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I am confused about 3G and GPS...

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  1. #1
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    I am confused about 3G and GPS...

    Hey all!

    I have an iPad and I love this thing. But, now that I've seen the new one I'm going to give my old iPad to my husband! I have the wifi only version and it works well. I have a Clear 4G mobile hotspot, and I live in NYC so, my net connection is faster than my friends who have a built in 3G iPad.

    But, I'm considering getting the 3G version for our 2nd iPad, for three reasons.

    1. My husband will often take my hotspot since he'll need it when he's on his own with the wifi only iPad ... It would be nice to have the option of firing up Internet directly from the device...
    2. I have read that *only* the 3G iPads have real gps. I was very sad to discover that I can't use gps offline with this wifi iPad. Offline maps tells me to move the iPad in a figure eight all the time... So annoying!
    3. I worry about the iPad getting stolen and I think I have a better chance of getting it back if it has 3G.

    So, I néed to know if I can use gps offline with a 3G iPad. I will not pay for the plan most months since I have wifi access in most places, and I can use the hotspot the rest of the time... I'd just be paying more so that when I take my iPad out of my bag while walking around it would let me see my realtime location in the offline map apps that I bought.

    Also, if I have not paid for any Internet for months on my 3G iPad ... And it gets stolen, can I use mobile me to find it? Can I fire up Internet remotely or something?

    Any help with these questions would be great. I don't really know if these features are worth the extra price... But, the data plans don't look that bad... And there are times when holding the hotspot in one hand and the iPad in the other get annoying... So I do think I'd use it a little.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks in advance to anyone who helps me with my purchase choice... I'm so exited to get this new iPad!

    Having two will let me finally use it in peace without hubby taking it from me all the time to practice his Chinese characters or play that zombie game...

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  3. #2
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    The GPS functionality of the iPad is on the same 'microchip' that has the 3G functionality. There is a good technical reason for this (and I could bore you with the explanation if you're really interested) but the downside is that the WiFi only iPad does not have GPS and therefore cannot determine its position as well as a 3G iPad. It does have some capability - by using WiFi base stations and hotspots and a database of their known positions, but that only works if you're in the vicinity of a WiFi.

    Regarding GPS - you do not need to have a data plan for 3G to use GPS, so no worries there. If your iPad was stolen or lost and you have Apple's 'Find my iPad' service enabled, then you don't need 3G as long as the iPad is connected to the Internet - say by WiFi. Of course, if the person who steals your iPad turns WiFi off then there's not much you can do but there's not much they can do with your iPad either!! Even if you had a 3G iPad the person who stole your iPad could turn that off too, so you're not really in a much better position.

    Since the iPad is primarily a device that needs to be connected to the Internet, whoever took your iPad is going to connect at some time and then the iPad will report its position.

    But let's hope it never comes to that. Just keep that iPad safe - guard it with your life!!

    Tim
    Scotland

  4. #3
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    Thanks, Tim. I was a little disappointed that my wifi iPad did not do off-line gps. That was one thing I was looking forward to, but time flies, iPad 2 already?

    Well it looks like I'll get the 3G. Now I just need to make up my mind about the color and carrier.

  5. #4
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    Yes - maybe they should have fitted a standalone GPS chipset so that non-3G iPads could have GPS capability. The issue - small technical boring part - is that 3G and GPS use similar frequencies, so it makes sense to put both these on the same chip because they can 'share' the 'radio frequency' (RF) part of the circuitry between them. That RF part is relatively physically large, so there's a clear incentive to get GPS and 3G to share, irrespective of any probably small cost savings.

    One point that might be an issue. If you're using the iPad's native 'Maps' app, that downloads maps 'on the fly', so it needs Internet access. So, though you don't need a data plan to use GPS, if you want to use the iPad's native Maps app you will need Internet access - could be WiFi of course, but not much use if you want to use that in your car for navigation.

    Some of the third party nav apps - such as TomTom - however, download the maps to the iPad so no Internet access is required for them - however, they're relatively expensive.

    Tim
    Scotland

  6. #5
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    So the 3G iPad has A-GPS, which is assisted GPS based on cell tower locations? And A-GPS is used to help the GPS chip get a quicker location fix?

  7. #6
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    Yes - the 3G iPad has A-GPS and it seems to work very well. Having said that, the 3G iPad tells you (natively, at least) very little about how the GPS is working - so you never see information like how many satellites it's receiving or the more technical stuff like GDOP (geometrical dilution of precision).

    In the iPad's native 'Maps' app, when it's displaying your position, it highlights this with a blue circle that surrounds that location and the diameter of that blue circle varies, presumably indicating the 'accuracy' of the GPS fix. It's fully integrated, in the Maps app, with Google maps, satellite view and street view - so, bizarrely, you can use Google Street View to see where you are.....

    It also has a 'driving instructions' capability based on zip or postal codes or the 'infamous' Google Maps 'drop pins'.

    The GPS location is available to other apps too. I have the Internet radio player, TuneIn, which uses GPS to show you a list of 'local' radio stations based on your current locations - and you can even 'see' where those radio stations are located on the map - cool!

    Tim
    Scotland

  8. #7
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    Does it make a difference if you buy the at&t or verizon 3G ipad2 if you plan on using the map feature without signing up for a data plan? Does one company's ipad2 work better than the other when it comes to mapping without signing up for a plan?

  9. #8
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    The iPad's native 'Maps' app downloads map data dynamically - i.e. as and when required. To do this, it needs a link to the Internet - either by WiFi or 3G. If you don't have a data plan, then WiFi is the only way that 'Maps' can acquire mapping data. This would restrict your use of 'Maps' to locations where WiFi was available. Since you'd not be using 3G - as you don't have a data plan - it would make no difference whether you had AT&T or Verizon.

    But you need to be clear that 'Maps' is effectively useless without an Internet link and, without a data plan, that severely limits its ability. Other mapping programs - such as TomTom - download the mapping data in advance, so you could do this at home using WiFi.

    Tim
    Scotland

  10. #9
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    Should this really work I'm confused.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdgal View Post
    Should this really work I'm confused.
    Sorry if my post wasn't clear. The iPad's native 'Maps' app really needs GPS to work well - it can theoretically work using WiFi base station locations, but - for sure - that won't work in a rural location where there aren't WiFi hotspots.

    The GPS functionality is on the 3G component in the iPad so - no 3G, no GPS. 'Maps' also downloads the actual maps it needs to display as and when it needs them - i.e. it doesn't have a map database on the iPad.

    Other, third-party navigation and mappings apps often do store a (large) and region-specific database of maps (i.e. California, Oregon, the UK, France etc) and you often purchase those maps on a region-by-region basis. The native 'Maps' app uses Google maps, and they are free - but you need a link to the Internet for the iPad to be able to download them when they're required.

    So, if you intend to use your iPad for car navigation and you want to use the iPad's native 'Maps' app, you'll need either 3G activated (to download the maps) or a portable WiFi 'hotspot' (often called MiFi) that provides a WiFi hotspot by linking the MiFi via 3G to the Internet. Or, of course, you might be on a bus or train that has a WiFi hotspot.

    The advantage of the third-party apps are that, since they download the map database as you install the app, they don't need Internet connectivity while you're 'on the move' - so you don't need a data plan. Yes - to get GPS you'll need to have purchased a 3G iPad, but you don't need to activate a 3G plan. The iPad will display 'No SIM' on the top left-hand corner of the screen, but the GPS will be active.

    Sorry if I've explained this badly - it's another of my 'off-days' and they are becoming rather frequent.....

    Tim
    Scotland


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