So you've got your new iPhone and you're ready to use it as a replacement for your ancient Garmin GPS. You route your directions, turn on voice commands, and hop in the car. It works wonderfully, giving you turn by turn directions, showing you exactly where you are. But then you notice the same google maps program on your iPad, your little sisters iPod touch, and even that little "My Location" button in Google Maps on your Mac. Does every Apple device come with GPS? Well, as we will find out, not all devices are made alike, and with a little definition, we'll find out exactly which Apple devices are the best Global Positioning Systems.
GPS & Apple Devices
GPS is nothing new to Apple, the first GPS chip was added to the iPhone 3G in 2008. But it had something called "Assisted GPS", and wasn't as accurate as some people would like. Everything changed with the iPhone 4s in 2011 with the addition of a GLONASS chip to the aGPS chip, which gave the iPhone access to the Russian positioning system. That's right, the first "S" in GLONASS actually brings Sputnik's services to the iPhone (read more on GLONASS here). This greatly improves accuracy and triangulation time. Even if you're out of range of Verizon's towers, American GPS and Russian GLONASS satellites will keep your location accurate. It's important to note, though, that only the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad Retina with Cellular and iPad Mini with Cellular come with aGPS and GLONASS. If you're sporting WiFi only model iPads or an iPod Touch, you're unfortunately left out of the GPS party.
How Do Location Services Work?
But how does "My Location" work on the WiFi iPads and iPod Touches? And what about your Mac? Apple uses something they call "Location Services", which is really just an educated guess based on what WiFi network you're in. So if you're on Starbucks WiFi and you enable My Location, you'll likely be able to tell that you're at Starbucks, but not what part of the building. And if you're trying to navigate on a road trip with one of these devices, it will be unable to provide you with accurate and consistent location readings as you leave Starbucks network zone.
So the lesson here is if you're looking to navigate the world with your iOS device, do yourself a favor and pickup a cellular model of the iPad, or use an iPhone to show you the way. It will give you fast and accurate data regarding your location, direction, and next turn, and also you can iMessage your friend that you'll be there in 5 minutes, on time and in the right place!