Looking for vehicle GPS Solution

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

A lot of people here have suggested getting an ipad or tablet with a built-in GPS. My question on that is how well do they receive signals when far out in the wilderness? I'm not talking about a 10 min hike from a nearby highway...rather I'm talking about a week-long trip across remote forestry roads in northern Quebec and Ontario and in areas where you have no cell phone coverage.

Reading some recent articles about the newer phones and tablets, it seems that most devices do in fact have what is called 'A-GPS' (Assisted GPS) but what I have yet to find any details on is whether these devices can truly function in remote areas that lack cell phone coverage (and if so what kind positioning they can provide in those areas).

For @1Louder, I've checked out Gaia. It seems like it is a map/nav service for your iphone/tablet/device. It doesn't sound like to provides actual GPS hardware though, right?
Several points:

GPS is a global satellite constellation - the quality of the signal is NOT affected by how far from civilization you are. At any given moment, roughly the same # of satellites cover the arctic tundra as downtown New York. As it happens, view of the sky will affect signal strength, so you'll see fewer satellites or take longer to lock in a city with many tall buildings, under a dense tree canopy, or if you mount the tablet far from the windows/dashboard, but GPS will function for navigation as long as you have some view of the sky.

If you're very worried about it, a bluetooth GPS "puck" will generally have a more sensitive antenna, and can be mounted conveniently for a good skyward view. That said, the built-in antenna in my $150 Samsung tablet has NEVER failed to lock.

Regarding A-GPS - this is ONLY a method for speeding up the initial lock. Access to a data network allows the device to get a head-start on decoding the multiple time signals it's receiving. It does NOT affect overall accuracy of position or signal strength, only the time to first lock (TTFL).

Regarding devices that can function without cell coverage or other data connections: ALL Android devices include a true GPS receiver chip. All cell-capable iPads (3G/4G) also include a true GPS receiver chip. Wifi-only iPads do NOT include the GPS chip. This is probably the source of confusion, because people think you have to have cell-data to do GPS location finding. This is a false equivalency created by the way Apple packages/markets the devices.
Any tablet with a GPS chip (ALL Androids, all non-wifi-only iPads) can be used directly for navigation. ALL tablets (with or without a GPS chip) can be used for navigation if an external bluetooth GPS puck is added to the system.

Hopefully that clears things up and allays your fears.
 

DaveNay

Adventurer

toyotech

Expedition Leader
I run a wifi iPad Air with Garmin GLO Portable GPS bluetooth. Works great.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

Dalko43

Explorer
Several points:

GPS is a global satellite constellation - the quality of the signal is NOT affected by how far from civilization you are. At any given moment, roughly the same # of satellites cover the arctic tundra as downtown New York. As it happens, view of the sky will affect signal strength, so you'll see fewer satellites or take longer to lock in a city with many tall buildings, under a dense tree canopy, or if you mount the tablet far from the windows/dashboard, but GPS will function for navigation as long as you have some view of the sky.

If you're very worried about it, a bluetooth GPS "puck" will generally have a more sensitive antenna, and can be mounted conveniently for a good skyward view. That said, the built-in antenna in my $150 Samsung tablet has NEVER failed to lock.

Regarding A-GPS - this is ONLY a method for speeding up the initial lock. Access to a data network allows the device to get a head-start on decoding the multiple time signals it's receiving. It does NOT affect overall accuracy of position or signal strength, only the time to first lock (TTFL).

Regarding devices that can function without cell coverage or other data connections: ALL Android devices include a true GPS receiver chip. All cell-capable iPads (3G/4G) also include a true GPS receiver chip. Wifi-only iPads do NOT include the GPS chip. This is probably the source of confusion, because people think you have to have cell-data to do GPS location finding. This is a false equivalency created by the way Apple packages/markets the devices.
Any tablet with a GPS chip (ALL Androids, all non-wifi-only iPads) can be used directly for navigation. ALL tablets (with or without a GPS chip) can be used for navigation if an external bluetooth GPS puck is added to the system.

Hopefully that clears things up and allays your fears.
Thank you! This is exactly the kind of detailed feedback I was hoping to get out of this thread.

As for Ipad, tablet (or any other mobile device) with built-in GPS chips, I now understand (thanks to your explanation as well as further research on my own time) that there is in fact a GPS receiver built into many of these devices.

My question though is how reliable (accuracy, time to fix, durable) are these 'built-in' GPS chips compared to same something more dedicated like this:

http://shop.delorme.com/OA_HTML/DELibeCCtdItemDetail.jsp?item=32385&section=10091

or this:

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/garmin-gps-16x-hvs-receiver-black/1305942682.p?id=mp1305942682&skuId=1305942682

Are all GPS receivers created equal? Or a there certain advantages that these 2 examples have over the GPS chip in a mobile device?

To reiterate, I'm looking for something that will provide reliable service in very remote areas of Northern Canada (and potentially remote parts of South America). I have used a dedicated GPS device before in remote areas of central Asia and the Middle East...I do remember there being some instances where getting a signal was impossible or took longer due to the terrain or minimal satellite coverage. That's why I am somewhat skeptical about relying on an ipad's built-in chip.
 
