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  1. #1
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    IPAD, Smart Phone, Other Options (Train/Bike Trip)

    In taking a trip this summer via Amtrak and folding bicycle and I see that I will need internet access in order to check train schedules, find lodging and food while out on the bikes, and navigate in some of the larger cities and coutry areas we will be riding in. In addition, I would like to have my cell phone with me. It will be a 2 week "credit card" trip so we'll be packing very light (we can mail things to a few stops if necessary).

    Even though it is compact my IPAD seems too heavy and will still take up more room in my backpack than I want. To do it all with what I have I would need to bring my cell phone (water proof), and IPAD (not waterproof) - with a data package, and possibly my GPS (waterproof).

    So, I'm looking for something that will suit all needs. My guess is a Smartphone, but I really do not want to own one after the trip. I thought I'd purchase cell service/data package for the trip and then quit after the trip (I have WiFi at home and don't really need internet access everywhere).

    Do any of you have suggestions on light weight, small-ish item that would fit the bill?
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    You might be able to rely on WiFi. I'd bring the iPad since you have it. People have traveled with heavier sorts of things. I wonder if short-term smartphone rentals are practical.

    It would seem you have the WiFi only iPad.

  3. #3
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    You've answered your own question. Smartphone.

    However, I have toured with an iPad. I have a G3 connection, so wasn't entirely reliant on wifi, but wifi access is now so widespread that it would still have been nice to have.

    One thing I never used it for was navigation while riding, or for looking for lodging or food in real time. I find that looking at the route the day before and, if necessary, making a few notes is generally sufficient.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    You might be able to rely on WiFi. I'd bring the iPad since you have it. People have traveled with heavier sorts of things. I wonder if short-term smartphone rentals are practical.

    It would seem you have the WiFi only iPad.
    I can buy cell-service for the IPAD for the month.

    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    You've answered your own question. Smartphone.

    However, I have toured with an iPad. I have a G3 connection, so wasn't entirely reliant on wifi, but wifi access is now so widespread that it would still have been nice to have.

    One thing I never used it for was navigation while riding, or for looking for lodging or food in real time. I find that looking at the route the day before and, if necessary, making a few notes is generally sufficient.
    I probably wouldn't use it to navigate while riding as anything is too distracting (including GPS). I'd like to have it to find things if necessary. As an example, I was in Miami (traffic jam) on my motorcycle with no GPS. Had I had one I would have just bailed on the traffic and found a different route. Most of the time I can feel my way around (did a 7,000 mile trip last year without hardly using the GPS - didn't really work in Newfoundland anyway), but it is those times when you really need to find something that it would be nice to have.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    The iPad is a nice device but there is really not a good place for it touring IMO. The iPhone is much more practical and its only down side is screen size and even that after I have had one a few years I have found is actually just big enough without being too big. The internet connectivity while mobile is nice but not totally necessary, as mentioned above you can connect wireless so many places now. The GPS doesn’t require the internet to work and there are apps that let you store maps on the iPhone and are much faster than waiting for maps to come over the air.

    When the iPad came out I was tempted to get one but really couldn’t think when I would be using it much different than I do it now on the iPhone.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
    The iPad is a nice device but there is really not a good place for it touring IMO.
    Disagree. The iPad with 3G will easily fit in most handlebar bags, doesn't weigh much and should be easy to recharge on the OP's credit card tour. It's not the sort of thing you're going to use while riding the bike, but then again the iPhone isn't great for that purpose either. When stopped, the iPad seems like it would be a bit more useful: easier to view maps, easier to send/read e-mail, better for blogging, better book/magazine reader, etc. The iPhone is better for phone calls and taking pictures, or if you're a committed ounce-counter, but other than that I think the iPad trumps it...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    I use my iPad on the road, not actively when riding, but when I want to stop and get my bearings. The big screen makes it a lot better for planning and looking at larger chunks of your route. Since you have the option to add cell coverage, you also have GPS. I use the GPS often even without using a data plan just by downloading maps of the area in advance. But when I'm touring, I usually have an active data plan as well.

