Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 tablet is a Wi-Fi only device but does include a GPS radio for maps and navigation. Samsung also sells a car mount that will work with the Tab 2 (made for the Tab 7.0 Plus), indicating that the company expects users to use the tablet in place of a standalone GPS or phone.
Is this practical? Depends on your needs. The Galaxy Tab 2 is capable of directing you where you need to go, but without a constant connection that task won’t work as smoothly as using a GPS device or phone. With the right combination of apps it can be done.
GPS Without 3G / 4G
The Tab 2’s GPS radio doesn’t rely on location information from a 3G/4G connection to work. However, leaving the Wi-Fi on, even when it’s not connected, can improve location accuracy just as it does on a smartphone.
You can turn on GPS and Wi-Fi enabled location under Settings > Location services.
While not having cellular connection doesn’t much impact accuracy, it does mean that you can’t get directions while on your way somewhere. Also, if you’re en-route and need to recalculate because you missed a turn or run into massive traffic, the Tab 2 can’t pull down new data.
With offline map data (which I’ll get to in a bit) the Tab 2 was able to accurately pinpoint my location 75% of the time. The other 25% it was off by a few feet, but never more than that.
Both on foot and in a moving vehicle, apps were able to tell when I was approaching turn points and how far until the next one.
Using Navigation Apps
To navigate when you don’t have constant connectivity users must start the navigation when you have a connection so the app can pull down the initial data or get an app that keeps maps stored in memory.
The first method is good for short trips. Google Maps will pre-load some map data once it knows the destination and begins the navigation process. Users can also manually cache 10-mile sections of map data for offline access.
Waze cached up to 4 miles of map data so that I could navigate to my destination even when offline.
However, for longer trips the situation gets iffy. Waze didn’t have street information after about 4 miles, thus making it useless. (There is offline functionality in the iOS version, apparently.) Google Navigation did much better. It was able to show me map data for an entire 600 mile trip even when offline.
Neither app could give me any help if I deviated from the route provided.
Navfree USA, a GPS app designed specifically to work offline, doesn’t require online access to find addresses and begin navigation or to recalculate mid-trip. The main drawback is that some users found the maps inaccurate. I didn’t for the locations I tried. Map updates are available for free.
The Bottom Line
Though the GPS is accurate, I wouldn’t use the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 for GPS navigation on a long trip unless I have a mobile hotspot for connectivity.
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