Like its predecessor, the Wi-Fi + 3G model of the new Apple iPad 2 comes with a built-in GPS chip. Other location features of the new iPad 2 include a digital compass (all models), a three-axis gyro, and an accelerometer. The addition of front and back cameras, as well as video recording capability, add new location-specific apps capability to all of the iPad 2 versions.
The iPad 2 is thinner (8.8 mm, thinner than an iPhone 4), lighter (at 1.34 pounds), and faster (new dual-core A5 chip) than the previous iPad. Some of the biggest differences in the new versions are the front and back-facing cameras. The back camera of the iPad 2 has a still camera with 5x digital zoom, and can shoot HD (720p) video at up to 30 frames per second. The front-facing camera shoots stills and video as well, at 30 frames per second with VGA quality.
Key to GPS and location-oriented services, and for organizing your photo catalogs, the iPad 2 will automatically geotag photos and videos (this feature may be turned off when you don't want to location-identify images).
The iPad 2's three-axis gyro enables the iPad to sense its orientation precisely, which will be most useful for game apps, but will find its way into location-aware apps as well (see more on apps below). The same is true for its accelerometer, which detects motion and speed in any direction.
The iPad 2's GPS consists of a built-in GPS chip and assisted GPS (AGPS) capability. There is considerable confusion about AGPS, so here is the background: AGPS helps the iPad 2 obtain a faster "time to first fix" (TTFF). AGPS acquires and stores information about the location of satellites via the cellular network (see GPS almanac) so the information does not need to be downloaded via satellite. AGPS also helps position the iPad 2 when GPS signals are weak or not available. GPS satellite signals may be impeded by tall buildings, and do not penetrate building interiors well. AGPS uses proximity to cellular towers to calculate position when GPS signals are not available.
So what can the iPad 2 user do with all of this advanced GPS and location technology? Here are some notable iPad 2 apps:
Car navigation apps, such as Waze and MotionX GPS HD benefit from the wide map view and enhancement of search and social media features. There are few good car mounts for the iPad so far, but give it time. The iPad 2 could also be handy in the car if a passenger is assisting with navigation.
The iPad's large screen is a natural for aircraft and boat charting and navigation, and there are a number of apps for these purposes, including SkyCharts Pro for aviation and iNavX Marine Navigation for boaters.
Outdoors enthusiasts will appreciate apps such as Gaia GPS, which includes detailed topo maps, and golfers will get a kick out of big-screen golf GPS with Golfshot Golf GPS for iPad 2.
No doubt developers will be making good use of the iPad 2's new camera capability to integrate images and virtual reality features into location-aware apps.