GPS for iPad

What is the best way to add GPS to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch?  In the past year there have been numerous devices designed to bring a GPS signal to the Wi-Fi only versions of the iPod Touch, iPad and older iPhones. Adding GPS to your device allows it to run all sorts of locational based apps including GPS navigation. GPS additions to the iPhone can also improve the performance of the onboard GPS.

GNS 5870 MFI BlueTooth Receiver

Another entry into the BlueTooth GPS market is by a German company called GNS. GNS 5870 MFI is claimed by the manufacturer to be the first Bluetooth GPS Receiver for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and for other devices like PDA tablets and laptops.

The GNS 5870 MFI add GPS navigation to the iPod touch (2G and newer) and supports iPhone 3G(S) with optimized GPS data. conditions.

The vendor claims full compatibility of the GNS 5870 MFI with Apple products confirmed by a  "Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad" quality seal.

The GNS 5870 MFI supports these Apple devices, as well as the NMEA compliant based PDAs, Smartphones and other portable devices.  It contains a sensitive 32-channel GPS chip and a high-quality BlueTooth interface.  This gives it receptions in hard to reach wooded or urban areas.

The GNS 5870 MFI is excellent for use in vehicles, like car, motor home, motorcycle or when running, hiking or walking.

  • Compatible with iPod touch 2G, iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad
  • TT Smart Touch Technology
  • Highly sensitive 32 channel GPS chip
  • Super slim housing, only 11.3 mm
  • NMEA protocol and Apple protocol
  • More than 10 hours operating time on internal battery
  • Phone/iPod OS, up to ver. 3.0.1
It looks like a small compact BlueTooth GPS that would be easy to take along whether your driving or hiking.  I have read some others reviews that say the on/off switch is a little touchy and can turn on and off intermittently.

The device comes with the GNS 5870 MFI Receiver, a mini USB charger cable, cigarette lighter socket adapter and manual.  The device retails for $99.00 and can be found on Amazon.

Dual XGPS 150

CES, the largest electronics show in the world is in full swing this week in Las Vegas.  Electronics supplier are all showing their latest and greatest gadgets at the show.  Dual Electronics has come up with another iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch compatible GPS receiver in the wake of their XGPS 300 and the XGPS 251 cradles.  This one is called the Dual XGPS150 is a wireless BlueTooth model.

This little GPS puck will mount on your dash and deliver GPS to any device with BluteTooth capabilities.  We all know that Apple has not opened up the BlueTooth stack to communicate with many of the standard BlueTooth GPS devices on the market today.  Dual has created this device to talk BlueTooth with Apples proprietary protocol. 

A Bluetooth capable PC, tablet, iPad, iPod Touch or smartphone can now have access to a GPS signal via this receiver and can now use many of the navigation and locational based apps. It has a range of about 65 feet and the on board battery will power the device for about 8 hours fully charged.  A USB cord is provided to recharge the unit in about 2.5 hours.

The XGPS 150 come with a non skid surface which will keep it on your dash. It also comes with a USB cable and 12 volt adapter for charging and is expected to ship in early 2011.  The suggested retail price will be $99.00.

Magellan GPS Cradle

Magellan has also addressed the the GPS and charging issues with the introduction of their GPS cradle for the iPhone and iPod Touch. This Magellan Premium Car Kit converts your iPhone or iPod touch into a functional GPS navigator. The cradle has a sensitive internal receiver that locates the satellite GPS signal.  The cradle can be used with many of the navigation turn by turn apps available at the Apple iTunes App store.

The Car Kit includes an adjustable suction cup base for dashboard or windshield mounting.  The construction is solid and the device seems fairly secure in the cradle.  The device can be viewed in both the landscape and portrait orientations.  What I like about the device is that it has an onboard 12 volt charger to keep your iPhone or iPod touch fully charged while connected.  This is a must if your driving for long distances.

The cradle has a speakerphone that lets you carry on hands-free conversations over your iPhone's Bluetooth connection. The speaker is large enough and produces fairly good sound. Phone conversations and turn by turn directions can be easily heard through the cradle's built-in speaker.  There is also an auxiliary output to connect your iPhone or iPod touch directly to your car stereo.

  • GPS cradle with battery-charging capability for iPhone and iPod touch
  • Works with iPhone 3G/3GS, 4G, and 2nd generation iPod touch devices
  • Car kit includes a suction-cup mount, car power adapter, and USB cable
  • Built-in speaker with adjustable volume
  • Noise-canceling speakerphone
  • 3.5 mm auxiliary output
  • Works with optional Magellan RoadMate app and most navigation and location-based apps
  • Fits most hard cases and silicon skins
  • Warranty: 1 year
 The cradle has many feature that make it competitive with other cradles on the market. It retails for $129.99.