    However, if you just want one device that does everything, a smart phone really is the only thing that fits the bill (unless you want to make Skype calls with the iPad). If you don't want to own one full time, you might consider buying one second hand that you plug a pay-as-you-go SIM into. Then you can sell it afterwards.

    I love having my iPad with me for navigation on the bike and communication and entertainment off the bike, but if it's not for you, then a smart phone is the easiest, lightest way to make it all work.

    A standalone GPS seems less useful because you still won't have internet.

  8. #8
    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Disagree. The iPad with 3G will easily fit in most handlebar bags, doesn't weigh much and should be easy to recharge on the OP's credit card tour. It's not the sort of thing you're going to use while riding the bike, but then again the iPhone isn't great for that purpose either. When stopped, the iPad seems like it would be a bit more useful: easier to view maps, easier to send/read e-mail, better for blogging, better book/magazine reader, etc. The iPhone is better for phone calls and taking pictures, or if you're a committed ounce-counter, but other than that I think the iPad trumps it...

    I guess that’s why they make both. I went most of my life with phones that had to have a wire connected to a pole to work so for me a cell phone started out as a convenient device but hardly a necessity. I like adopting new technologies so I wouldn’t be against someone bringing a tablet device on a tour. I would think you would still want a phone but maybe not. I never thought I would be using my iPhone for the things I use it for pretty much all you mentioned above and also containing 332 record albums. How that for a weight savings that would be a couple hundred pounds of LP’s.

    As long as you can keep the iPad dry and charged on a tour why not take it along.

    I will disagree that the iPhone won’t work while riding along. I had mine bar mounted the last couple years and found it useful. This year I decided to tuck it away in the bar bag while moving similar to what you suggested with the iPad, and pulling over to use it. With the right apps they are both very useful.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

  9. #9
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
    I will disagree that the iPhone won’t work while riding along. I had mine bar mounted the last couple years and found it useful. This year I decided to tuck it away in the bar bag while moving similar to what you suggested with the iPad, and pulling over to use it. With the right apps they are both very useful.
    The guy I rode with on much of the Southern Tier had his iPhone on all day and it worked out well. He picked up a handlebar mounted "Topeak Iphone Drybag". It kept his iPhone dry, visible and available. It seemed to work well. Some of the time we navigated using it other times using paper maps.

    The iPad is more than I personally would choose to carry, but I see no reason why others who are less fussy about paring down their gear lists might not want to take one.

    Me, my camera and blackberry are all the electronics I have been carrying lately.

    I have toyed with taking a kindle with my maps on it. On a long trip it can weigh less than the maps. I found out that it is possible to turn off the screen saver mode and have it keep the map displayed. Since the kindle only uses battery when you turn pages or communicate wirelessly, battery life should be weeks. I am not sure that will work very well with a meandering tour on big maps, but something like the little panels on the ACA maps could be scanned as individual pages in a pdf file. The narrative could be on either on the same or a separate page. I may never actually do this myself but it is certainly feasible.

  10. #10
    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    I love having my iPad with me for navigation on the bike and communication and entertainment off the bike.


    That was kind of my point about the smart phones / iPhone in my case. At home I have a 120 inch projection screen in my man cave with all the sound to go with it and if you would have told me I could ever enjoy watching a movie in a tent in the middle of nowhere on a 3.5 inch screen with headphones I would have said never. Or that I would be reading a book or posting to a web forum on a touch QWERTY pad 2 inches long again I would have said never. But those things are not only doable but actually easy and enjoyable. I get weather warnings audible all the time but last year I got a warning of a tornado just a few miles from me. It didn’t amount to anything but I thought that a really amazing piece of information to have. I don’t own a pad so I am not that proficient at typing on one but I used one for a day and found I could type just as fast on the iPhone with all the keys within reach of one finger. I’m sure with a little more time I would adapt to a pad and type the correct way.

