Steve Jobs, listen up!

Panbo at the Apple iPad store.JPG

Honest, it was purely coincidental that I booked a hotel room in Boston that’s three blocks from an Apple mega store. But, sure, we checked out the iPad opening day phenomenon, and the scene was actually impressive.  Out on the sidewalk, happy new owners showed them off to friends and the media, while others waited in lines to pick up preordered units or to place orders.  Inside iPad classes were underway and images of new iPad apps lined all three floors. Most important, there were lots of iPads online, loaded with apps, and easy to try out as long as you wanted, and they are nifty (as you can read in umpteen places). But the abundant and generally well informed staff were not able to answer my main question, which, in fact, has become my to-buy-or-not-buy line in the sand…

Will the iPad work with my existing Bluetooth keyboard and GPS receiver, both of which use standard Bluetooth profiles and work with many devices?  It’s not just that I already own both items and that they would both make the iPad much more useful for me.  (My wife and I both found the iPad touch keyboard pretty difficult, by the way.)  But my line in the sand is also about principles.  While I’ve come to appreciate the fact that Apple’s over arching product control can create a wonderful user experience and even a wildly creative third party development environment, this tightness regarding Bluetooth devices — already seen with the iPhone and iPod Touch — seems like greed.

   Then again, some of my principles are subject to change!  And some of the boating apps rebuilt or built for the iPad — like iNavX and Navimatics seen below, InteliSea, Active Captain, etc — are going to fly, I think.  Everyone at the table where we were trying them agreed that the iPad is fast, regardless of which app they were in.  At any rate, let’s discuss, and if anyone finds out more about iPad Bluetooth abilities, please let me know.  Also, my column on the possibilities of iPads aboard is now up at Yachting.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

40 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    PS The Apple store staff were very helpful to my wife with several questions she had about her Power Book, plus she found an iPod arm holder that actually fits her arm, unlike the one she got at Walmart. It cost twice as much, but there’s no question that Apple deserves some premium for the efforts we saw in that store.

  2. GPSNavX says:

    Ben, I am very excited about the iPad 3G (to be released in late April). Around that same time iNavX 3.0.0 will be released. iNavX 3.0.0 will be a FREE update to all iNavX users. It adds native iPad support (i.e. larger screen, pop up menus, portrait and landscape orientation).
    Screen shot of iNavX 3.0.0 with NOAA GRIB wind and pressure plotted on a NOAA RNC..

  3. Chris says:

    Would you actually buy a device that has to be returned and recycled when the battery dies with zero guarantees from Apple that your data will not be harvested? You mentioned greed…

  4. Anonymous says:

    The deal breaker for me is that the iPad is not easily readable in direct sunlight.

  5. Anonymous says:

    bluetooth keyboard pairing works with any bluetooth keyboard… I havnt seen anyone try a gps yet…
    video of bt keyboard at the bottom

  6. Dynamo says:

    Hey Ben,
    Good question on BT and I agree with the principles and share them.
    I also happen to be familiar with the SDK apple puts out. If you read here:
    SDK 3.0 basically opened up bluetooth and the dock for accessories.
    What is not clear is how this supported. It almost certainly seems to require app support directly.
    Finally, to your specific points, keyboards are certainly bluetoothable (videos out there) and the ipad3g comes with GPS built in, which I am planning on waiting for. I expect the apps for navigation on the ipad to be good out the door and to only get better with time.
    Looking forward to some more definitive words, and I think the app developers will be in the best place to answer these questions.

  7. Gosh Ben, I use a normal Bluetooth GPS with my iPhone today. OK, you need to do the jailbreak thing and it costs $10 for the utility but after that, Bluetooth GPS’s can connect.
    I’d suspect that it won’t take long before something similar is available for the iPad. I’ll bet there are thousands of teenagers right now hacking the thing trying to figure it out.

  8. mrfugu says:

    regarding the battery/”data security’ issues mentioned above.
    completely moot.
    you can encrypt the iphone/pad’s disk image, it’s backed up everytime you synch it, and modern batteries should be recycled properly.
    anytime you give a person your devices for service you should wipe them clean. and if you’re having problems with them to begin with a clean wipe is going to be part of the last few attempts to regain functionality anyhow.
    What I’d like to see:
    1) iNavX able to transfer waypoints on a local area network.
    2) wider bluetooth support
    3) better desktop ipad file transfer.
    that said, they got mine here by 11am and it’s the bomb!

  9. mrfugu says:

    re: 1) above, iNavX MacENC local network waypoint transfer.

  10. Preston Calvert says:

    Greed? Capitalism is about greed, and mutually beneficial exchanges of things of value. A company that is not greedy in an effective way is not serving its shareholders. If you don’t get adequate value for your money with an Apple product, don’t buy it. Buy some other greedy company’s product. That’s how markets work.

  11. anontrol says:

    engaget has a good review of the ipad accessories here:
    including bluetooth pairing.
    Interestingly, once paired, the on-screen keyboard is no longer available, which could be a problem if, for instance, you threw your bluetooth keyboard overboard in frustration because you couldn’t get your bluetooth GPS to pair (which you can’t, at least for the time being).

