First Verizon iPad NOT for Boaters

First Verizon iPads Not for Boaters

First Verizon iPads Not for Boaters


I’ve been pretty happy over the last couple of years with the quality of signal that I get on Verizon’s networks in the United States. I have not, however, been happy with their equipment — in particular their use of the term “GPS” to describe the cellular- and WiFi-derived position reporting.  It is most certainly NOT Global Positioning Service (GPS) and cannot be used for the things we boaters need at sea.   

Along now comes the Apple iPad, a fantastic device that many of us have lusted after, (and one which we love for its potential, if you’re happy with AT&T service) albeit with the proviso that we wanted it on our Verizon network. Once again, Verizon got it WRONG. Do NOT buy this version of the Apple iPad if you want to use it on the boat, unless you really don’t care about using it for any sort (primary or backup) navigation.  Jeff Siegel, of ActiveCaptain has the details in the latest ActiveCaptain newsletter.  

Here’s a quote from Jeff:  

“We love the iPad and iPhone onboard. One of the most frequent questions we
get asked is “Should I get the new Verizon iPad.” The answer for boating use
is clear: NO.  

Verizon is bundling Apple’s WiFi iPad with their MiFi aircard solution.
This provides good connectivity but DOES NOT provide a GPS chipset for
position. Don’t believe the clerk at the Verizon store – many don’t know or
understand the difference between GPS and WiFi positioning.  

The industry is full of rumors of a Verizon iPhone and cellular iPad coming
out in January. That is the one to wait for. It will have full GPS position
support providing 20′ of accuracy in most situations and even provides your
position when below deck.”  

So, dear reader, either go with the current non-Verizon 3G models (you have to buy the 3G-equipped versions to get the GPS chip), or keep holding your breath for Verizon to come through. Me? I’m starting to turn blue…  

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom

Tom Tripp is the owner of OceanLines LLC, the publisher of OceanLines and founder of Marine Science Today. He is an award-winning marine journalist, science writer and long-time public communications specialist. His PR career and much of his writing stems from the fact that he loves to explain stuff. It all began when he and his brother Mark threw all of Mom’s tomatoes at the back wall of the house. . .


Jeffrey Siegel

After we put out our newsletter with the Verizon iPad info, we’ve gotten 30 questions – all the same – so I thought I’d answer it here. While we suggest waiting for the Verizon cellular iPad, this doesn’t mean you have to enable the Verizon monthly plan when it comes out. Many people aren’t looking for yet another cellular monthly charge. In fact, we haven’t enabled the cellular plan for our AT&T iPad since last April. We use it over WiFi for all use onboard. The reason for waiting for the cellular version, however, is that this is the only iPad that has a real GPS built in. The WiFi version doesn’t have a GPS even though it can show what town you’re located in – it does that by the position of known WiFi hotspots.

Jeff – Thanks for the clarification. It’s exactly that issue — the lack of a GPS chip — that is the downfall of this early version. What has astonished me over the past couple of years is how Verizon has actually DISABLED onboard GPS chips on devices so they could sell their own cellular-based navigation services. Amazing. . .

Again, thanks for the original heads-up and the further explanation here.

Beth Anderson

Very informative post and one that I’ll be reposting on my website ( I have an AT&T 3G iPad and have used it repeatedly while cruising. It came in very handy in Nova Scotia as this summer on my in-laws’ boat when their chartplotter kept freezing and needed to be rebooted every 10 min. We used the iPad as a backup chartplotter for additional peace of mind. I agree that Verizon’s service is superior to AT&T’s, at least on the east coast, and I’ll be waiting for the “real” GPS version to arrive.

Dan Freedman

I have an AT&T 3G iPad, and use it frequently with my Verizon MiFi (for better coverage or better data speeds). But even before activating my AT&T account on the iPad, the built-in GPS worked just fine. In other words, it is possible to buy a 3G iPad, but use it with Verizon rather than AT&T. The built-in GPS works fine in this configuration.


Dan – Thanks for the info. I’m glad you have that work-around to use Verizon with the iPad 3G. The main issue for us was whether the current (non-3G) version of the iPad Verizon was selling was useable with GPS-based services and of course, the answer was no. We really were just warning boaters who wanted to have the GPS capability that this first version was not the one to buy. Using a Verizon MiFi is an interesting solution. I guess that basically offloads the 3G burder onto the MiFi. Thanks again for the info!

I had quite the crazy week with my iPad just shortly ago. I bought one on a friday from verizon, a 64GB iPad. I was told it was 3G, knowing that it used 3G networks, but not knowing that it wasn’t actually a 3G iPad. My family is a big boating family, but I also am getting my pilots license next month, on my seventeenth birthday, and I got the iPad for the GPS to fly with as a gift. On Monday, four days after purchasing it, we took it back due to not having the GPS function built in. Well on thursday that same week, I went to a monthly airport meeting, and found out a fellow pilot of mine bought the WiFi version with the MiFi card. He found a GPS that plugs into the 30-pin on the bottom, where you plug it into charge and to the comoputer. The bar that is about the size of a stamp, makes the WiFi iPad GPS compatible with any system, here is a link to the website … Its called the Bad Elf GPS, it works wonders for flying and with my GPS aviation App. It may be something to look into for boating, haven’t tried it due to it being winter and all. Thought you may like to know. Happy Boating!