Alexander: Mapping your way through Europe with an iPad

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 5, 2013 - 11:32 PM

Last week’s column about using an iPad 2 in Italy raised additional questions about the limitations of using the tablet computer while traveling abroad. Here are a few answers.

What are the limitations on iPad navigation while traveling?

The Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad doesn’t have GPS (Global Positioning System) computer chips, and thus gets all of its location information from the nearest Wi-Fi hot spot. This obviously doesn’t locate you very precisely. But if you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection, you don’t have location information, and as a result you don't have navigation capability.

The Wi-Fi plus 3G cellular unit (iPad 2) and the Wi-Fi plus 4G cellular unit (iPad 3) do contain GPS chips for navigation, but they don’t rely solely on the chips to determine your location. Instead these cellular-equipped iPads use “assisted GPS,” which relies on a combination of GPS satellite signals, Wi-Fi hot spot data and cell tower data to give you more precise location information.

Will iPad navigation work on GPS alone if Wi-Fi and cellular connections aren’t available?

Yes, if you have an app that downloads all of its maps to your iPad ahead of time, such as the Garmin and TomTom apps. No, if your navigation app requires constant map updates from the Internet, because you need a cellular or Wi-Fi connection for that. Knowing where you are doesn't help if you don't have a map.

Note: The GPS signal can be lost if portions of the sky are blocked by obstructions such as mountains, buildings and vehicle roofs. To make sure you have a GPS signal, seek out spots where the sky is unobstructed.

How do I charge an iPad in Europe?

You can use standard European plug converters; they differ a bit depending on the country. The iPad can charge with 100 to 240 volts and 50 to 60 Hertz, which makes it safe for European electrical power.

 

Q: Our Sony TV keeps pausing during movies and TV shows we stream from Netflix. The icon on the screen says “loading” and the little wheel image keeps spinning. These pauses are annoying. Is there a way to download the show and then watch it in entirety?

Greg Thompson, Maple Grove

 

A: No. Netflix movies are for streaming only. Your problem is probably caused by the speed of your Internet connection. You share Comcast’s network with other customers, so your speeds will be a little slower during peak evening viewing hours. Your streaming speed can also be slowed if others in your house are using your Internet connection at the same time. Streaming the lowest-quality high-definition video requires about 5 megabits of download speed; standard definition requires 2 to 3 megabits. You can check your speed by going to speedtest.net.

 

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 ­Portland Av. S., ­Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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