  12. Ruud says:

    The iPad with the software mentioned is certainly appealing for navigation however the iPad doesn’t come with a proper GPS like the iPhone. The iPad is limited to has assisted GPS, basically Wifi and 3GS cell information combined.
    Digital compass
    Assisted GPS (Wi-Fi + 3G model)
    Cellular (Wi-Fi + 3G model)

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Ruud, it’s debatable that the iPhone has a “proper” GPS. I know mine won’t track well enough beneath a fiberglass deck to support an anchor alarm. Apple should enable bluetooth GPS of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, I think.
    Preston, of course this all about capitalism. But there are particularly greedy business models, and not so greedy business models. I try to vote for the latter with my capitalistic consumer dollars.

  14. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I’m definitely waiting for the next bus, but I’m loving this leading edge blood letting! Hands-on reports please, guys; no more definitive hypotheses or crystal ball interpretations of promotional spin!

  15. mrfugu says:

    again with the FUD busting..
    a bluetooth keyboard can be unpaired with the ipad by hitting its built-in ‘eject’ button (your off-brand bluetooth keyboard has one right?)
    also, you can turn off bluetooth at anytime with a trip to the settings application.
    For those with a Mac onboard, check out ‘keyboard maestro’ (iphone and desktop app) to launch applescripts and other user configured macros from the iphone/pad/pod.

  16. GPSNavX says:

    I have not seen any evidence that the iPad 3G will have any different GPS hardware/software (Broadcom/Skyhook) than iPhone 3G or 3Gs has..
    This was in a recent Practical Sailor article “iPhone Nav Apps” ..
    “By now, there are relatively few first generation iPhones in use, so we�ll focus on what can be done with the second-gen phone, the 3G, and the latest generation, the 3Gs. Both carry basic GPS receivers, which are augmented in their triangulation processes by signals from cellular networks and Wi-Fi hotspots. This is called Assisted GPS, or A-GPS, the main advantages of which are the ability to triangulate quickly and accurately with a variety of available signals and to help conserve computing resources and battery power.
    There�s little available but scuttlebutt about the exact native capabilities of the iPhone�s GPS receiver. The consensus in the technical community online is that it uses the off-the-shelf Hammerhead II GPS chip made by Broadcom, a subsidiary of the German company, Infineon. The chip, smaller than 14 square millimeters, is said by Infineon to deliver �sensitivity to -160 dBm and position fix times as fast as 1 second, exceeding 3GPP specifications.�
    We would hazard a guess that it is a single-channel, fast-sequencing receiver, and would welcome a correction or amplification from the manufacturer. ”

  17. glen e says:

    This happens every time Apple introduces a new product – the naysayers come out of the woodwork that it does not have this or does not have that….it’s come to be expected. I picked up a 64G unit yesterday and is surpasses my expectations. It does exactly what I want it to do: surf sites like this and handle my email while I sit on my dock – nothing more. It does not replace any other computer in my possession, it augments it.
    BTW…it works fine in high noon sunlight….

  18. Dave says:

    My understanding of a- gps is that is a fully standard gps but the empheris data is looked over cellular. This means faster times to lock. In the absence of such link it functions as a normal gps.

  19. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Another line in the sand should be multitasking and tethering.
    Multitasking: I would want my 3rd party applications to continue running if I take a phone call or choose another application to run (like a browser). I don’t want to have to remember to restart my anchor alarm after I take a call, and I would want to be able to read Panbo on my browser while my anchor alarm is functioning. Engadget writers seem to believe they found evidence next version of Apple OS will support 3rd party app multitasking, so maybe this line in the sand will wash out quickly.
    Tethering: I can seriously imagine having a couple of these devices on my boat, or at least the phone and a PC. I would like to have to pay $$$ monthly for a data plan only once. While a MiFi makes a wonderful teathering device, it’s hard to live without a 3G capable phone as well.

  20. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I agree that that both are possibly important criteria, but it sounds like you’re talking about the iPhone not the iPad, Dan. Besides, the Apple mobile OS is actually multi-tasking so it won’t take much for Apple to make it more useful. Apple Insider has a good explanation here:
    My sense regarding tethering is that it is going to come easiest by going around Apple. To me, jail breaking seems unattractive as it also breaks one of the iPhone/iPad’s main features, which is the seamless updating and app-adding you get when the device is part of the iTunes eco system without caveats. The easy way to a single 3G subscription will probably be a MiFi like device, or maybe an Android phone that can also be a WiFi hotspot.

