Samsung Galaxy Nexus Barometer Sensor Explained

One of the unusual specs of the Galaxy Nexus is the built in barometer. This particular sensor is usually associated with forecasting weather and pressure changes. We’ve now had confirmation as to why a smartphone needs a barometer.

The reason for the barometer is so that the GPS sensor can get a lock on its position quicker. The barometer is used to provide information for part of the equation needed to get the lock. To summarise the sensor, it essentially gives an altitude to the equation which is then used, amongst other things, to get a fix on where you are.

The primary purpose of the barometer is (at least, I’ve been told) to make GPS lockons faster. Locking on to a GPS involves numerically solving a 4-dimensional set of linear equations — 3 dimensions in space, and time. (Yes, you get accurate time for free if you lock on to GPS.) Because of the way GPS works, this can take a few minutes.

aGPS is also designed as a similar thing. It basically uses cell towers to estimate where you are to assist the system from picking up your location. By combining all these factors together it will generally bring lock times down.

Also at the Google+ post, Dan notes that the Xoom also has a barometer built in.

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