    One of my biggest concerns with all these devices is keeping them charged on the road. With doing a train, bike credit card tour I don’t see many problems with a pad. I don’t know the power requirements of the pad vs. phone for continual usage while riding. I have worked out methods to keep the phone alive for days and would have to look into what a pad would take.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

  11. #11
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    One option to consider if you really don't want to bring the iPad because of size nor want to take the plunge with buying an iPhone or smartphone because of contracts is the iPod Touch. Basically an iPhone sans phone. Uses wifi. I picked up one a couple years ago before a tour and found it works well in tandem with a regular phone. There's a bunch of apps that you can use that store info on the iPod so you don't always have to have a wifi connection to use them. And since they've been around for a few years you might be able to find them cheap on Craigslist and other places.
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  12. #12
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
    One of my biggest concerns with all these devices is keeping them charged on the road. With doing a train, bike credit card tour I don’t see many problems with a pad. I don’t know the power requirements of the pad vs. phone for continual usage while riding. I have worked out methods to keep the phone alive for days and would have to look into what a pad would take.
    I have an iPad, but not a smart phone, so I can only guess at some of the power issues, but it will largely depend on how you use it. If you're having it on all day while you ride, either device will likely need to be charged nightly. The smart phone might not even make it through the day. The other problem I have is that my non-smart phone will keep searching for a signal if it can't find one, so if I'm beyond range, the battery drains much faster. I just turn it off when I see that there's no signal and try again in a few hours, but this wouldn't be an option if you were relying the GPS of your smart phone. Fortunately the iPad lets me turn off cellular service while leaving the GPS on. I don't know that an iPhone will let you do that. From what I understand, you have to put it in "airplane mode" to turn off the cell phone part, which also turns off the GPS. So, in some remote areas, especially if you planned on using the phone constantly while riding, battery life could be an issue.

    The iPad, on the other hand, has a much larger battery and can last a much longer time. How you could mount it for constant use, and whether or not that's a good idea are going to be other issues, though. It should get around 10 hours of continual use, which might get you through a day's riding, but even then I don't know that that's the best use. You usually want to spend at least part of the time looking around, not at a screen showing you where you are. But here's how I use it: When riding, it's in a pannier. I turn off cellular data, wifi, and bluetooth. I leave a GPS app open and record my track, but I turn the screen off because that's the biggest battery drain. If I have a question about where I am, I pull it out, my location is already loaded, and I check my bearings. Off the bike I turn data on. I find that the battery actually runs down slower on a bike trip then at home because I'm not actively using it as often. I could go a couple of days or more between charges, I suspect, but I carry a batter pack and top it off nightly, so I can't say for sure, but credit card touring and staying in hotels would provide more than enough opportunity to keep it charged.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    All very good information to help me decide.

    BTW - the IPAD uses very little power.

    Those of you that purchase data packages - do you need much? I tried using the calculator on Verizon Wireless and it looks like I might only need the lowest package.

    Good idea to buy a used IPhone and resell - that might be the ticket.

    I wasn't aware that you could download maps on the IPAD and take them with you.

    RobertE - you say you get GPS without a data plan. I was unaware of that possibility as well. I would imagin that if you were in a certain area though and asked for local lodging on the map you'd need connection to the internet. Am I correct?

