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Bad Elf iOS GPS Dongle Review

 

Reviewed By

Darren Griffin
Review Date

7th September 2011

Manufacturer Bad Elf

RRP

$99.00

9

 

If you own an iPhone 2G, iPod Touch or an iPad Wi-Fi only then you'll already know that GPS is not available to you and you can't use any navigation applications. Unless you have this rather neat GPS dongle from US company Bad Elf.

 

Bad Elf GPS 1000I followed the early development of this product with keen interest back in the days before Apple had graced it's iPhone with an internal GPS receiver. It was clear way back then that the designers were keen to produce a quality product and whilst time has marched on, and iPhones do now have GPS, there is still a large target market for this solution.

 

The device itself is little bigger than the 30-way connector to which it is designed to attach and is a teeny 27mm x 33mm x 10mm in size, it has a microUSB socket on it's bottom and an adjacent status LED and is designed (and very importantly Apple approved) to plug in via the Apple 30-way sync connector.

 

Keychain LanyardBad Elf have chosen an MTK chipset that supports SBA/WAAS/EGNOS/MSAS and it also supports A-GPS.

 

The microUSB socket allows the connected device to be charged whilst the GPS dongle is in use as well as synced if necessary and a small detachable lanyard allows it to be attached to your key ring when not in use.

 

Also included is a high quality 6ft long USB - microUSB cable. Bad Elf advise that you should leave the dongle connected to your computer via this cable overnight to ensure the internal rechargeable battery is fully charged, This battery provides power to the the memory that stores GPS data and speeds up first fix.

 

In Use

As soon as the dongle is connected to your iOS device you will be prompted to download the free Bad Elf app from the App Store. The app, once installed, ensures that you have the latest A-GPS data (which speeds up satellite lock times) and also, helpfully, checks for updated firmware, a nice touch. It's all very slick and well thought out.

 

Once you're updated, launch a GPS enabled application and you will see the status LED on the dongle illuminate as follows:

 

OFF
GPS Not in use
Slow Blink
Searching for satellites
Fast Blink
Satellite data being loaded
Solid On
GPS Fix

 

Because the receiver is Apple approved, when connected, it intercepts GPS communication to any location aware application seamlessly. As far as the application is concerned, the dongle is invisible and the GPS data is presented in the same manner as if it had come from an internal GPS. This means it should work with any GPS app (some caveats apply in respect of those apps that expect a data connection - see below).

 

Dongle Connected to iPhone4For those iOS owners with a non-GPS equipped device who are looking to add GPS, Bad Elf's dongle works perfectly. Whilst it won't be the answer for anyone wishing to use apps such as Google Maps that require access to mobile data, you can always use a MiFi or other mobile data terminal if you wished. I tested the dongle with Garmin, TomTom, NDrive and Memory-Map on an iPod Touch and all worked perfectly.

 

But this dongle also has benefits for owners of 3G, 3GS, iPad 1 and 2 and even the latest iPhone4 models as, in testing, it proved to be much more sensitive than the internal receives in existing products, particularly so in the case of the 3G and 3GS whose receivers have been notoriously insensitive. It was very fast to acquire a first fix, often doing so in less than 20secs and rarely more than 30 even when performing a cold start.

 

The flip side is that, as with all GPS devices, they are power hungry and so you should not expect to use this for more than a few hours unless you have some form of external power, either via power in your vehicle or an external battery pack. My iPhone4 managed 3hrs constant use running MotionX GPS with the Bad Elf GPS attached and pulling in map data over 3G. With careful use, WiFi/3G off and backlight reduced this could easily be stretched out to >4hrs.

 

At $99 it's a reasonable option for anyone who wants GPS support for their device without the expense of upgrading to a GPS equipped device.

 

Bad-Elf App Bad-Elf App Bad-Elf App Bad-Elf App

Bad Elf GPS App Screenshots

 

   
 

References

Manufacturers Web site http://www.bad-elf.com
Pocket GPS Contributor

Darren Griffin

   
Forum Comments:

 

Comments
Posted by apw188 on Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:54 am Reply with quote

Daren good article, question tho......when attached to iPhone and on micro USB. Will bad elf power also charge the phone? Otherwise a 3G phone will most likely die in 3hrs anyway.


