With the recent release of iPhone OS 3.0, lots of goodies were added to the iPhone. Even more than we expected. One major addition, however, has managed to slide entirely under the radar. This new feature allows web apps to access and display GPS information. Webapps, for those of you who don't know, are websites specifically designed for the iPhone's Safari browser that are like web-only applications.
See a full list of web apps on Apple's web app website.
In the past, getting access to the iPhone's GPS required running an Apple application downloaded from the App Store (or running Maps.) But now, it's built right into Safari. That means it's time to get crackin web app developers.
A savvy developer at the website Plebosaur noted that Safari now has native geolocation, and he did some digging within the navigator.geolocation of the W3C Geolocation API Draft Spec, and found the following features:
GetCurrentPosition is a one time retrieval of location. This can be used for location aware applications such as movie theater showtime apps that find the theaters nearest you. WatchPosition is continuously updated location. It can be used for an actual map (just like in Maps) within the Safari browser. ClearWatch, the third feature, is nothin more than a counterpart to watchPosition, for it simply ends the watchPosition process.
The developer even goes on to discuss how he used CSS3 Animation to make the blue "position marker" pulsate just like it does in the iPhone's native Maps application. This might seem meaningless, but this is a huge leap for the iPhone's Safari mobile browser. Just think back to the browser on your cell phone a few years ago…did you ever think it could have this kind of functionality integrated with such a high level of design? I certainly didn't think it would be so soon.
While most developers are focusing on getting iPhone apps into the app store, they shouldn't forget about the world of web apps. While web apps are free, developers can always make revenue from advertisements. Google has not forgot about webapps, for it recently released a major update to it's mobile version of Gmail. Check out the screenshot above, and read more about it here.
Update: if you use mobile Safari Google and Flickr already have some of this functionality