  21. GPSNavX says:

    Some users have complained they have no GPS reception. Often it is because they have enabled “Airplane Mode” concerned with roaming charges.
    Just a note of warning that “Airplane Mode” on the iPhone and iPad 3G “Settings” disables not only the cell and WiFi connection, but also disables GPS reception for all apps. Do be sure that “Location Services” in “General” is “ON”.
    For users concerned with roaming charges, just be sure that “General” “Network” “Data Roaming” is “OFF” in “Settings”

  22. Two days ago I thought it wouldn’t be long before someone hacked the iPad to allow typical jailbreak accessories. It sure didn’t take long:
    There will be more hacks and I’d fully expect Bluetooth GPS’s to connect with ease to an iPad soon (if not supported by Apple themselves). That gives you the best of all worlds – a high quality GPS when you step onto the boat AND a device that gives “barely good enough” positional accuracy when you’re mobile outside the boat.
    I think this is a winner…

  23. John says:

    Slightly off-topic but apparently we will be introduced to iPhone OS 4.0 on Apr 8.
    See Macrumors or Gizmodo.

  24. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    John, it might be very on topic. There is better than a 50/50 chance that Apr 8th will be entirely relevant to this thread.
    I am wondering if Apr 8th will cause people like me who have moved from blackberry to android (and are having serious regrets!) to consider the iphone.

  25. Bob Mueller says:

    This comment thread got me thinking. Someone should manufacture a bluetooth GPS that is a “marine” mushroom antenna, with standard 1″ x 14 threads for a standard marine mount. The installer would only need two light wires for power. I would think the power draw on the ships battery would be minimal, if you left it powered up all the time. That would allow GPS lock to be maintained by the bluetooth antenna. Any devices using the GPS data could be powered up and down and get the current position immediately. Devices monitoring anchor alarm would be powered all the time. Is there a market for said device?

  26. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Aha! A German company has announced a Bluetooth GPS that is supposedly approved by Apple for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
    (Google translate helps). If they can do it, hopefully others will too.
    Bob, that’s a great idea, though the same GPS may as well have a regular NMEA 0183 or 2000 output too. In fact, I think there is something exactly like this on the market right now, but the company hasn’t revealed its Bluetooth abilities yet because it’s writing an app to go with it. I can say no more 😉

  27. Bremer Speck says:

    The company press release states this Bluetooth GPS will be available in Mid May for 89 Euros(roughly $125) – This price includes 18% German VAT, so the net cost should be more like $105 plus postage. That sounds quite reasonable to me. Cheers, Ronald

  28. Kees says:

    Some commenters can now get their credit cards out, Apple has announced multi-tasking for iPhone OS. In particular it explicitly supports getting location updates in the background:

  29. GPSNavX says:

    Apps will have to be built specifically for iPhone OS 4 and tell the OS what background features it wants to use. Only iPhone 3Gs and newer devices will support multi-tasking. It’s a good step forward.

  30. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Kees. Great to see multi-tasking and much more coming to the OS, but note that it won’t get to the iPad until Fall for some reason. Note also that Bluetooth keyboards are coming to the iPhone. Bluetooth GPS isn’t mentioned but the German product above — called the GNS 5870 MFI, btw — suggests that it’s happening.
    My line in the sand, and Dan’s, are almost wiped out.

  31. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Agreed! And multitasking will work as well on the late model iTouch’s as well (I have one of those).

  32. bstrong says:

    iPad 3g gps test underway aboard Port Jeff
    ferry. Looks mighty good. Fast and robust.
    Motionx, shipfinder, navionics, and google maps
    fast and accurate.
    Also nice you can turn cell data on and off
    to save MBs. 15 bucks/mo. May do it for me

  33. GPSNavX says:

    My iPad 3G GPS use is showing the same results. Gizmodo also agreed. Better hardware or is it better software (iPhone OS 3.2)?
    I expect iNavX 3.0.0 to be available shortly (free update to all iNavX users). It takes full advantage of iPads improved performance ..

  34. GPSNavX says:

    To follow up, it appears to be hardware difference:
    “The iPad 3G has a Broadcom BCM4750UBG Single-Chip AGPS Solution, whereas the iPhone 3GS uses an Infineon Hammerhead II package.”

  35. bstrong says:

    iPad 3g gps test underway aboard Port Jeff
    ferry. Looks mighty good. Fast and robust.
    Motionx, shipfinder, navionics, and google maps
    fast and accurate.
    Also nice you can turn cell data on and off
    to save MBs. 15 bucks/mo. May do it for me

  36. GPSNavX says:

    iNavX 3.0.0 has been approved by Apple. Look for it as a free update for all iNavX users. Adds iPad support plus much more.

  37. mrfugu says:

    Well done GPSNavX!
    many thanks,

  38. Bill says:

    There are some more news regarding the GNS 5870 MFI GPS.
    It works with iPad, iPhone, iTouch perfectly.
    Also I can switch to normal NMEA protocol. The GPS recognize if there is a connection with a Apple device or a maybe a notebook.
    I now this company very well, and this guys are working hard to develope this product.
    First shipment of the 5870MFI will be beginning of September.
    Very nice and sexy product link to the company
    best regards

  39. Bill2010 says:

    Regarding the iPad GPS 5870 MFI from GNS
    I have found this video in Youtube
    It seems that it works fine
    By the way I have made a call to GNS and they told me a retail price about 99 bucks.

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