Tablets for GPS

Discussion in 'GPS 101 - Which GPS For Me' started by trganey, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. trganey

    trganey n00b

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2015
    Oddometer:
    4
    Location:
    205
    I recently posed this question to a fellow advrider and have decided to make it a new topic. I have searched and read several threads on the subject but since technology changes daily I thought it a good idea to ask for everyone's opinion.

    I have been doing some reading concerning using tablets for GPS. I would appreciate it if I could lean on your experience and education for some advice.

    As I get older it seems that the screen on my GPS (garmin 378) gets smaller and smaller. I have been using garmin products on the bike in the car and in the airplane for several years and really like how the garmin works but it seems like they fail to realize that us older folk need a bigger screen.

    Most of our ridding is on road or at least dirt roads and forest roads. We generally ride the goldwing for the longer trips, the crotch rocket or cruiser for shorter trips, and the VStrom for the rougher stuff.

    We almost always ride two up and usually two bikes or more in the group although we will occasionally strike out on a ride by ourselves. We don't normally work with pre designed "tracks" but then again we haven't tried using them and might learn to enjoy that with some experience. We normally just use the GPS to help us get from point "A" to "B" and keep from getting completely lost.

    If you had to start from scratch today and get a tablet for use as a GPS which one would you choose and why? Also what programs/apps/maps etc would you use?

    ed: Feb 2015

    Location: 205

    Oddometer: 1

    Tablets For GPS

    I have been doing some reading concerning using tablets for GPS. I would appreciate it if I could lean on your experience and education for some advice.

    As I get older it seems that the screen on my GPS (garmin 378) gets smaller and smaller. I have been using garmin products on the bike in the car and in the airplane for several years and really like how the garmin works but it seems like they fail to realize that us older folk need a bigger screen.

    Most of our ridding is on road or at least dirt roads and forest roads. We generally ride the goldwing for the longer trips, the crotch rocket or cruiser for shorter trips, and the VStrom for the rougher stuff.

    We almost always ride two up and usually two bikes or more in the group although we will occasionally strike out on a ride by ourselves. We don't normally work with pre designed "tracks" but then again we haven't tried using them and might learn to enjoy that with some experience. We normally just use the GPS to help us get from point "A" to "B" and keep from getting completely lost.

    If you had to start from scratch today and get a tablet for use as a GPS which one would you choose and why? Also what programs/apps/maps etc would you use?

    Some of the things that I know that I would find important are:

    Screen size from 7" to 10"

    Screen visible in sunlight.

    Durable enough to hold up to motorcycle travel

    Water proof case.

    Compatible with some kind of mounting system.

    Capable of using with and without external power.

    Battery life.

    Internal storage capacity.

    Built in GPS so it is not dependent on wifi/cell signal.

    Last but not least, user friendly.

    I have been using an android based Galaxy smart phone for over 2yrs and for the last year also been carrying a iphone for work. While the iphone is better for actually making phone calls the android is much more user friendly/flexible when doing anything else.

    I might also add that while I'm not a complete computer illiterate I am by far not a computer geek. So with that said keeping my set up as simple as practical would be preferable.

    Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
    #1
  2. worwig

    worwig Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,881
    Location:
    Hog Mountain
    To me, a tablet is so large that it would nearly have to go into a tank bag (yea, there are ways around that, but...). Anyway, I have never found maps, GPSs, etc. at tank bag level of any value. I always want to Smartphone/GPS nearly at the left mirror level where it is visible.
    So I guess that is my question to you. Do you want the screen high and visible, or low and out of direct view?
    #2
  3. barlowrs