Called the XGPS150, Dual’s GPS/Bluetooth receiver works wirelessly as long as the smartphone or portable device is within 65 feet of the module. The module provides about 8 hours of use and recharges via a USB connection within 2.5 hours.

It comes with a non-slip pad to hold the XGPS150 in place on the dash. It also comes with a USB cable and 12 volt adapter and will ship in early 2011 at a suggested $119.

Bluetooth GPS with RoqyBt and Bluetooth Stack

Bluetooth GPS units have become a great way to connect GPS to a laptop or mobile device.  These devices are powerful and cheap ranging from $30-$100. Apple in their infinite wisdom however does not allow this with your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.  These devices do have Bluetooth but Apple allows only limited connectivity with earphone headsets and some keyboards.

Leave it to the creative ingenuity of the young software engineers to find a way to make this work. RoqyBT is one software application that can make this happen. You won't find it in the App Store because it is one of those apps found on Cydia.  Cydia is like the app store for the jailbreaking community.  Jailbreaking in a way of opening up or unlocking your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to allow it to run these third party apps. There are plenty of resources on the Internet to learn how to jailbreak your device so I won't cover that here.  This resourceful bunch of programmers have created their own apps that Apple will not support.

RoqyBT is compatible with many Bluetooth receivers which can be found on their site. A list of the apps that work with RoqyBT is also listed on their site. Please, before you head down this path make sure your device is listed as a iOS software and hardware compatible unit. RoqyBT installs a complete separate Bluetooth stack.

Another programmer named Matthias Ringwald has created the BTStack project. He has created software to allow iPhone and iPod touch to use a Bluetooth keyboard and GPS. Apple does have a Bluetooth compatible keyboard for the iPad. This program can also be found on Cydia and downloaded for free.  Registration will cost you $5.00. The BTstack keyboard program is an additional $5.00. BTstack Keyboard has been tested to work on iPod 2G and 3G, and all iPhones running firmware 2.0 till 3.1.2.

Magellan ToughCase

Magellan has developed the ToughCase to add some needed protection, extended battery life and GPS features to your iPhone or iTouch.

The ToughCase helps you enjoy your iPhone or iPod touch on all your outdoor activities without worrying about damage from the weather.  The case keeps your device safe and dry while hiking, camping, sailing, cycling or working outdoors. ToughCase is waterproof to IPX-7 standards. This allows your device to be submersed in up to one meter of water for thirty minutes and the case is shock resistant.

The unique case design allows you to operate your device while it remains protected from the elements, including the touch screen, hard buttons, and audio headphone jack access. The integrated dock connector unites your iPhone or iPod touch with the ToughCase for power, audio, and GPS.

The ToughCase comes with a powerful  and highly sensitive SiRFstarIIII GPS chip set.  This enhances the accuracy of any location based and navigation app.  This also improves the GPS accuracy of your iPhone to 10-15 feet and adds GPS functionality to your iPod touch. The integrated GPS chip set leverages SBAS systems, such as WAAS, EGNOS, and MSAS to improve accuracy in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia.

The ToughCase adds an 1840 mAh internal battery that automatically charges your iPhone or iPod touch. Based on your normal use of the device, the ToughCase's battery will double the life of your iPhone or iPod touch. The device retails for $179 which is pretty spendy but with the added battery life, protections and GPS features it may well be worth it.

GPS Sharing with Franson GPS Gate

If you already have a GPS and are able to connect it to your PC you can share that GPS signal with your favorite navigation program and your Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. There are several Com port sharing programs that can make this happen.  One of my favorites is Franson GPS gate. This program allows you to share your GPS with up to six different virtual Com ports.  What this means is you can run multiple navigation programs on your laptop and only use one GPS signal to provide locational information to them all.  This can be done through Com ports, TCP/IP and BlueTooth.  If you have a Garmin mapping program like nRoute it will also provide a Garmin emulation to provide GPS to the program. I have a USB Rikaline GPS connected to my laptop and with GPS Gate I am able to run nRoute with the GPS emulated through GPS Gate. The client for GPS Gate program will set you back $39.00 but it is well worth it for the versatility it provides.
I have the iNavX marine navigation app on my Apple iTouch.  We all know that the iTouch does not have a internal GPS but with GPS Gate I can use the WiFi network connection of the iTouch to connect to the GPS on my laptop.  When I am out sailing I always have my laptop navigation programs running.