    Also, if necessary I can charge via solar panel (although that contradicts my desire to go light weight). I have a pretty small one that folds up into the size of a long wallet and have used it while away from land to charge my GPS battery (in the boat).
    Last edited by Ridefreemc; 05-11-12 at 12:29 PM.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I have toyed with taking a kindle with my maps on it. On a long trip it can weigh less than the maps. I found out that it is possible to turn off the screen saver mode and have it keep the map displayed. Since the kindle only uses battery when you turn pages or communicate wirelessly, battery life should be weeks. I am not sure that will work very well with a meandering tour on big maps, but something like the little panels on the ACA maps could be scanned as individual pages in a pdf file. The narrative could be on either on the same or a separate page. I may never actually do this myself but it is certainly feasible.
    I do something similar on my iPhone. One of the features that isn’t advertised on the iPhone is anytime you have anything displayed on the screen if you push the power button and the display button at the same time it will capture a snapshot of the full screen and place it in the photo album. I then put it in a folder called maps. I do this while having good wireless connection of areas I’m interested in having a little close up map of or maybe something like a day’s worth of ride. It’s just a .jpg image but you can pinch and zoom on it. Along with that points of interest maybe a snapshot of a webpage with directions and phone numbers to a camp ground etc. Then no matter what the connection deal is you have trip tic of sorts you can build in a few minutes.

    I also have an app that acts like a camera but takes a photo like a scanner would and corrects to square the image and then makes a pdf file. This works great if you have some paper maps and want to scan them in, in sections to use just as maps. I have a good scanner at work and I am always amazed that this phone app makes the quality of pdf .

    There are so many low tech things you can do with the phone even using the note book app make a crib sheet of directions typed out and then do a screen shot of that and stick that in the photo file with maps. While you are riding along just tap photos and brush the screen to see your list right next to the map.
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
    One option to consider if you really don't want to bring the iPad because of size nor want to take the plunge with buying an iPhone or smartphone because of contracts is the iPod Touch. Basically an iPhone sans phone. Uses wifi. I picked up one a couple years ago before a tour and found it works well in tandem with a regular phone. There's a bunch of apps that you can use that store info on the iPod so you don't always have to have a wifi connection to use them. And since they've been around for a few years you might be able to find them cheap on Craigslist and other places.
    I've gone the iPod Touch route, too. There are apps that will save maps and can be very helpful. What it lacks is the GPS. One of favourite things about the iPad is the lack of trying to match your maps with your road signs and trying to reconcile where you think you are with where you really are. That little marker that shows my exact place on the map is the best. But I agree that that's a good way to go to avoid a smart phone purchase and avoid carrying an iPad. There are drawbacks, but it wins big in price and weight.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
    I guess that’s why they make both. I went most of my life with phones that had to have a wire connected to a pole to work so for me a cell phone started out as a convenient device but hardly a necessity. I like adopting new technologies so I wouldn’t be against someone bringing a tablet device on a tour. I would think you would still want a phone but maybe not.
    The OP already owns an iPad and a regular cell phone. Buying an iPhone to duplicate the functionality of his existing devices in a somewhat lighter package seems like a waste of money, especially given the compromises that the iPhone's small screen entails. For me, spending hundreds of dollars to buy an iPhone so I could shed 18 ounces of weight wouldn't be worth it...

    I will disagree that the iPhone won’t work while riding along. I had mine bar mounted the last couple years and found it useful. This year I decided to tuck it away in the bar bag while moving similar to what you suggested with the iPad, and pulling over to use it. With the right apps they are both very useful.
    I own an iPhone 4, 3rd gen iPad, and a Garmin Edge 705. The iPhone and iPad are very difficult, bordering on impossible, to see in direct sunlight. If the iPhone is exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time, I've found that it's pretty easy to overheat it. Last time I tried to use a GPS app, admittedly quite a while ago, I found the battery drained pretty quickly. And, of course, an iPhone isn't weather-proof unless you add some sort of protective case.

