Bad Elf Review: GPS Upgrade for iOS Devices

Use this gadget to deliver GPS navigation to a non-GPS iOS device

Illustration of a people running around a globe representing modern communication and GPS

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The Bad Elf aftermarket GPS receiver makes it easy to add GPS capability to your Apple iOS device. This compact, lightweight gadget plugs into the standard Apple docking port. A free companion Bad Elf app makes sure the device "talks" to apps that require or request GPS data. It also shows GPS signal reception status and provides an easy way to keep the firmware of the Bad Elf receiver updated.

Why Are Aftermarket GPS Chips Used For?

Apple does not include GPS chips in all of its iOS devices, which has created an opportunity for aftermarket producers like Bad Elf to provide that capability. Those devices without GPS can still find your location fairly accurately using Wi-Fi positioning. But Wi-Fi is not enough for turn-by-turn navigation apps, which often need to work without Wi-Fi availability.

It's understandable why Apple doesn't put GPS chips in devices that don't have mobile connectivity. Many navigation apps require always-on internet access to download maps and route driving directions GPS add-ons are for those who still want GPS despite the limitations of their non-connected devices.

Bad Elf Pros and Cons

What We Like
  • Light and compact.

  • Quick GPS fix with great satellite signal reception.

  • Adds GPS capability to Wi-Fi-only iOS devices like the iPad and iPod Touch.

What We Don't Like
  • Installs in docking port, preventing use of other types of mounts or chargers.

  • Uses decent amount of battery—more an issue for the iPod Touch than for the big-battery iPad.

  • Many location-aware apps need cellular connectivity, which not Bad Elf does not provide, to function.

Easy GPS Upgrade for iPad, iPod

We plugged the Bad Elf GPS device into an original iPad Wi-Fi model and tested it with the free Waze turn-by-turn navigation app.

When you first plug the Bad Elf module into the iPad, it prompts you to install the free Bad Elf app. The app is simple but performs the important function of letting the Bad Elf unit talk to its home servers and check for firmware updates. It also shows the GPS connectivity and signal strength.

Once you have the Bad Elf connected and the app working, you can open a GPS-compatible app and begin using the location and navigational features.

Bad Elf was quick to get an accurate GPS fix and worked smoothly with Waze to provide us with accurate spoken turn-by-turn directions. We turned the iPad's Wi-Fi off completely to make sure the unit wasn't getting navigation data from Wi-Fi locations. Waze must have cached our local maps because it kept up with us as we traveled to our local metro area. It would no doubt need access to Wi-Fi or other connectivity to upload fresh maps for a long trip.

You can determine GPS fix status with the Bad Elf's green indicator light. It blinks while establishing a satellite fix, and is solid when GPS-locked.

You may charge your Apple device even while using the Bad Elf because it comes with a micro-USB port and compatible USB cable.

Overall, Bad Elf is a handy and relatively inexpensive solution for bringing GPS capability to your iOS device. There is no need to jailbreak or otherwise compromise your Apple device to use the Apple-approved Bad Elf.

Quick Specs

  • Compatible with Apple iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone.
  • 66-channel MTK GPS chipset.
  • Micro-USB port and 6-foot cable provided for charging/syncing during use.
  • Firmware updatable via a free app.
  • Plugs into a standard Apple dock connector.
  • Indicator green light for GPS lock.
  • Size: 1" x 0.25".
  • Micro USB port allows Apple device charging or syncing while in use.