    barlowrs Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2014
    Oddometer:
    40
    Location:
    Orange County, Ca
    I have used a tablet as my GPS for probably 2 years now. Same one moves from truck (for offroad travel where no reception is available), to the bike. My setup on the bike is as follows:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Samsung Tab 7.0 with only wifi and Otterbox Case<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    This is the ideal tablet as the 7" size fits perfectly on top of my tank bag where I mount it. My tank bag is wired in with power, so I just plug it in from there while riding and it stays charged. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    The key that makes the Samsung work perfectly is that it has an external memory (SD) slot. When you load maps for offline use (no data areas), it is key to have a lot of storage space.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    I also have a lot of music loaded on mine since pandora does not work when out in middle of nowhere. Also usually have a few movies in case I want to watch one in camp. I also load manuals and other nice to have documentation onto it, as well as photos of my drivers license, insurance, and any other important docs when traveling in Mexico, etc. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    For Apps I use the following three:<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    When in 4G range: Google Maps (everyone knows this app). As you may have noticed, my tab does not get 4G, so to use this, I use my phone as a wifi hotspot, then run tab from that. Also allows me to run pandora and whatever else i want. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    When no data, but on main roads: CoPilot Live. This is a fully functioning turn by turn navigation app that does not require data. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    When in backcounrty: Backcountry Navigator. This app lets you load maps for offline use, everything from topos to aerial photos (this is where the external SD card of the Samsung comes in handy). Not turn by turn like CoPilot, but for trails and such, topos and aerial photos are MUCH better. Also lets you overlay park, BLM, etc boundaries and other useful information. <o:p></o:p>


    I use the bluetooth radio from the tab, link it to my Sena 20S, and wireless nav, music, moveis, etc. Even internet searches when usign my phone as hot spot.
    #3
  4. txtinman

    txtinman n00b Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Lorena, Texas
    My Nexus 7 only connects with wi-fi so my navigation is done off line. I've found that the app HERE by Nokia works very well for voice guided turn-by-turn navigation. The maps can be downloaded and stored for off-line use. The app and the maps are free to use. My Nexus 7 does not have an external memory card, but it has 32g of storage. The entire US map used a little over 4g of space.
    #4
  5. trganey

    trganey n00b

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2015
    Oddometer:
    4
    Location:
    205
    I trial fitted a 10" high between the bars on the VStrom and feel that I could live with it but a 7-8 inch display would probably be better. If I was to use in on the crotch rocket then it would definitely have to go in the tank bag. Bottom line, I think it really depends on what bike I'm on as to how it would be mounted but the size is definitely why I want to use one instead of it being a deterrent.
    #5
  6. trganey

    trganey n00b

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2015
    Oddometer:
    4
    Location:
    205
    Thanks gentlemen for the replies so far. Hoping for more!
    #6
  7. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,169
    Location:
    Apple Valley, Calif
    Some of the folk in my Jeep club have been using a Nexus 7 for GPS. A couple of weeks ago I bought one. I use RAM mounts and have used it on my Goldwing as well as my off road rig. It fits well on the GW. For GPS, they have been using GAIA GPS. To help with power, an Anker 24w cigarette charger is used. This tablet seems to be a power hog and you have to mess with the brightness setting. I bought two of the Ankers, but for some reason mine do not seem to put out the power like my friends' (we swapped chargers and his worked better than mine and they are the same models. Strange)

    The maps download nicely and you can set desired monitoring functions on the screen, like Speed, Altitude, etc. The font is rather small, so with my vision I have trouble reading. The 7 inch screen is nice. You can go easily between Topo and street maps. There are other maps available, but I have not used yet. For a monthly fee you can get the Pro version, which provides for more map functions. My friends have, but I did not buy yet. The software is $20 to get started.

    One issue I have had is that the program locks up. My friend had that issue and after a number of reboots, his was ok. Mine would typically stop after 1-2 hours. I rebooted a couple more times yesterday and it ran for 16 hours, so maybe ok now (why??) Restarted again this morning.

    Obviously the tablet is not waterproof, so that would have to be taken into consideration.

    I like having the tablet usable as a computer with the wifi capability. I usually take my laptop, so that will free up some space. Hopefully the above issues work themselves out.
    #7
  8. Ixheimer

    Ixheimer Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2014
    Oddometer:
    225
    Location:
    Vernon, BC, Canada
    Not an answer to your question about what tablet or device to buy to replace your smaller GPS, but I just discovered that DUAL makes a receiver that connects to most Apple & Android devices/phones that are Bluetooth enabled. Will also work with most Bluetooth capable laptops & tablets. There does appear to be a bug with Windows 8.1, but a workaround is available on the DUAL web site FAQs.

    If you can get this little guy to pair with your Bluetooth enabled device, your GPS options & flexibility become almost limitless with respect to screen size. You may already own a suitable device, so no need to fork out additional $$$s for an overpriced GPS. The price of the XGPS150A is not prohibitive, but one will likely need to download relevant apps & map software to the device(s) paired with the receiver. These may cost extra.