    For me, at least, the Garmin Edge 705 is a significantly better device to use while riding. The screen is much more readable, I've never seen it overheat, you can usually get away with charging it every other day, and it offers some amount of weather protection. Of course, this assumes that you need to use a device while riding, which many people don't.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    I've gone the iPod Touch route, too. There are apps that will save maps and can be very helpful. What it lacks is the GPS. One of favourite things about the iPad is the lack of trying to match your maps with your road signs and trying to reconcile where you think you are with where you really are. That little marker that shows my exact place on the map is the best. But I agree that that's a good way to go to avoid a smart phone purchase and avoid carrying an iPad. There are drawbacks, but it wins big in price and weight.
    Looks like about $100 from Verizon for a new iPhone (with 2-year contract). The misses needs a new phone (I just got a new one) so I might be able to give her mine and just take the plunge to a smartphone. Some of the reviews say they are delicate though and use battery life quickly. I don't plan on using it much and would likely have it off during most of the day. Do any of you have a take on how much juice the iPhones uses?

    I do have access to a IPOD 3 and a 4, but no GPS or map connection would not be great. Although, I think I have seen my daughter's IPOD show where we were riding one day and I haven't a clue how that did that.

    I'm starting to feel like an electronics dinosour! Thanks for all the comments.
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    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    BTW - the IPAD uses very little power.
    The iPad uses a fair amount of power, it just has a much larger battery than a smart phone. You'll get much longer life out of it, but it will also take longer to recharge if you're using a low power option like a solar panel, so keep that in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    Those of you that purchase data packages - do you need much? I tried using the calculator on Verizon Wireless and it looks like I might only need the lowest package.
    It depends on usage, the length of your trip, availability of wifi, etc. If I remember right, Verizon's low end might be higher than AT&Ts low end, so you might be fine. I find that for a day or two away from home, AT&Ts low end plan works well, but if it's a week or so, I go up to the next level, but for me I think that's 250 mb vs. 25 gb. Verizon has different options. Also it might depend on which iPad you have. If some apps supply higher resolution images for the new iPad, those high-res images might eat up more data.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    RobertE - you say you get GPS without a data plan. I was unaware of that possibility as well. I would imagin that if you were in a certain area though and asked for local lodging on the map you'd need connection to the internet. Am I correct?
    Yes. Without wifi or a data plan, a cellular-capable iPad will still let you use the GPS, but all that will get you is your location. If you pull up the Maps app, you will see a blue dot on a grey grid representing where you are, but no actual roads or landmarks because it can't download that data. The only way to make the GPS useful without access to data is to use apps that save the necessary data to your device ahead of time. I use MotionX GPS to save maps and routes. There's an awesome app called Maplets that lets you download pdf maps and save them to your device. If possible, it will show your location on the pdf map (not possible if the map isn't to scale or hasn't been added to their database with the GPS data). But to search for info on the fly, like hotels, you will still need a data plan. Or will have to pick a number of potential hotels ahead of time and save them to a map app.

  19. #19
    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    All very good information to help me decide.

    BTW - the IPAD uses very little power.

    Those of you that purchase data packages - do you need much? I tried using the calculator on Verizon Wireless and it looks like I might only need the lowest package.

    Good idea to buy a used IPhone and resell - that might be the ticket.

    I wasn't aware that you could download maps on the IPAD and take them with you.

    RobertE - you say you get GPS without a data plan. I was unaware of that possibility as well. I would imagin that if you were in a certain area though and asked for local lodging on the map you'd need connection to the internet. Am I correct?

    Also, if necessary I can charge via solar panel (although that contradicts my desire to go light weight). I have a pretty small one that folds up into the size of a long wallet and have used it while away from land to charge my GPS battery (in the boat).

    On the phone the GPS works regardless of having internet the trouble is most of the mapping programs use the internet to load the maps that show you where you are relative to the GPS number that wouldn’t mean much to most people just a XY point in space pretty much. With the iPhone it will temp store a map for a day or so if you have opened it and looked at it someplace you have internet. That is a work around that might help a little with poor connection or no internet plan. A better method is apps like MotionX GPS. It lets you store GPS maps to your phone with whatever detail you want of whatever area you want. And you can edit and add and remove whenever you want. I loaded a 150 mile circle around my home with great detail and leave that on all the time. When I travel I do the area I will be in and then take it off later.

