Sunday, March 18, 2012

Apple iPad, A-GPS, and ambiguity

iPad aerial imagery

UPDATE: The WiFi model can determine your approximate location via Skyhook WiFi positioning, but does not have a GPS chip. The WiFi + 3G model has true GPS.

The Apple iPad was announced today, and Apple’s specs led to some confusion over whether or not this thing has GPS. For the record, here are the “location” specs for the iPad:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Digital compass
  • Assisted GPS (Wi-Fi + 3G model)
  • Cellular (Wi-Fi + 3G model)

It’s that assisted-GPS (A-GPS) thing that was confusing. A-GPS can mean a couple of things:

  • A software-based system designed to speed satellite lock, by providing alternative positioning data, projecting satellite locations, etc.
  • A system that relies solely on cell tower triangulation

The fact is, we don’t know yet which the iPad has. If it does have a GPS chipset, it seems clear that it’s limited to the 3G models. And the more I look into it, the more I’m inclined to think it does.

If the iPad does have GPS

But even if it does have GPS, what would you do with this 9.7” touchscreen beast? If you think your smartphone is fragile for geocaching, the iPad seems even less appropriate for field use. If you drive an RV or an 18-wheeler, perhaps you could justify the screen real-estate; it will be interesting to see if any of the nav app providers come up with a dedicated iPad version of their software. The iPad is bound to be used as a portable device though, even if its just for the coffee shop set, and as such I can see location-based services (including social media apps) being quite useful. What would you use an iPad with GPS for?

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

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