Most tech enthusiasts raised an eyebrow upon finding out that the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Nexus would have a barometer. Measuring your altitude can be helpful for many reasons, but to the end consumer, it will most times be irrelevant. So what is that thing doing in our next device?

Dan Morrill (Android engineer) has taken the time to explain what that feature is doing in a device like the Galaxy Nexus. According to Dan’s Google+ post, the barometer’s main purpose is to help the GPS lock on faster. In order to recognize your exact location, GPS systems need to determine your state in 4 dimensions (3 dimensions, plus time). Aside from time, GPS satellites need to identify your lattitude, longitude, and your altitude.

Android devices are already aided by aGPS (assisted GPS), which gets your approximate location from towers, connected networks, etc. After having those approximate location (longitude and latitude), it is much faster to find the exact location of your smartphone. Current phones would then take longer to lock on, because there is no efficient way of determining your altitude. This is where the barometer comes in to the rescue.

With the help of aGPS for determining latitude and longitude, and the barometer’s ability to determine altitude, GPS lock-on should be significantly faster.

Morrill goes on to mention that this method is also implemented in the Motorola Xoom, and is not really a new feature. It just didn’t receive the honors that it did with the Galaxy Nexus. It can also be used for other purposes like measuring pressure, but the before-mentioned was the reason why it was added.

There you go, guys! Now we all know what is up with this Galaxy Nexus barometer, and we can all move on to drool over its many other features and specs. Do you guys think that current devices take too long to lock on to GPS? If you own a Xoom, let us know if you see a significant difference.

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