Thursday, April 8, 2010

First Look: Dual GPS Cradle for iPod Touch

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After delays in manufacturing and then (quite ironically) getting lost on its trip to Gadget Lab Spain, the Dual GPS cradle for the iPod Touch finally arrived for testing this morning. Like the TomTom kit, the Dual is a chunky case with a GPS receiver into which you slip an iPod Touch. From there, any GPS-aware application can access the data just as seamlessly as if you were using a GPS-equipped iPhone.

Unlike the TomTom, it is a slide-on cradle, which means you can use it outside the car (it does come with a separate mounting kit), and it also has a battery inside, used to power the GPS for up to ten hours or (at the slide of a switch) to recharge the iPod’s own battery.

The case also has a speaker (for turn-by-turn instructions) and a microphone (for voice-control, but it also works with any other app, like Skype or Voice Memos). Volume switches on the front, a battery indicator on the back, mini-USB and headphone ports complete the hardware. You can also charge and sync the iPod through this USB port using a standard cable.

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As far as testing goes, I have checked that it works (it does) and that it can fit on my bike (it doesn’t – yet. I am midway through hacking the windshield-mount into a handlebar-mount). The speaker is good and loud, the fit and finish of the cradle are good (the windshield mount not so much, but fine for a car if not a bike) and it is compact if heavy. Proper testing will commence this afternoon and weekend.

One annoyance: The Dual (0) works with a free app for the US and Canada only. If you don’t have this installed, you’ll be asked to do so every time you plug the iPod into it. I could of course just download it, but as it takes up almost 2GB, and I can’t use it in Spain, I’ll have to live with the warnings. This, of course, will be no problem if you live in the right place.

I’m also on the lookout for some good (and cheap or free) GPS apps to test with it. If you have recommendations, leave them below. Apps for navigation, photo geo-tagging and cycling preferred.

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