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    Re: News from the mobile navigation world
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2012 Oct 3, 13:31 -0700

    Alan, you wrote:
    "Is this progress?"

    Sure. Time-keeping to less than one second accuracy has very limited value to the vast majority of users. The fact that it is back tells us something.

    It was amazing ten years ago to see that phones kept nearly perfect time. They had, in effect, turned into "time repeaters". The cell "towers" kept exact time (from GPS signals) for their operations, and the primitive cell phones back then simply displayed the time as broadcast from the towers. They didn't "keep" this time. Most phones had an option to disconnect from network time, and I remember confused friends occasionally wondering why their phone no longer kept good time (they had accidentally set the time to manual). Very few got any value from such exact time, but it was interesting to see.

    Cell phone time changed when phones became Smartphones, which means pocket computers. Everything then became a software function, and exact time was not a priority. Few users care about it as long as they're within a minute. Early Smartphones from the BIP period (Before iPhone), or before mid-2007 on the traditional calendar ;), kept time within a minute, but you needed a special bit of software if you wanted better. Like earlier phones, they got their time from the cell towers on bootup, but other processes could interfere and lose (or gain) ten or fifteen seconds in the displayed time. Smartphones boomed in popularity following the introduction of the iPhone and there has been a computing revolution since. Now we are starting to see a maturation of the technology, and the engineers are starting to clean up the little details. Even though there's little consumer value to displayed time accurate to a fraction of a second, it's now available. Apart from pursuits like celestial navigation and satellite observing, there are very few practical effects of this. I am, however, looking forward to seeing everyone raise their glasses and scream "Happy New Year!" a little closer to the correct instant this year. :)


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