    Either way, I just ordered one for myself & may post back once I get my hot little hands on it. Reviews appear largely positive. I haven't searched ADVrider for any threads on this or similar devices, so apologies if I'm duplicating info that's already posted.
    #8
  9. ohgood

    ohgood Just givver tha berries !!!

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    9,274
    Location:
    alabama



    The DUAL website has a FAQ section http://gps.dualav.com/explore-by-product/xgps150a/ that asks and answers specifically:

    "I have an Android phone with GPS built in. Why would I need the GPS Receiver?
    Using an external GPS, like the GPS Receiver, dramatically reduces the battery drain on your phone: that means more talking & texting for you & less time being tied to a power outlet."


    Which is interesting. They're saying that the gps (a receiver only) uses MORE energy than the bluetooth antenna (a transceiver). Hmm...


    but they failed to mention a few things:

    gps antennas in phones/tablets use very little battery energy, at all.
    bluetooth + gps (on the dongle) use more battery (on the phone and dongle) via bluetooth (on the phone) than just gps (on the phone).
    the phone/tablet's gps receiver will normally be +/- 8 or 10 feet, while at speed, with or without tree cover.
    very few phones/tablets have a bluetooth chip, if they're missing the gps chip ;-)
    adding a dongle to the mix means adding a battery to keep charged, it isn't waterproof (doh), and it is another failure point.



    The phone / tablet is already in a case (or rugged/waterproof), just use it's onboard gps and enjoy.

    (ps, the biggest killer of battery energy is the SCREEN, followed very closely by the cellular antenna (if so equipped) when on the fringe of service) --- turn off the cellular antenna and watch your battery life grow by a large amount.

    just some information to save some folks some $$$ and grief. :)
    #9
  10. worwig

    worwig Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,881
    Location:
    Hog Mountain

    What is the point, since most tablets are going to have a good GPS chip set already in them?
    I wanted a GPS in my Windows 8.1 tablet, and a USB one was only $30, and included good $20 software.
    Looks like just another device to charge unless I'm missing something. Or if you really need a separate device on Bluetooth, buy a used cheap cell phone and add a free app (there are a number of them) that turns the cell phone into a Bluetooth GPS transmitter.
    #10
  11. Dolly Sod

    Dolly Sod I want to do right, but not right now

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2003
    Oddometer:
    18,865
    Location:
    Richmond, Va
    I messed around with my Samsung 8" tablet on the bike and just felt to was too large anywhere but in the tank bag. My personal preference is the Note Series of Samsung phones.

    Maybe if I tried the tablet a bit more I'd get used to the size.
    #11
  12. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,169
    Location:
    Apple Valley, Calif
    An update. I purchased a Belkin dual usb charger for $25 and this keeps the Nexus at full power, at least for the 2 1/2 hours I ran it. I think that problem is solved. This was twice the price as the Ankers.

    It was not a Belkin, but a Griffen.
    #12
  13. ohgood

    ohgood Just givver tha berries !!!

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    9,274
    Location:
    alabama
    I've read about a few people having issues with GAIA gps freezing/crashing on their devices. Personally I haven't seen it, but the playstore description listed "Droid Razr Maxx, HTC Wildfire and Asus Transformer" as incompatible. Usually when a specific set of devices are listed as incompatible, there is an issue with the OS version they are running, or the chipset.

    Before your next test, clear the applications caches, and if possible on your device clear it's sytem CACHES. If you're not familiar with the process, forget it, I don't want you screwing up a device for the sake of some internet wisssdom. :)
    #13
  14. Deckyon

    Deckyon The Raven

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,192
    Location:
    Louisville, KY - USA
    To the OP and their original question of which tablet and why. I would get the same tablet I currently have. I also use it for Geocaching, which I will be getting more into with the bike.

    Tablet: Apple iPad Air 2, Wifi/Cellular, 128GB.

    Why?
    1. While expensive, 128GB on board memory gives you a lot of room for maps.
    2. One of the fastest available. One of... not wanting to start a war.
    3. Huge selection of good apps for various tasks. More info later.
    4. Great cases available.
    5. Cellular version allows for live updates (in cell tower range) but it also includes a full GPS chip, unlike the wifi only. This chip brings it into the 3m accuracy (give/take) that most handheld GPS's offer. It does not require Cell or Wifi access to work.
    6. Battery life is flat out amazing. I have used mine for over 10 hours on a single charge over a whole week of commuting (bus 1 hour each way to work).
    7. As I have had an iPhone for the last 4 years, I am pretty much vested in the iOS app world.
    8. There are many more, but these are the main points.

