Tag Archives | car
Been sick with a stomach flu ever since I got back from Texas, so I haven’t been able to catch up on blogging or do much of anything else for the past few days. Finally catching up now, little by little.
I was thinking about how my iPhone handled things during my trip down in Texas, and as much as it was aces for nearly most of the time spent there, there was a day where the GPS just could not seem to maintain a lock to save its own life. As a GPS tracking device, my precious iPhone was starting to falter in its accuracy.
It started happening in Austin where I would get a GPS lock, only to lose it 10 seconds later, only to regain it another 10 seconds later, and the net result was causing my Navigon app to go completely haywire, telling me to drive into walls or off exits that didn’t exist. Good grief.
To say I was displeased would be an understatement. I ready to go in kill-murder-destroy mode here. I thought maybe solar flares could be to blame, which I know can disrupt vehicle tracking, but I did some research into the MacRumors forum, and it seems this has been an issue experienced by owners of the new Verizon iPhone in particular. For the first time I realized it doesn’t actually use the same chip the AT&T phone does, and rather than having a dedicated processor, this GPS instead shares processing power with the iPhone’s CPU. At least that was my understanding of how it’s set up in the Verizon version.
Some people were thinking this was having am impact on the GPS accuracy of the Verizon iPhone, but fortunately it may just be a matter of updating the software code, something I’m hoping they do in the next iOS update.
In the meantime, I compared the GPS fleet tracking thingie in my car rental to see if it was having problems too, and I noticed occasional glitches as well, but it was still more usable than the iPhone was at the moment. Then a thought occurred to me, and I went to check my Wi-Fi settings and noticed I had it turned off. I went to turn it back on again and… nearly picture perfect GPS accuracy ever since. Go figure.
Thank God I figured it out before I began my major drive from Austin to Dallas, or I would have had a major canary. I was sure my iPhone was defective or broke on me or something, but thankfully it seems to be one of the quirks that hasn’t been worked out yet since Apple released the Verizon iPhone.
At least I hope that’s what it is.
Note: Otterbox graciously sent me a sample unit of their iPhone cases to test out for the purpose of this review.
I’ve been wanting to get solid protection for my beautiful new Verizon iPhone partly because I’m a klutz, and partly because I wanted to be able to use it for my geocaching adventures without worrying about it getting scratched up forever while I’m sneaking around an abandoned nuclear facility looking for that elusive geocache. Hence, the Otterbox Defender. :-D
I won’t bore you with details that have already been covered in other reviews of the Defender though. Instead I’ll note some of the factors that were important to me in determining whether an investment in the Otterbox Defender is worth it. Two things in particular: can you still holster it in the car while driving (such as for navigation), and can you still dock it in speakers and other accessories with a dock port? Why, YES WE CAN! Although not with a little help of course. I knew both of these were going to be issues, so I did my research ahead of time and found one of the very few car mounts that can hold something like a Defender encased iPhone: namely Arkon’s Mega Grip Holder. If you go this route, make sure it’s the MEGA GRIP you get, as the smaller grips may not fit right. Once I got my Otterbox I tested it out and with a sigh of relief it fits in just fine.
There are times though when you may want to dock the phone either with speakers or a battery charger. For this I got CableJive’s DockStubz, which is an adapter that can extend the dock on your phone beyond the case, making it much easier to dock it to anything even with the phone encased in the bulkiest of protective cases. With these two accessories on hand it’s now possible for me to use an Otterbox Defender protected iPhone without ever needing to take it out of the case.
After using the case for a while there’s a few other things I’d like to note. Because the mute switch on the Verizon iPhone has been moved, it won’t appear perfectly centered when you open up the protective cover of the Otterbox case to access it. In fact it was so close for me that I thought they had given me the wrong case, but it appears this how it will consistently look on Verizon Phones. Just something you should be mindful of.
In addition, I found the rubbery texture makes it more difficult to easily slip in and out of pockets, and the plastic feel of the screen protector to be almost unbearable, although it did get better with use. Still, if you can’t abide by the screen protector, it IS possible to pop it out and use a third party film instead to cover and protect the screen. It will reduce the protection somewhat, but for those who cannot abide by the grainy look over the retina display, it can be an acceptable tradeoff.
Finally, I noticed the case has a tendency to creek after use. I was really surprised by this, to the point that merely picking it up causes it to creek and groan like an old woman. If this happens to you, contact Otterbox for a replacement. A good case should not creak, and due to Otterbox’s excellent reputation in customer service, you should be able to get a replacement with minimal effort.
All in all, Otterbox’s Defender line is currently the best option out there now for giving your iPhone the maximum protection possible without sacrificing functionality.
My life has forever changed today, for at long last, after many years of plague and darkness, the silvery light of my new Verizon iPhone has finally shined upon this poor soul.
And in case you’re wondering why I am so completely beside myself with stupidly ridiculous euphoria, my iPhone has now allowed me to change the unholy tangle of wires that used to be in my car from this:
Note: Magellan was kind enough to send me a complimentary ToughCase in exchange for this review.
I’ve been looking at alternatives to the GPS Cradle from Dual I currently use for my iPod for a while now, and discovered some time ago that Magellan released something similar called the ToughCase. It also boasts an extra battery and a GPS chip just like the Dual Cradle, but with a more durable container that can not only withstand a considerable amount of abuse, but is also waterproof as well, making it ideal for more rugged outdoor activities.
I could tell right away that it was definitely far beefier and heavier than the Dual Cradle, which no longer makes it possible to simply slip the iPod inside my pockets like I usually do. Instead, a clip is included so you can attach the ToughCase to your belt or backpack.