 
Posted by Darren on Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:20 am Reply with quote

apw188 Wrote:
Daren good article, question tho......when attached to iPhone and on micro USB. Will bad elf power also charge the phone? Otherwise a 3G phone will most likely die in 3hrs anyway.

Yes, ought to have made that clearer. The micro-USB on the Bad Elf will provide power and data connections to the phone. It acts exactly like the 30-way connector for power and data.

So, if plugged into a decent USB car charger, with the supplied micro-USB lead (or a micro-USB 12v charger) it will provide power to the iPhone.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by sweetfield on Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:09 pm Reply with quote

Hi,
Does this new device allow the download/installation of any of the sat nav apps which Apple always prevents when it recognizes you only have a WiFi device?
Thanks


 
Posted by Darren on Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:34 pm Reply with quote

Never come across one, got any examples?


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by MaFt on Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:49 pm Reply with quote

sweetfield Wrote:
Hi,
Does this new device allow the download/installation of any of the sat nav apps which Apple always prevents when it recognizes you only have a WiFi device?
Thanks


This isn't apple as such. this is the developers who, when submitting the app, say which devices it will run on. itunes and the phone itself honour this and won't install them.

MaFt


MaFt®

 
Posted by iandee on Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:19 pm Reply with quote

Darren Wrote:
apw188 Wrote:
Daren good article, question tho......when attached to iPhone and on micro USB. Will bad elf power also charge the phone? Otherwise a 3G phone will most likely die in 3hrs anyway.

Yes, ought to have made that clearer. The micro-USB on the Bad Elf will provide power and data connections to the phone. It acts exactly like the 30-way connector for power and data.

So, if plugged into a decent USB car charger, with the supplied micro-USB lead (or a micro-USB 12v charger) it will provide power to the iPhone.

I have been using the bad elf with my ipodtouch for about a month
It works fine.
I have a dual usb unit in my cig lighter socket (bought in the Dollar Tree) and it charges etc.


Ian Dee,
tommtom iphone6
bad elf TomTom25

 
Posted by BoPeep on Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:13 pm Reply with quote

Hi all,

I'm resurrecting this thread due to recently getting my new iPad 3. Jumping With Joy

I bought the WiFi-only version due to the fact that I rarely use the 3G on my phone (mostly use it on WiFi at home) and didn't think it was worth getting it on the iPad, which is even less portable than the phone due to its size.

I wanted to use CamerAlert with it but didn't check beforehand about GPS and now realise that only the 3G/4G version has assisted GPS.

I have read the review of the Bad Elf iOS GPS dongle and it looks like what I need to be able to use CamerAlert on my iPad. My questions are as follows:

Arrow Is this still the recommended option or does anyone know of any other compatible GPS dongles out at the moment?

Arrow Does anyone have experience of using this with the iPad 3 and if so, how do you get on with it?

Arrow Where is the best place to buy it from? I have seen it on Amazon for £108.99 which I can't afford at the moment after the huge outlay for the iPad! Anyone know of anywhere cheaper or shall I just add it to my Wish List for now? Confused

Thanks in advance,

Laura.


TomTom 730
HTC Desire - Co Pilot Live Premium (Europe)

 
Posted by Darren on Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:23 pm Reply with quote

Works well with iPad2, no reason it won't with the 3 as nothing has changed that could affect it.

It's still the simplest and most compatible solution I've found. Even works fine in a Brodit iPad cradle with pass thru connector.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by Sean16v on Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:10 pm Reply with quote

Try this link as it's only £89.95 and that includes postage.

http://proviationshop.co.uk/shop/article_BAD-ELF/Bad-Elf-GPS-(iPad-_-iPhone-_-iPod).html?sessid=tbW3xZMaAlGfRJqbiFBNk68oumVWIjmFDe3FtLMdOx0uqLlCYvLlekAncQzSQGLe&shop_param=cid%3D807%26aid%3DBAD-ELF%26


 
Posted by BoPeep on Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:58 am Reply with quote

Thanks Darren and Sean16v for your help - I think I'll be going for the Bad Elf iOS GPS dongle then. Smile

Regards,

Laura.


TomTom 730
HTC Desire - Co Pilot Live Premium (Europe)

 
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