MiFi, GPS & the iPad

One thing that’s been troubling me (but not too much), is how GPS will work on the WiFi iPad. I decided a couple of months ago to get one of the first WiFi iPads and get around the lack of 3G by getting a MiFi unit.

This has proved to be a great solution for more reasons that I expected (see previous blog posts under the category – MiFi).

However, I’m still confused by how the WifI iPad will handle GPS and the specs say that only the 3G model is Assisted GPS enabled. Both have a digital compass though.

I’ve heard lot’s of speculation that the Wifi only model will still be able to triangulate location, based on the SkyHook service.

The particular MiFi unit I purchased (Novatel Wireless MiFi 2352 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot) has Built-in Assisted GPS. I have to say, I’m not sure if this is carrier dependent though.

So, to do some testing, I took my original 1st generation iPhone out with me on a short drive, powered up the MiFI and switched on Google maps.

Wouldn’t you know, it found my location, and pretty accurately too!


Now it’s probably not going to be suitable for Tom Tom, but I feel a bit happier that location based services will work just dandy on my WiFi iPad. That’s of course as long as I remember to take the MiFi, an extra battery and a USB charger for the car.


Just a quick update on the MiFi as described in the earlier post, now that I’m in the USA.

The Virgin Mobile plan I’m on in the UK, does include provision for Data services abroad, the only issue is that it’s £5 per MB or something like that.

The 02 data plan for my iPhone is £6 per MB (although you can buy a 1 month 50MB bolt on package for £50) besides which, the iPhone SIM would not work in my MiFi.

So the master plan was to arrive in the US and visit a local AT&T store (along with @patmahon who is in the same situation) and see if we could buy a Pay as You Go SIM with data to pop into the MiFi.

To cut a long story short, we were successful!

We were able to buy a “Pay As You Go Simple Rate” plan which was SIM only. It cost $25 for Voice and $19.99 for 100MB data. That’s $44.99 or £28 in real money! The great thing is that if we use up the 100MB of data, the $25 set aside for voice calls (which we’ll never se) goes towards the data plan so we get an additional 50MB or so data.

As far as installation was concerned, I just popped out the Virgin Mobile SIM and popped in the activated AT&T SIM and boom – it just worked! No configuration required.

So now, my laptop and my iPhone have WiFi connectivity wherever I go, provided I remember to take the MiFi with me (and a spare charged battery!)




I promised I’d do a blog post on the recent MiFi purchase. I’m currently in Heathrow with an hour or so to kill before my flight to Macworld so here goes:

If you’re not familiar with Mifi as a concept, it’s basically a device that connects to the cellular data network and provides broadband Internet access – very similar to the broadband USB dongles you can buy to access broadband via 3G on a laptop.

The difference with a MiFi device is that instead of physically connecting it to laptop, it creates a Wifi hotspot covering approx. 10m around itself. A sort of WiFi bubble. This means that you can connect a number of devices to the Wifi (dependant on the model but mine will support up to five devices). Hence the name MiFi – it’s my personal WiFi hotspot!

I’d heard of these before and I’ve used an early version when over in the US with Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast podcast. It worked a treat!

But I have my iPhone on 3G (via O2) and I’m not out and about that much, so I never really considered a MiFi unit.

That was until the iPad was announced.

As you know, it will come in 2 versions – Wifi and Wifi/3G

I really didn’t want to wait for the 3G version but I still would like to access the net via the iPad when away from WifI, so the Mifi became a possibility. I’d also considered if eventually we’d be able to access the Net via tethering with the iPhone but can’t see it as yet, unless at an extra charge.

So, using the latest research techniques, I asked my Twitter friends for recommendations. 

GazMaz had used a MiFi unit at the recent Liverpool Tweetup and Pat Mahon had recently purchased the same MiFi to use whilst over in the US so what’s good enough for Pat and GazMaz was good enough for me. I ordered an unlocked Novatel 2352

MiFi 2352 intelligent mobile hotspot for HSPA networks, optimized for Europe and capable of providing Internet connection for up to 5 Wi-Fi enabled devices.  Integrated microSD slot for up to 16GB, shared over Wi-Fi.

But what service to sign up for.

Again, GazMaz to the rescue with a tip that Virgin Mobile did a deal for a USB broadband modem for £8 per month (for existing customers £10 normally) THis allowed up to 1GB bandwidth per month. If you bought the modem (£25) there was no contract lock in past the initial 3 months.


No guarantee it was going to work with the MiFi but at least if it didn’t, I could still use the USB dongle.

The dongle and SIM arrived separately so I didn’t even have to take the SIM out of the dongle. Installed the SIM straight into the MiFi, powered up and it worked – no configuration needed. I then configured the MiFi security and changed the admin password and bingo!

The thing that really surprised me when testing it in my living room was the speed?

I can hardly get a signal on my iPhone using 02 and data is abysmal. The MiFi was significantly faster.

I tried it the next day from the car where again, I struggle with the iPhone on 3G – the MiFi was flying – nearly 10x the speed of the iPhone data connection. 

To be honest, I’ve been blown away by the speeds I’ve been getting from the MiFi consistently.

Previously, I’d tried using audio streaming using the Twit application on the iPhone whilst driving. Never got it to work using the iPhone. Switched on the MiFi and connected the iPhone using Wifi and got a rock steady audio stream with no effort.

Here I am in Terminal 5 using the MiFi on both the Laptop and the iPhone and it’s working great.

My one regret….

I didn’t get one sooner – it’s a fantastic device.

All I need now is the iPad!