My Location on Google Maps

I discovered a Google Maps beta feature that had been on my PDA for several months now, just last night. I had only been using my I-Mate JAQ3 as a digital assistant, without using the phone functionality – no thanks to Tigo’s network access expiry. Tigo Ghana has a way of disabling one’s access to their network after a few weeks of not loading recharge cards. MTN Ghana on the other hand, allows access on their network so long one makes/receives phone calls or SMS every 90 days. I mention Tigo because the My Location feature on Google Maps relies signals from nearby cellular phone towers when you carry out any network activity, to pinpoint your current location.

i-mate JAQ3 - Windows Mobile Pocket PC
i-mate JAQ3 - Windows Mobile Pocket PC
I usually play around Google Maps, using it to explore African cities I am familiar with. I was a little shocked to have seen a blue beacon on the screen of my PDA last night. I could swear that the location the beacon pointed to, was the suburb I lived. Could my PDA – an I-Mate JAQ3 – have come with an in-built GPS without me knowing? I quickly read reviews about I-Mate JAQ3 on the web and confirmed that it indeed did not have an inbuilt GPS. So how can Google tell my location with my device having a GPS receiver? I thought of all the possibilities and finally googled the puzzling question.

It turns out that Google added the My Location feature to their Google Maps for Mobile software, about a year ago. I had always seen My Location on Google Maps but never got to use it since the SIM card in my PDA at that time, was inactive. Recently, I have my MTN Nigeria SIM card in the PDA since I activated international roaming from Nigeria and this made the My Location feature work last night, whilst I was exploring the world on Google Maps.

To be sure this was real, I tested this after church service today. My church building is quite a distance from my residence but Google Maps still pinpointed my new location in Accra. The downside is that Google Maps eats up bandwidth and so one can easily rake up huge bills since the cellular networks (especially in this part of the world) charge so high per KiloByte for internet connection services offered via technologies like GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSDPA. Another problem is that Google Maps does not include a street map of Accra, Lagos, Ibadan, Lome, Cotonou though I see that they have a street map of Cape Town (a major South African city). I am yet to check other African cities. Therefore, there is little use for Google Maps in West Africa if street maps are unavailable.

Broadly, My Location would be very a useful feature since most of the mobile devices in the market today do not have an inbuilt GPS facility, especially if you are in a developed country where Google Maps has detailed street maps and more detailed satellite images.

Google is not the only player in this industry. A company known has Navizon uses a similar technique to detect one’s location with or without GPS. Their system uses Wifi, Phone and of course GPS.

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Avatar of Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.


  1. As of today, even the web version of Google maps still don’t have street views for Africa, so I doubt that the Mobile version would. But you really can’t blame them now can we. When most parts of Africa don’t have valid street names, how can you expect to have a street map?

  2. […] Google added a large number of streets and roads throughout Africa to its maps in May of last year and has offered mobile location services in Africa for several years. […]

  3. Google have added some major streets in the big cities in Nigeria. I know this because my office street is listed. My particular location was identified accurately on my Sony Ericsson phone.
    Like you mentioned, a lot of folks shy away from using it because of the huge bandwidth which translates into some terrible telecoms bill.
    When I attempted to use it to trace my way from office to the house, it worked, but I regretted that adventure because my phone credit was almost wiped out.

  4. what will be about bangladesh? we can develop software based on the google’s features. can we use oracle database or customized tools of oracle to make it easier?

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