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Getting GPS on a Wi-Fi iPad with New Sky

Mel Martin

Last week I reported on a Bluetooth GPS solution that will give you full navigation features on both the Wi-Fi only iPad and on the iPod touch. Today I was able to test the device and see if was a useful solution to navigating on iDevices that don't have GPS built-in.

The quick answer is that it does work, and it works very well. The GPS receiver, provided to us by New Sky Products, is about the size of a thin tape measure. You turn it on, pair it with an iPad or iPod touch, and you are good to go.

There is a small slide switch on the unit to tell it you are connecting to either an Apple iOS product, or anything else, like a laptop or Android phone. Using the GPS requires that you download a free app that will tell you there is a successful connection and show you visually what satellites you are using for your GPS fix. You do not have to access the app while navigating, but it must be installed.

Once you pair the GPS with your iPad, you can run any navigation program with built-in maps. With Google Maps, you get a nice little blue dot showing your location, but without 3G connectivity, there is no map display. (Note: The receiver itself is made by Dual Electronics and is a model XGPS150.)

I tried the New Sky GPS with the Navigon app running on an iPad. It worked very well. Updates were real time, so when I crossed an intersection that is exactly what the iPad displayed. The GPS receiver seemed very sensitive, and it worked fine just sitting on the passenger seat, where it really never had an unobstructed view of the sky.

Of course, those features of the Navigon app that require network connectivity, like weather forecasts and Google POI searches, aren't going to work, but the mapping worked like a charm. The TomTom and Magellan apps should also work fine. The Garmin and AT&T nav apps won't work, because they download the map data over the air.

WiFI iPad, GPS

This isn't the only iPad-friendly solution. There are Bluetooth GPS devices from other suppliers as well, like the GNS 5870 Bluetooth GPS and the Bad Elf GPS receiver. The Bad Elf is not wireless, but actually plugs into the iPad docking port. All these GPS add-ons are around $100, and that's my only complaint. At that price, you are pretty close to the cost of a dedicated low-end stand alone GPS unit. At $50-60 dollars, these portable GPS receivers would almost be an impulse purchase. At $100, I'd have to think about it.

Setting cost aside, the New Sky GPS works very well with the iPad, and I love having that big screen to navigate. It's about triple the size of the built-in system in my car, and it's a pleasure to use that bigger screen. If you've been wanting to use a nav app on your Wi-Fi iPad or an iPod touch, your prayers are answered.

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