get out there, to use crowd sourcing of barometric data for weather purposes? Just thinking out loud here.

    1. Not really needed. There are atmospheric sensors all over the place, at nearly every airport big and small. When the pressure changes, the entire country knows about it (aircraft use barometric altimeters, they HAVE to know when the pressure changes – also, sounds a lot like what the device is doing).

  12. I’m sure that it helps google collect additional information about the environment etc.. If you think of the kind of info that 4000000 barometers gives you. Valuable to someone for sure

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