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mpinco

Expedition Leader
On GPS accuracy, at least for Blackberry Passport:

BlackBerry Passport Smartphone Review


"......Communication & GPS

It is pleasing that BlackBerry has treated the Passport to a large portfolio of wireless communication options, such as dual-band Wi-Fi including all standards up to high-speed 802.11 ac. The smartphone also supports four GSM, five UMTS, and ten LTE frequencies with up to 150 Mbits per second in downstream and up to 50 Mbits per second in upstream. NFC for near field communication is just as available as Bluetooth 4.0, and there is support for Wi-Fi Direct and Miracast.

The reception quality in the German E-Plus UMTS net was good. We did not have any difficulties finding a net in our urban area, and the Internet connection was also stable. However, we only had two of four bars in Wi-Fi at a distance of ten meters and through three walls. Just one-quarter of the signal strength was available two more meters away and through another wall. That, fortunately, barely influenced the page setup speed, though.

The GPS module in BlackBerry's Passport found the required number of satellites quite fast outdoors. It could then locate us with an accuracy of approximately 7 meters. Localization was not possible indoors. We also performed a field test with the Passport and took it and the Garmin Edge 500 navigation system along on a mountain bike tour. The measured route length only deviated by 90 meters in both devices, and the Passport recorded the way through the woods almost just as well as the navigation system. However, the Passport let us "float" over a different part of the river on our bridge crossing; the Garmin navigation system pinpointed us on the bridge........."



I've also found the Passport Paratek antenna technology to provide very good edge coverage. After switching from Verizon to AT&T, I had "4 bars" in Mt. Princeton canyon while Verizon was no service. Granted different carrier but I was in an area with mountain ranges on both sides.

In addition battery duration is excellent. I've hit 3 days between charges, depending on activity. If I force battery saving mode I could beat that.


 
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mpinco

Expedition Leader
We must be the only two Passport users on the planet:)

Sent from my Passport using Tapatalk 2

Regret staying with Android for so many years. But Blackberry was slow to react to the changing mobile phone landscape and paid the price. That said, it will turn out to be the best thing that happened to them. Acquiring QNX for OS, focusing on security and recent acquisitions puts them on a trajectory for a superior product relative to Apple and Android. The Passport is an excellent example.

Would like to see them virtualize Apple apps, similar to how they support most Android apps. QNX articles point to that future direction. I do find that native BB10 apps support 90%+ of my needs while offering additional functionality I like - Hub and Blend. I'm currently looking at mapping apps that can store USGS topo's offline (local). Thinking I might have found it last night - MyTrails and a good set of Features. So far no issues on the Blackberry Passport, other than moving to Pro that requires Google Play Services (solvable)
 

doug720

Expedition Leader
I have used a Ipad Gen1 for several years as my primary GPS in my LandCruiser. The Ipad is a 64g Wifi only without phone capability. I used an Otterbox with a spring clamp mount on a Ram Arm. I have several map apps, but seem to always default to ScenicMaps. I have 1/2+ of the US maps loaded and still have around 30+g of storage remaining. USGS and many other government maps are free and have great detail. Plus I load satellite views of areas I'm going to visit. Great way to see the land.

The Ipad has worked perfectly, quick GPS acquisition, no drama at all.

Once you use the big screen with high resolution, you're not going back to a Garmin Nuvi, or whatever.
 

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AFBronco235

Crew Chief
The biggest advantage of using tablet over a dedicated unit is the larger screen, which is ideal for a vehicle GPS unit. A bigger screen means easier reading while driving, good both on and off road. If you're hiking, a small, dedicated unit is ideal, but driving, a larger screen is much better. That's why tablet based GPS units are popular in vehicles at all.

Here is how I've got mine setup. Looks good for some PVC plumbing parts as a swing arm mount.
 
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Yuccahead

Adventurer
I feel I should chime in here even though my days of remembering the finer details of some of the points I am about to raise are long gone. First, there can be differences between the GPS accuracy offered in a dedicated GPS unit and a tablet. Many of these units (but not all) can use WAAS to further refine their position giving accuracy down to around 3 to 6 feet. Even others can use supplemental equipment (Differential or D-GPS) to further refine the accuracy of their fix. This can make these units function like the GPS systems used by surveyors with accuracy measured in centimeters. In the early days of GPS, WAAS mattered more to help the receiver adjust for the government's intentional degrading of the system.

I have never seen WAAS mentioned in a tablet's GPS specs. I do not look at every tablet and it could be they do not consider worthy of mention but I suspect they do not use it. Some tablets (and dedicated GPS) systems also make use of the Russian GPS system (GLONASS) to enhance their accuracy and reduce their time to get a fix. My sense of this is that a dual GPS/GLONASS system is still not as accurate as a GPS/WAAS system but will get a much faster fix. Frankly, both are more than good enough for vehicular travel. As mentioned above, I feel display size and the ability to show a large map area is much more important for a vehicle-based GPS system.

Keep in mind that software in both the tablet and the dedicated GPS can "snap" the shown position to the nearest road giving a false sense of accuracy. In reality, your position is drifting all over the road but the software makes it seem like your position is moving in a straight line.

In short, a dedicated GPS might make it easier to find a section corner or benchmark in the woods but the difference between 3' accuracy and 20' accuracy is just not relevant when navigating a vehicle. I would suggest getting the biggest screen GPS tablet you feel comfy with in your vehicle.
 
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