Mucking Around With The Bad Elf


Categories: Bad Elf Geotools


The Bad Elf is a neat little external GPS accessory designed to directly connect to all iPad, iPod touch and iPhone devices. I recently had great fun field-testing the Bad Elf I have been given (thanks Bad Elf!). I was surprised by how well the Bad Elf performed but determined that it would need to prove itself in some comparison testing with other GPS units.

Unfortunately, one of the units I’ll be using in comparison – my brand new Garmin Oregon 450* – has yet to arrive so the scientific testing has been delayed slightly.

One of the first things I noticed about using the Bad Elf (and subsequently blogged on) was that despite having potential accuracy of 2.5 metres, the apps never report anything better than 10m. It was clear I was getting much better than 10m though. Brett from Bad Elf was kind enough to provide me with a little extra info on this one:

Our chipset does support 2.5m accuracy, but for some reason iOS won’t show accuracy figures under 10m for external accessories, even if the raw NMEA datastream we provide is clearly reporting less than 10m. Not sure why this is, but we’ve reported it. In the meantime, we’re are working on a new version of our utility app that will show the raw information (including H/V/PDOP values, sats in view/use, etc). But the good news is that apps are receiving our 2.5m data even if the accuracy value says 10m.

Some of the accuracy testing I’ve been doing backs this up and I hope to have the full details in a week or two. I also can’t wait to see the utility app upgrade come out with all that extra data.

In the meantime, I’ve had some great fun mucking around with the Bad Elf and have found lots of other fun ways to use it.

Obviously, it works well with the Geocaching, Wherigo and Opencaching apps. But I stumbled across a range of free auto navigation apps and thought I would give them a go. Navfree is available for a huge range of countries and uses OpenStreetMap data.

A data connection is required if you want to search for an address but you don’t need one for map browsing or auto-routing. I’ve used this around Dunedin to see how good it is and was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the app and mapping really good, particularly as it quickly responds to route changes, but the iPad’s huge screen makes viewing the info easy. With an impending trip up the country to New Zealand’s biggest city, I’m glad I have something that can get me from point A to B.

While we’re on the vehicle side of things, I’ve also enjoyed using a range of Speedometer apps in the car. My family wagon – an unfortunate necessity when you have three young kids – has the speedo in the middle of the dash (as in the middle of the car) and I’ve never really gotten used to it.

iMapMyHike, which I have yet to test in the field, seems to be useful application for those wanting to map their route. With the iPad high up in the backpack, I can see this saving my other units’ battery life.

A more GPS orientated option that can be used in a similar way is GPS Tracks HD. What was great about this app is its ability to load into gpx files, so it can aid in your geocaching hunt as it tracks your path.

I’ve also found a huge range of golf apps, mostly free, that are so numerous it’s not worth naming any particular one here. I was surprised that a huge number of them already had local Dunedin courses available. Having better things to spend my time on (read: geocaching), my golf clubs don’t get much use anymore but I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can still hit a golf ball.

The use of all of these apps became possible because of the Bad Elf. I’d suggest that even if you have inbuilt GPS, some of these apps may still be useful. Why measure your hitting distance with 30m accuracy when you can have 2.5m?

Keep an eye out for the results of my device comparisons and accuracy testing on the Bad Elf in the next couple of weeks.

*Why I elected to purchase the Oregon now I have the Blackberry and the Bad Elf I don’t quite know!




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  1. ErikaJean says:

    September 11, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    SOunds awesome. PErhaps your Oregon will be a little more rugged for those hikes in the middle of no where? 😉

  2. Cumbyrocks says:

    September 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I wouldn’t be so sure. I already have an Otterbox for my Blackberry that provides it with a significant level of protection. If I get an Otterbox for the iPad then I am well covered! 🙂

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