by Christine Kling
I am 58 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no real GPS in Apple’s i-devices. Papa says, “If you see it in Write on the Water, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth; is there a real GPS in an iPad?
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus real GPS in an iPad.
with apologies to Francis Pharcellus Church, editor at The Sun, 1897
Okay, really. I am getting tired of this question. These men, and it is always men, come up to me and ask the same question. “Is there really a GPS in my iPhone or iPad?” And when I answer them, when I tell them that I have used my iPad and iPhone on trips from Hampton, Virginia to Bermuda and south to the British Virgins, they look at me with that look like, “Little girl, what are you talking about?” And then they tell me that they have asked so many other guys and done their research online and all of them have said that these iPhones and iPads won’t work once they get outside cellular range.
Then I explain to them that this is true if you purchase a wifi-only iPad. Only the models that have 3G or 4G cellular capability have a real GPS chip in them. You do not even have to use the cellular capability of the iPad. You don’t have to activate your device with a cellular carrier for the GPS to work.
Part of the confusion comes from the fact that Apple used to call this “assisted GPS” because around the streets of a city the devices used cellular towers to get a faster fix. They will still get a fix if the cellular service is turned off, but it might take a few more seconds. However, assuming you already have your charts downloaded onto your iPad, it will work like a chart plotter all the way across the ocean.
And then there are those guys who insist that – since the iPad 2 – all the versions of the iPad have GPS. No, the wifi-only versions still do not have GPS. Check out the specs in the graphic above. I’m not sure why the specs show the iPad 2 cellular versions not having GPS because I know people who own an iPad 2 who have a GPS in their units. This makes it clear why there is so much confusion because sometimes it does appear that even Apple doesn’t get it right.
It was when I decided to look up and post the specs here once and for all that I learned something very interesting. The cellular versions of the current models of iPad (both the full size and the mini) say GPS and GLONASS. I’d never seen that second term before, so I Googled it and this is what Wikipedia says:
“GLONASS the acronym for Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema or Global Navigation Satellite System, is a radio-based satellite navigation system operated for the Russian government by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces. It both complements and provides an alternative to the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) and is the only alternative navigational system in operation with global coverage and of comparable precision.”
So guess what, guys? When the conspiracy theorists turn out to be right and the US government turns off the GPS signals for civilians, all of your fancy chart plotters will be kaput while my Rusky-powered GLONASS iPad will still be giving me my position out there as I sail off into the sunset gazing heavenward at the passing satellites and toasting Steve Jobs
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