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External GPS options for iPod Touch and iPhone

 
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xerxes991
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Joined: Jan 30, 2006
Posts: 22
Location: Darlington, UK

PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:04 am    Post subject: External GPS options for iPod Touch and iPhone Reply with quote

I'm trying to get my mind around what the options are for adding a good external GPS capability to an iPhone or iTouch (I have one of each). Until recently I thought that the only options were:

a) a dedicated TomTom cradle for car use (but no use for hiking)
b) a bluetooth GPS (like my trusty Holux GPSlim236), but which only works with a jailbroken iDevice

I have both of the above for my iTouch and they work fine, but I'd rather not have to JB my Touch just so I can use it with MemoryMap when hiking.

I've always understood that you could not use a BT GPS with an iDevice (unless JB), but I've just started seeing new Bluetooth options which seem to work because they can use the Apple BT communication protocol, as well as conventional BT. The 2 devices that I have seen advertised are:

a) GNS 5870 MFI (good reviews on Amazon.co.uk)
b) Dual XGPS150 (only available in US?)

These seem to open new options for me. Anyone got any experience of these, or others that use the Apple protocol?

Finally there is the "plug-in" option, such as Bad Elf, reviewed recently by Darren. That seems less attractive to me since it looks more clunky and vulnerable when out walking, and also doesn't work with other devices (eg my Nokia phone or my laptop).

Steve
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Darren
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those are two interesting devices. I wasn't aware that BT was an option so I'll have to look into reviewing these.

Firstly, is your iPhone pre GPS? Whilst the iPhone 3G had a rather poor receiver, the 3GS was much better and the 4 and 4S are both excellent in that regard.

Personally speaking, going back to an external BT GPS is too much of a retrograde step for me and I'd be loathe to do it.

I do take your point about the Bad-Elf dongle being vulnerable. You might consider a sync extender cable to move it from the bottom?
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xerxes991
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Location: Darlington, UK

PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darren. Thanks for reply - I'd be very interested in your views on the "Apple protocol BT" devices, when you've had chance to look into this. In particular, I assume they would be more sensitive and accurate than either my iPhone or even my Holux GPSlim236? Do they take advantage of EGNOS / WAAS (or am I out of date on this)? One of them claims a "32 Channel GPS Chip".

I have recently got the iPhone 3GS. Its GPS may be better than the 3G, but it is not as good as my Holux GPSlim236. I've done side-by-side comparison using iPod Touch/Holux and iPhone, and the former seems much more sensitive and accurate than the iPhone. Yes, the iPhone is OK for wandering around towns and identifying the nearest pub in the Good Pub Guide (for example), but less good halfway up Scafell, when stuffed inside your anorak....

In any case, for walking, I would use the iPod Touch (with MemoryMap) and so I still need a BT GPS. I would much rather not have to jailbreak the Touch, but that's the only way to get GPS on the iTouch at the moment.

Steve
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Darren
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 32-channel claims are just marketing guff. Similarly, EGONS/WAAS is of limited benefit in most usage cases.

The big difference is in antenna design, a smartphone is always going to be limited in that area.

But I would still ask if an iPhone/iPod Touch is the best device for serious outdoors use? Battery life, waterproofness etc are all areas where they fail.

I'll see what we can find out about these new BT devices.
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xerxes991
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darren wrote:
But I would still ask if an iPhone/iPod Touch is the best device for serious outdoors use? Battery life, waterproofness etc are all areas where they fail.


Fair point, but I've already got the iPod Touch and MemoryMap and all the OS maps I need. I'd have to spend a lot of money to get that functionality in a ruggedised device (which wouldn't do anything else).

The iTouch actually does very well when out walking - far better than the Pocket PC I used to have. The battery life is fine for an all day walk, since I switch screen off when it is in my inside pocket. I also have a Kensington battery pack, but haven't needed it yet when walking. The GPS sits in an outside pocket and runs all day. I get a nice track log at end of day which I can download to my PC. You are right that water could be an issue, but I don't leave it out in the rain... Smile

Steve
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StoneSpider
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 4:49 pm    Post subject: iPod touch & bluetooth gps? Reply with quote

Hi Xerxes - did this ever get resolved? Anyone else got an opinion about Bluetooth gps devices for an iPod touch?

Cheers
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xerxes991
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:14 pm    Post subject: Update on Apple Bluetooth protocol GPS Reply with quote

I did eventually splash out on an Apple compatible BT GPS unit, which arrived today. It is a GNS 5870 MFI. It works fine on my iTouch on IOS5, but does not work on my iPhone, which I have just "upgraded" to IOS6. Nor does it work on my friend's iPod Touch, which is also on IOS6. I wonder if IOS6 has affected the Apple protocol BT capability. If it has I will be spitting blood, although I assume they will fix it soon...
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