Bad Elf Review: GPS Upgrade for iOS Devices

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

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The Bad Elf aftermarket GPS receiver for iPad and iPod Touch makes it easy to add GPS capability to your Apple iOS devices. This compact (1x0.25 inch) and very lightweight device plugs into the standard Apple docking port. A free companion Bad Elf app makes sure that the device "talks" to apps that need GPS data, shows GPS signal reception status, and provides an easy way to keep the firmware of the Bad Elf receiver updated.

Quick Description

  • 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.

Easy GPS Upgrade for iPad, iPod

Apple hasn't placed GPS chips into all of its popular portable devices, and that has created an opportunity for aftermarket producers, such as Bad Elf, to provide GPS capability. The original iPad and iPad 2 Wi-Fi models do not have built-in GPS chips. The iPod Touch also lacks GPS. These devices can find your location fairly accurately using Wi-Fi positioning, but that's not good enough for turn-by-turn navigation apps, for example, which need a high degree of accuracy, and the ability to work when far away from Wi-Fi signals.

It's understandable why Apple doesn't put GPS chips in devices that don't have mobile 3G connectivity. Many navigation apps require always-on internet access to download maps and to conduct address and services searches, for example.

The GPS add-ons are for those who still want GPS despite the limitations of non-connected devices. 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, if you don't already have it on board. The app is very simple but performs the important function of letting the Bad Elf unit talk to its home servers to check for firmware updates, and it shows you GPS connectivity and signal strength.

Once you have the Bad Elf connected and the app working, it's a simple matter to switch to any of the many compatible apps that pick up the Bad Elf GPS signal.

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 to our destinations. We turned the iPad's Wi-Fi off completely in settings to make sure the unit wasn't getting navigation data from Wi-Fi locations as well. Waze must have cached our local maps because its maps 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 on a long trip.

You can determine GPS fix status by observing whatever the individual app provides for monitoring GPS fix, or you can use the Bad Elf's green indicator light — blinking for getting a satellite fix, and solid on 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 good and relatively inexpensive solution for bringing solid GPS capability to your Apple iOS device. There is no need to jailbreak or otherwise compromise your Apple device to use the Apple-approved Bad Elf.


  • Light and compact.
  • Quick GPS fix and good GPS satellite signal reception.
  • Adds GPS capability to lower-cost iPad Wi-Fi models and the iPod Touch.


  • Takes up the docking port, preventing the use of other types of mounts/chargers.
  • Uses some battery power — more of an issue for the iPod Touch than for the big-battery iPad.
  • Many location-aware apps need mobile internet connectivity (not provided by Bad Elf) to function.