    Apps: These are only the ones I use for trips. I have a ton of apps I use, but these are the ones I refer to for trips.
    1. NAVIGON - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/navigon-usa/id384680007?mt=8 - so far the best door to door software I have found. I use it on my iPhone as well while caged and it has never led me astray.
    2. MotionX GPS HD - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/motionx-gps-hd/id370488535?mt=8 - download maps before leaving in whatever detail level you want. My last geocache trip, I downloaded 32GB maps that went all the way in, zoom-level wise. For over the road, you dont have to get as detailed, so the downloads will be smaller. This is, hands down, the best map app I have been able to find.
    3. Rand-McNally Atlas - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rand-mcnally-road-atlas/id624882974?mt=8 - always good to have a backup set of static maps. I also carry a paper copy in my backpack as well. Just in case.
    4. RedShift - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/redshift-astronomy/id390436752?mt=8 - Not mapping, but astronomy. You can point the ipad up at the sky, use the camera to pass through, and you have the whole sky map available for when you stop for the night.
    5. Packing Pro - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/packing-pro/id312266675?mt=8 - This one I use to make a packing list. I have several saved for different types of travel, and since some overlap, I only have to add a category to an existing list and it adds the items already in it. You can check off what is packed, making it easy to know what is still needed.
    6. WunderMap and Yahoo Weather - combined, best weather app I have been able to find. I have found both to be as accurate as anyone can get for weather.
    6a. WunderMap - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wundermap-by-weather-underground/id364884105?mt=8
    6b. Yahoo Weather - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/yahoo-weather/id628677149?mt=8

    Cases:
    There is only 1 I would really consider worth it for motorcycling.
    1. Lifeproof iPad Air Case fr&#275; - http://www.lifeproof.com/shop/us_en/ipad-cases/ipad-air-fre-case/?color=Black+%2F+Black - Water and dust-proof (I have personally had to test this). Shock resistant. Smaller than the Otterbox and weighs less.


    Tank Bags:
    There are tank bags that will allow you to fit the iPad. I dont have any - mine goes in my backpack unless needed - so I dont know which size are required or if you can actually use the screen through the plastic map cover. There may even be some specifically for tablets, I just havent looked.

    Another nice thing - I use my iPhone most of the time to take photos. Since I can push the photos to my cloud, I can then edit them on the iPad immediately. I use Lightroom and Adobe Cloud for this, since I can come home to my main computer and have all my edits listed and can make changes as needed without having to copy the photos again. This ease of use and ability to edit while on the road makes bloging very easy, and nearly effortless.

    That is what I use, and it works. While I have not done any overnights on the bike yet, I will still be taking this kit with me everywhere. As we all have our own requirements and needs and wants, it makes it hard to point out the "BEST TABLET." The title should be "What is your favorite solution."

    What is best for me, may not be best for anyone else.
    #14
    dewey405 and regnaDkciN like this.
  15. ohgood

    ohgood Just givver tha berries !!!

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    9,274
    Location:
    alabama





    whoa nelly, that's a great recommend !
    #15
  16. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,169
    Location:
    Apple Valley, Calif
    I had cleared the caches this past weekend. It has taken a couple of reboots and it seems to be working. That is the experience my friend had also. I plan to ride to Needles Fri/Sat, so we shall see how things fare. My hope is to not have rain on the ride home Sat.
    #16
  17. Dolly Sod

    Dolly Sod I want to do right, but not right now

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2003
    Oddometer:
    18,865
    Location:
    Richmond, Va
    That's a great review, but I feel the majority of what you've said is true for nearly every "high end" tablet.

    The way I see it for Cellphones/Tablets as GPS: Just pick your OS. The Apps and Hardware on either side are more or less equal (as long as you pick between Apple and Android :deal)
    #17
  18. Deckyon

    Deckyon The Raven

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,192
    Location:
    Louisville, KY - USA
    True. But as I said, I was already vested in iOS, so I stuck with the iPad. I would recommend sticking with whatever OS you have spent the most money on first. I just drew on my own experience, so far. :freaky
    #18
    regnaDkciN likes this.
  19. abhibeckert

    abhibeckert Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,962
    Location:
    Cairns, Australia
    I'd get an iPad, and I would have multiple apps and maps depending on the ride (for your goldwing or the vstrom, I generally wouldn't be using the same app).

    iPads are available in 9.7" or 7.9".

