Gadgets and Games

The Reason to Love the iPhone 4S, Battery Issue or Not



Bad batteries have bedeviled the latest Apple iPhones, a flaw widely connected to location-based services in the new smartphone. Some tech experts have even recommend iPhone 4S users turn these features off to conserve battery life.

But what's the point of buying a new iPhone 4S if you're not going to take advantage of location-based services like Find My Friends? A software update to fix the battery drain issue that's been plaguing a few users is coming soon enough, so don't turn these features off just yet.

Location-based services such as Find My Friends are useful and fun, and not just for stalking people. Although I must admit if I did want to stalk someone, this software would be a godsend. (Thankfully I don't.) 

My wife and I started using location-based services long before Find My Friends. We started with Loopt and then switched to Google Latitude, which lets you track your family and friends' locations on the company's mapping service. I admit, it sounds like a way to obsessively track a spouse -- but there are real-world situations in which it has been amazingly useful for us. 

Last Christmas we were out of town when I had to be back in New York City for a day to work. My wife had printed out directions, but one leg of the trip was a little complicated and I was lost. I called to ask her for help, and my wife told me to check in on Latitude with my phone. I did and she opened Latitude in her browser. Immediately she was able to see that I was on the wrong highway and reroute me. 

Had we not had this feature, I would have had to try to explain my location to her and she would have had to figure it out from a Google Map. I most certainly would have been late for work -- and that's not acceptable when you host a morning TV show. 

Just yesterday I tracked her using Find My Friends on iPhone when I got home from work via New Jersey Transit. We didn't meet up when I got out of the train station so I checked in on the app. When I saw that she was in the parking lot, I knew that I wouldn't have to walk home. It turns out, she was just circling in search of a parking space. 

Often these services offer peace of mind when a loved one is on a road trip, shopping, or traveling for work. We don't abuse them and since we are good communicators about what we are doing throughout the day, this doesn't provide us the opportunity to play "gotcha!" with one another. Such as, "What are you doing at the mall!?" 

Of course, if I am buying a Christmas gift, I may not want my wife to know which store I'm shopping in. In that case, I can block her temporarily or allow her to see no more than the city that I am in, rather than the specific street location. 

And if I want friends to track me only for a short duration -- such as on a group trip or outing -- I can allow them to track me for a few days or weeks or for any amount of time that I set. 

When I try to explain the benefits of these features to people, they often react with shock as if this is a violation of a civil liberty. I suppose it could be, if the government were tracking me rather than my family members. But I give permission to those who are tracking me and only allow those who I know won't abuse the privilege. 

Stalkers -- if I had any -- need not apply.