Google locates mobile phone users by tracking cell towers

Google Maps adds GPS-like features to smartphones

The Google Maps product for mobile phones is now using cell tower ID information to tell users where they are and what destinations are nearby.

Google on Wednesday released Google Maps for Mobile Version 2.0 in beta. GPS technology is supported on fewer than 15 percent of mobile phones sold this year, Google says, arguing that its new "My Location" service will extend location information to more mobile users.

"The My Location technology takes information broadcast from cell towers and sifts it through Google-developed algorithms to approximate a user's current location on the map," Google states in a press release. "The My Location technology is available on most smartphones, including all color BlackBerry devices, all Symbian Series 60 3rd Edition devices, most Windows Mobile devices, newer Sony Ericsson devices, and some Motorola devices."

Google promised to protect privacy by not associating location data with any personally identifiable information. My Location will be useful for finding restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and other businesses.

Google is hoping GPS users will use My Location as a complementary technology, and argues that My Location has some advantages over GPS.

"The My Location technology also complements GPS-enabled devices, as it delivers a location estimate faster than GPS, provides coverage inside buildings (where GPS signals can be unreliable), and doesn't drain phone batteries as quickly as GPS," Google states.

Google is quickly increasing its presence in the mobile market, most notably by developing Android, an open source platform that can be used by third-party developers to create applications for mobile devices.

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Jon Brodkin

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