    Both of those have exactly the same screen resolution, which means everything will be bigger on the the 9.7" one. Try them both out in person and decide which one you prefer. There are settings to make font sizes larger, but many third party apps ignore the settings and GPS apps are among the worst offenders for showing the same size text no matter what font size the user has specified.

    Make sure you get either an iPad Air 2 or an iPad Mini 3. Do not get an older model. Trust me, I write software for these things and know the hardware, the older ones are a waste of money.

    iPads are better than just about any other colour screen in full sunlight. It's nowhere near as good as, say, an E-Ink Kindle, but those can't be used as a GPS. I don't know of any tablet with better outdoor visibility than an iPad.

    I have a first generation iPad that has copped some *serious* abuse without any case, and it still runs perfectly (despite a myriad of dents on the back). Inside a case they're almost indestructible apart from the glass screen which is obviously very large and thin.

    Screens are easily replaced for fairly cheap prices, and Apple will even replace the entire iPad out of warranty for about half the cost of buying a new one - you give them your broken one which will be used for spare parts.

    The durability and cheap repair options for an iPad are unmatched by any other tablet.

    Plenty of those available, I don't know which one is the best.

    That's something you'll need to consider when buying a water proof case - since it's the case you're mounting not the iPad. Make sure it has some airflow - many tank bags have a clear plastic pocket for maps - a tablet can overheat in those.

    Incredibly good battery life on iPads, although exactly how long will depend on the mapping software you choose to use.

    If you're careful not to waste battery power, an iPad should last more than a week between charges, even if you use it frequently during the day. With the screen permanently on and power hungry GPS apps running I think it should last a full day's ride but I have never tested.

    Options to charge from the bike's alternator are readily available and cheap. Make sure you get one designed for iPads, they draw a lot more power than an iPhone.

    This is a strong point for iPads. You can get them with up to 128GB of internal storage, and unlike Android tablets that typically rely on SD cards, the iPad storage is extremely fast and reliable.

    You will need to get a "Cellular" iPad as Apple's GPS receiver is integrated into the cellular radio chipset. You do not need to be connected to a cell network, but if you do want to then it's very cheap and prepaid options are available.

    I personally recommend having a cellular connection, it's extremely handy for dodging rain storms for example. And also traffic, but I personally don't go riding much when traffic is heavy.

    Again, that will depend on what apps you decide to use. Some are user friendly, some are not.

    In my experience, Android is a lot better on phones than it is on tablets. Others may disagree with me but iPads really are miles ahead of any Android Tablet.

    I haven't recommended any apps, mostly because you haven't given enough details about what kind of riding you do. Honestly I recommend installing all the commonly used apps (many of them are free, and most others are very cheap) and decide which you like better.

    CoPilot is definitely a good starting point, although it's one of the more expensive ones (there is a free version, but it lacks a lot of features).
    #19
  20. abhibeckert

    abhibeckert Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,962
    Location:
    Cairns, Australia
    Modern bluetooth uses almost zero power, it can run for YEARS off a $2 watch battery. Older versions of bluetooth were power hungry, giving it a bad name.

    There are plenty of tablets that have bluetooth but lack GPS. I'm willing to bet around a third tablets sold worldwide have bluetooth and do not have GPS, but I don't know where somebody could find statistics on that. GPS is even harder to find on laptops

    GPS doesn't use much power but tablets often don't have very good antennas which means they get a fairly noisy signal. This is compensated for by running power hungry software to do error correction, which definitely does cause significant battery drain.

    I still wouldn't buy an external GPS receiver, just get a tablet with GPS built in. But their claims are perfectly valid.

    No. The biggest battery killer is the CPU when it runs at full speed. A mostly idle CPU uses very little power but if you push it hard, it can use orders of magnitude more power than anything else.

    My iPad's screen doesn't turn off automatically and sometimes I wake up in the morning to see the screen has been lit up all night long, and there's still plenty of battery remaining. But if I had left Sygic running the battery would never have lasted all night.
    #20