The ToughCase will ONLY work with earlier generations of the iPhone and iPod Touch. The current iPhone 4 will not fit inside the case, and neither will the current iPod (with built in camera.) I’ve also noticed that unlike the Dual Cradle, there’s no option to only use the GPS chip. You will have to use BOTH the GPS and battery, so the ToughCase’s power drains a lot faster than I’d normally like. There’s an idle mode to extend the battery life when you’re not actively using it, or you can shut it off altogether by opening up the case and switching off the master on/off button. One upside over the Dual Cradle is that you can plug it into a simple USB cable and it will charge both the iPod and ToughCase, although the charge time will be longer for obvious reasons.
The ToughCase does not have a car dock either, but I found a universal car dock I’ve been using with great success called the SoundGate M2. I attached a tiny clip included with the SoundGate kit to the back of the ToughCase and voila! My ToughCase is now officially car-docked.
To complete the ensemble I needed to hook up two cables: a USB cable to power and keep the ToughCase charged, which I then connected to a Scosche reVIVE II USB Car Charger. The car charger is powerful to charge an iPad, so it had no problem keeping the ToughCase fully charged as well. I also needed to hook up the ToughCase to the radio using my Monster RadioPlay FM Transmitter. Once I had everything set up, the ToughCase could now stay charged as well as deliver sound to my car stereo.
The setup though was far more cumbersome than my Dual Cradle, which already comes with a car dock. I could easily slide my cradle in and out of the dock without unhooking any wires whenever I needed to grab my iPod for geocaching or other uses, whereas with the ToughCase I had to manually unhook the wires to disconnect the ToughCase and take it with me. I also found the mic to be underpowered as well, forcing me to crank up the radio volume to the point where I could hear excessive static. The only way I could really avoid this now is if my car had an auxiliary input so I could bypass the need for an FM transmitter. Ah well.
Now for the acid test: I turned on the GPS and after a moment the ToughCase locked onto my location. I decided to pick a nearby geocache to drive to, so I keyed in the coordinates in Navigon and I was off. I drove several miles without any issues until I arrived close enough to the geocache that I could get out and walk the rest of the way. That’s when I noticed a VERY significant problem.
The ToughCase does not update your location when you’re at walking speed. I was maybe 300 feet away from the geocache and yet I walked several blocks without an update. Perplexed, I thought maybe there was a software issue, so I pulled out my iPod and inserted it into the Dual Cradle I brought with me for comparison. Nope, my GPS instantly updated and kept updating without issue. I slid out the iPod again and inserted it back into the ToughCase. Once again the GPS stopped updating. I did a running sprint to see if that forced an update, but to no avail. I also tried using different apps, from Geosphere, to the official geocaching app from Groundspeak, to just plain old Google Maps. None of them would update my location while I walked around. Only when I shut down the app and open it up again does the ToughCase finally update to my most current location. I also noticed that it will start updating again, but only if I move at a fast enough speed, such as when I’m in my car, or when I’m boating or biking. Anything slower and the ToughCase will not actively update your GPS location.
I don’t know if this was an issue introduced with the last iOS update from Apple or if it’s a design flaw (I’m thinking it’s the latter) but the bottom line is that geocaching is virtually impossible to do as a result, along with any kind of navigation that involves merely walking or even hiking. Under these circumstances you would have to constantly shut down and re-open whatever app you’re using to force a GPS update. Oddly enough, the Magellan ToughCase is specifically billed for outdoor use, and yet according to one ToughCase owner who left a comment about my Dual GPS Cradle review, Magellan had responded to his inquiry about this issue by stating that they never tested the ToughCase for geocaching or even outdoor activities, despite its previous advertisements to the contrary.
As a durable case to protect your iPod/iPhone during outdoor activities it works as intended, but as a GPS receiver with an unacceptably short battery life, not so much. For a pricey $180, I expected better quality than this. Worse still, the ToughCase is being advertised at GroundSpeak as a geocaching tool even though it clearly fails as one.
All in all, I can’t recommend the ToughCase if your primary objective is to give your iPod Touch GPS functionality, at least until they address its failure to continuously update your location whether you’re standing still or moving. It seems the design went more into providing a durable case to protect it from the elements, while the GPS/additional battery function was just something they tossed in as an afterthought. Still, $180 is far too pricey for what’s really little more than a glorified waterproof case, especially a case that’s not even designed to fit the latest iPod/iPhone models.
It’s a shame, but I am hoping Magellan will take a lesson from Dual and release an improved ToughCase with better GPS functionality and compatibility with today’s iPod/iPhones. We’ll see!
Update: Magellan has since upgraded the firmware of their ToughCase to improve GPS sensitivity. Here are the details:
For those of you who have had trouble using the Magellan ToughCase GPS for Geocaching, we are happy to report that a new GPS firmware will be made available by Magellan to significantly improve the sensitivity and the accuracy for pedestrian use. This is a firmware update that has to be performed at the factory. So, what this means for you is you will be getting a brand new ToughCase with the updated firmware pre-loaded.
To proceed with a product return, please follow these simple steps:
- Contact Magellan Support
- Hours: Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST/PDT Telephone: 1 800 707 9971
- Obtain a RMA number
- Return your ToughCase to the address provided (Magellan will pay for the shipping)
Magellan will replace your unit with a firmware updated device. They expect to fulfill the replacement orders starting the end of February. We encourage you to contact Magellan now to begin the process.
Please feel free to share this information with anyone else who has been affected by this issue.