With GPS Gate running on my laptop simply select Settings and select the Output tab. Scroll down till you find TCP/IP server and select it. Set up the default port 20175 and under the Network button add your laptops IP address.

Start iNavX on your iPhone, iTouch or iPad and go to the Preferences, select TCP/IP NMEA Client.  In the Host setting enter the IP address of the laptop running GPS Gate. In the Port selection enter the default 20175 or the port number you entered in GPS Gate.  Next hit Link On and iNavX should be receiving GPS and other NMEA data from your laptop.

What I like about this setup is that you don't have to have any GPS physically connected to your iPhone, iPad or iTouch. Your are free to move around your boat keeping an eye on your position at all times.

Bad Elf GPS for iTouch, iPhone and iPad

Bad Elf  has brought a high performance GPS receiver to all those iPads and iTouch devices that do not have an on board GPS.  If  you don't have a recent iPhone or an iPad (3G+Wi-Fi) with an internal GPS receiver simply plug the Bad Elf dongle into the 30 pin dock connector and start using location-based apps on your device.  Claimed by the manufacturer to be the first Apple authorized GPS device for the iPad.

The device is powered by the Apple device so battery drain may be a problem. The manufacturer states that a fully charged iTouch can power the Bad Elf receiver for up to four hours. The iPad has a larger battery and can power the receiver for up to 12 hours. A USB cable is provided to charge your Apple device and synch it.

Since it uses the Apple location based services many apps already work with the device. Car apps MotionX GPS Drive, Navigon, Tom Tom and Magellan RoadMate.  Mapping and GPS tracking apps MotionX GPS, Fugawi, Topo Maps and iTopoMaps are just a few. Marine apps Navionics, iNavX and SailMaps. Aviation apps AeroCharts, Forefllight, Jeppensen Mobile TC and many others. Check the authors website for additonal application compatability.

Check our the FAQs for addtional capablities and performance specifications.

Suggested retail from is $99.00

G-Fi the World's First Mobile Network GPS Router

Another option to add GPS to your iThing is a handy device called the G-Fi from PosiMotion.  It is billed as the world's first mobile network GPS router.  G-FI provides a GPS signal to any WiFi enabled device which could be a laptop, PDA or any flavor of the iThing. The G-Fi utilized standard WiFi protocols to delvier GPS location data to an iPhone, pre-3G and 3G, iPod Touch, M, PC or Windows mobile devices.

The G-Fi is basically a wireless router which will allow file transfers between devices also. It has the ability to deliver the GPS signal to more than one device. This is a great feature and allows all your iPad, laptop or iTouch devices to pick up the GPS signal from one source.

It uses the 802.11b and g standards to deliver accuracy within 10-15 feet. An integrated battery supports the device for about 5 hours.  A mini USB cable is supplied to charge the device.  One drawback it that it ties up the WiFi network so you will not be able to connect to the Internet and the G-Fi at the same time.

Suggested retail price from G-Fi is $99.00

Dual GPS Cradle

Dual has long been a provider of quality mobile electronics.  They have put together a nice accessory to add GPS to your first, second and third generation Apple iPod iTouch devices.  The cradle comes in two models XGPS-300 and the XGPS-251.

The XGPS-300 model comes with the additional NavAtlas navigation app. The XGPS-251 comes with just the GPS cradle and mounting accessories. The package contains the cradle which includes an internal GPS receiver and a rechargeable battery, microphone and external speaker, volume controls, windshield mount, 12 volt car charger and headphone jack. A mini USB is also provided to sych your iTouch and charge it while connected to a computer. An audio cable is provided to connect to your car stereo.

The cradle has a three position switch on the back to control the device. The GPS position turns on the GPS and provides the GPS signal to the iTouch. Most location based apps work with the device. The Charge position provides re-charging power to the iTouch. I found that the cradle recharged my iTouch to a full charge in a fairly short time.

I personally own the XGPS-251and have had good luck with many of the major navigation apps. It works with iNavX, Navionics, MotionX GPS apps and many more. See the Dual website for a list of others compatible apps.  The cradle GPS mode runs the battery down pretty fast so if you are using it in a car make sure you have it plugged into the 12 volt charger.

Suggested retail for the XGPS-300 is $199.99. The XGPS-251 is $112.00 at Amazon right now.