    As mentioned above the iPod touch could be another good idea. I could see using something like that with a little preplanning.

    As to power requirements I have the i4 phone and it alone would fail miserably on tour. I have it in a case called a mophie battery case that at least doubles the on time. I then carry a device called a tekkeon USB charger pack it is a combination AA battery pack that holds 4 cells ether rechargeable or alkaline that will transfer to the phone to recharge it a couple times. The unit also acts as a AC recharger for the phone and the rechargeable batteries when there is AC power to be found.

    http://www.tekkeon.com/productcart/p...&idproduct=194

    I also added a USB LED book light that makes a nice little task / tent light.
    Here is a photo of my back up power. I carry 4 of each type battery. In a real pinch you can buy alkaline’s and keep moving.



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    You can buy GPS attachments for iTouch/iPad devices.

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    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    So it looks as though the iPhone has power limitations (I can overcome to some degree by just shutting it off for most of the trip - we will be at a lodging establishment each niight so can power up if necessary), but I can use it as a GPS via cell service (don't need a data package for that) as long as I use Maplets or MotionX GPS to preload the maps. That would likely work for me since I can get to a WiFi spot if necessary to get train data, etc. Also. Amtrak has WiFi and that is where we will be a lot of the trip. I can do some preplanning and save that information.

    If the IPAD had GPS capabilities without a data package that would just about do it., but would still be bigger than I'd like. We are using a 16 and 18 liter backpack for two weeks on the bikes/train/visiting so everything ads up (as you all well know).
    On the move!
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    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    If the IPAD had GPS capabilities without a data package that would just about do it.,
    The iPad does have GPS even without a data package. It just doesn't have internet. I use my iPad's GPS on the road all the time without internet, I just need to have the maps downloaded ahead of time.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    The iPad does have GPS even without a data package. It just doesn't have internet. I use my iPad's GPS on the road all the time without internet, I just need to have the maps downloaded ahead of time.
    WTH - I seem to be the last one to learn this stuff! I'll try that out this weekend - Thanks! Is there a special way to access "GPS" on the Ipad, or do you just use a map application? Do I use "Maps?" I will look at MotionX and Maplets as well.
    On the move!
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    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    WTH - I seem to be the last one to learn this stuff! I'll try that out this weekend - Thanks! Is there a special way to access "GPS" on the Ipad, or do you just use a map application? Do I use "Maps?" I will look at MotionX and Maplets as well.
    You need an app that will save maps. MotionX is the one I use.

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    eternalvoyage
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    There is a good, reliable smart phone/'Blackberry clone' that you can buy through various outlets for a quite reasonable price. I've used it extensively, and am happy with it (once I had downloaded Opera Mini, which allows the heavy lifting/processing to by done by Opera servers). For fifty dollars a month (no contract; it's month to month, and you can skip or stop or mix and match at will) through Net10, you can have unlimited calls, text, and web (for 25/mo, 750 minutes of same). They use the ATT network, and I've been pleased with the reception. Verizon may have better reception in some areas (I actually get better-than-Verizon reception in my areas of most use), but you'll pay for it.

    The phone is the LG900G, and the best deal I've seen is the package deal (includes micro SD card, earphones, and car charger as I recall) through walmart.com.

    The other device, which for me is supplementary and complementary to the LG, is a Kindle. You can download maps. The web browsing is rather limited, and not the fastest, to put it mildly; but it certainly works. There is a variety of games and apps, and good user base, forums, and support. High ratings at amazon.com (in over 36,000 customer reviews). Free cloud storage. Excellent Amazon integration. Great battery life (esp. with WiFi off). The 3G seems to be able to roam.

    In a nutshell, I'm quite happy with these.

    A higher-end smart phone may be a better fit for less frugal gadgeteers, though.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 05-20-12 at 12:15 PM.

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