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I'm about to get an iPad and I have to decide about WiFi only or to pay extra for 3G/4G capability. Basically, I plan to use it almost always while sitting still (home, hotel, cafe, etc.), but when traveling, I'd like to use it instead of my phone for Google Maps navigation. My phone can function as a mobile hotspot, so I figure that even without a mobile-network capable iPad, I can connect to the phone and have wireless internet

But my question is: if I do that, will the iPad be able to pick up GPS location info from the hotspot, so that I can get directions from my current location (and see where I am on the map in real time)?

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No, the iPad must have its own GPS hardware to receive this data. The 3G/4G iPad has GPS hardware that the WiFi-only iPad lacks. The WiFi-only iPad will only be able to guess its location based on triangulation using a database of WiFi access points. You will have a real-time location update of sorts but accuracy will vary wildly and unpredictably. If you want to do navigation, get the 3G/4G capable iPad. The GPS feature works even without an active data plan so long as you have some way to get the Google Map data. Since your phone works as WiFi hotspot you have that covered.

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Thanks for this information. So let me make sure I understand you. There's the WiFi only iPad (call this W) and the iPad with 3G/4G (call this G). There is no GPS receiver on the W, only on the G. But the GPS receiver will work on the W even if there's no data plan, and if I can get the maps over WiFi, then it would work. Is that correct? But now I'm wondering: I've seen GPS receivers (e.g. this one: goo.gl/CBlpc) that wirelessly provide GPS to the iPad, and if they can do that, why can't my GPS enabled phone? –  Joshua Frank Aug 18 '12 at 23:13
    
Also, if I do get a G model, just for the GPS, can I get an unlocked one to be agnostic about data carrier (i.e., not pick a Verizon or AT&T model), to give me the most flexibility if I ever do need a data plan in the future? Or do you have to commit to a carrier when you buy the iPad? –  Joshua Frank Aug 18 '12 at 23:15
    
1. Correct, GPS receiver on G will work even if there is no data plan. 2. The little GPS doodad is designed to share GPS information with another device via Bluetooth, your phone (probably) isn't. 3. AT&T and Verizon use different frequencies and cell protocols so there is no such thing as an carrier-agnostic iPad. –  Kyle Jones Aug 18 '12 at 23:39
    
Hmm, so if the external bluetooth GPS works, it seems like it might be more elegant to do that, and then have it for other uses. Have to think about this. Thanks so much for your help on this! –  Joshua Frank Aug 19 '12 at 0:45
    
I have used an iPad flying in a private airplane. We connect an external GPS via Bluetooth and get excellent results. mypilotstore.com/MyPilotStore/sep/8364 –  wbeard52 Aug 19 '12 at 1:40
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