We contacted Socket Communications interested in reviewing one of their products, and the response surprised us: less than a week later we received the Socket Bluetooth GPS Receiver for our review - coming from Japan! The receiver is pictured on the right with a iPAQ H3970 for size comparison.
Yes, this product is not available in New Zealand yet, but Socket was very nice to arrange one sample unit for us to review.
The receiver is very small, almost the size of a matchbox, with a rechargeable lithium ion battery. A full battery charge lasts approximately 6 hours. In the box you'll find a leather pouch for your receiver and a car charger, with a bonus: a Y (splitter) cable that recharges the GPS receiver and an adapter to charge your iPAQ!
The accuracy according to the specs is 10m, RMS, 25m CEP without SA. Velocity: 0.1 m/sec without SA and time 1 microsecond synchronized to GPS time. The antenna is built in but there's a plug for an external antenna. The unit has 12 Channels all-in-view tracking, and the maximum dynamic conditions are altitude < 18,000 m, velocity < 515 m/sec and acceleration < 4 g.
I was surprised with the time to get a fix. I used to have a Magellan GPS, and sometimes had to wait up to five minutes for a cold fix and three minutes for a warm one. The Socket Bluetooth GPS Receiver got its first fix in New Zealand, after coming from Japan, in less than two minutes! After this, I could turn it off and on again and a fix in around 30 seconds. That's pretty good. Mind you, I'm not very technical on GPS things, but I like these times!
The unit has three LEDs: a yellow one to indicate low battery, a green one to indicate fix (blinking) and a blue one to indicate Bluetooth activity.
The Socket Bluetooth GPS Receiver comes in two flavours: the Receiver only package (product code GP0804-405) and the Nav Kit (product code GP0805-406). The difference is that MyNavigator CD Rom comes with the Nav Kit. The MyNavigator software for Pocket PC is available in American and British versions. It includes things like destinations, points of interest, speed alert, recording and GPS Info. I didn't test it because I've got the Receiver only version.
I thought I'd have to hunt for some software to use. According to Socket website, this is a standard NMEA GPS unit, so it should work fine with softwares like Destinator, Mapopolis and Pharos. My first test was actually another software I've heard good things about: Fugawi. Fugawi don't have a Pocket PC version, but I downloaded their demo for Windows. After a quick installation, I was ready to use the GPS Receiver.
First surprise: no need to pair the Bluetooth devices. I just had to change my TDK Bluetooth configuration to allow any device to connect, and after my first serial connection I was up and running. That was very promissing. But, still, not very mobile. I'm not carrying my desktop computer around.
Of course I had to find software for my Pocket PC. Actually, didn't have to go very far. I'm using for some time now a couple of maps from Livingstone Guides (see the download link below). The Map Engine is a free download, and you can buy Livingstone Maps from Handango. They are full colour maps, fully indexed and cross-referenced. The majority of their maps are also geo-referenced for use with a GPS. The have maps currently available for United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland and New Zealand with more countries currently being planned.
First I had to add the Socket Bluetooth GPS Receiver to the iPAQ H3970 Bluetooth Manager list. That was easy in took me less than 20 seconds, just the time to search for new devices.
Then, armed with my Pocket PC and with the Socket Bluetooth GPS Receiver I was ready to go out and explore. Of course, the first thing I did was to find where I live. The center screenshot above show the current status as reported by the GPS unit (I've blurred the last digits in the LAT and LON information). In the next screenshot the blue arrow indicates my current position, and turns around according to my bearing.
Well, enough of topo maps. Let's change to street maps, and find our way around town!
Note the first and the last images are the same place, different time, one coming to town, the other going back. No, I wasn't driving .
The software allows me to add Pushpins, to quickly locate places in the map. I can also find streets by name, and information on my current position and speed:
In summary I am very impressed with the Socket Bluetooth GPS Receiver. It's a small product, you can easily attach to the dashboard, or have it on a bike trip. The leather pouch is great for tramping. And being a Bluetooth device you can leave the cables behind. What a great product . The only thing I can think of is the rechargeable battery - you may run out of battery in the middle of nowhere without a plug to recharge. But that would affect your Pocket PC or laptop too. I think the product is aimed to day trips or to have as an in-car navigation system. The Socket Bluetooth GPS Receiver costs around NZ$ 650 (US$ 399).
The Socket Bluetooth GPS is available at Amazon, following this link.
The Livingstone Guides are very nice . I use them all the time in town, having almost replaced the paper guide I have in the car (just there for people who can't work exactly how to use the Pocket PC). Each map costs around NZ$ 12 (US$ 6.95) more or less, depending on which map you choose.