Using iPad 3G GPS without a data plan
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: Does the iPad 3G GPS work without a data plan?
A: The short answer is yes, although if you’re using the built-in Maps application you will still require a data connection—either cellular or Wi-Fi—in order to actually download the Google Maps data, since this is not stored locally on the device. If you have no Internet connection at all you will need to use a third-party application that stores map data locally on your device.
The iPhone and iPad 3G contain an actual GPS receiver but also use a technology known as Assisted GPS (AGPS) which references cellular towers to provide a faster GPS fix. Normally, a GPS received must be able to receive a signal from several GPS satellites in order to provide an accurate location fix, but of course this assumes that you’re potential location is anywhere on the surface of the earth. Identifying nearby cellular towers provides a very quick approximate location requiring less time and fewer satellite signals to determine your specific position. Note, however, that AGPS does not require a cellular data connection in order to find nearby towers, so you don’t specifically require a data plan to use it, although on an iPad 3G, no data plan likely means no cellular connection at all.
This would normally result in the iPad taking a longer time to find your location, however the Location Services in iOS also use nearby Wi-Fi access points in much the same way as cellular towers to assist the GPS lookup process, meaning that as long as you have Wi-Fi turned on and are in an area with one or more nearby Wi-Fi access points you should still get a reasonably quick location fix. Keep in mind as well that you don’t need to be connected to any Wi-Fi networks for this purpose—iOS Location Services looks at all of the access points that it can see nearby whether you’re connected to them or not.
At worst if you are travelling in a remote area with your iPad 3G and no cellular data connection or nearby Wi-Fi you will find that a GPS fix can take up to five minutes to happen, but you’ll still eventually get one. As noted earlier, however, you’ll still need to be using an app with locally-stored maps to see your location indicated on an actual map.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Apple to sell limited-edition Olympic Apple Watch bands exclusively in Brazil
- Report: iPhone 7 will include Lightning adapter instead of Lightning EarPods
- Edward Snowden designing device to prevent iPhone wiretapping
- Report: Apple Car team running into challenges, launch may slip to 2021
- Corning announces Gorilla Glass 5
- Apple under fire for providing refurbished replacements under AppleCare+
- Report: Apple acquires cloud music provider Omnifone? [Update: No]
- Apple releases second iOS 10 public beta
- India clears the way for Apple to open retail stores
- Apple Pay launches in Hong Kong
- Netatmo Tags for Welcome Smart Home Camera
- iDevices Socket HomeKit-enabled Light Adapter
- Koogeek Wi-Fi SmartPlug for Apple HomeKit
- Marbotic Smart Letters for iPad
- Ecoxgear Sol Jam Bluetooth Speaker
- Gumdrop Cases DropTech Case + Hand Strap for 9.7” iPad Pro
- Braven BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker
- Braven BRV-Blade Bluetooth Speaker
- Invoxia Voice Bridge
- Incase Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app