Using an External GPS Unit with Mappt

During the development of Mappt for Android, we tested Mappt on a range of devices.  Much to our disappointment, we discovered that the quality of the internal GPS hardware varies greatly across devices.

The accuracy of your GPS unit may not matter when you are dodging angry dogs on your daily jog, but definitely matters when you are geo-tagging assets in the field.

Despite what it looks like, I wasn't looking for a dropped contact lens.

Despite what it looks like, I wasn’t looking for a dropped contact lens.

To overcome this issue, you can use a commonly-available external GPS unit via Bluetooth.  While Mappt does not include native support for external GPS units, there is a workaround available.

The workaround requires the installation of a free app from the app store, as well as a minor settings change.  The app makes use of a feature, named “Mock Locations”, which is intended for app developers to test their software, but in our case, allows us to easily make use of an external GPS unit.

Step 1 – Find a device

In our testing, we used a Qstarz GPS unit, but we expect any unit will work, so long as it can be paired to an Android device.

Step 2 – Pair the device

Pair your bluetooth device with your tablet.

Step 3 – Install the free app

Download and install Bluetooth GPS – a free app from the market.

Step 4 – Run the app

Run the installed app.  If required, in which case the app should tell you, you will need to go to your tablet’s settings and enable Mock Locations.

Back in the app, check the box for “Enable Mock GPS Provider.”

Select your external device and click the Connect button. You should see it start capturing data.

Step 5 – Profit!

Run Mappt as normal and enable the GPS by clicking the satellite icon in the top action bar.  Mappt will use the best GPS available to it, which in this case should be your external device.  Win!

Much better!

Much better!

There are a wide range of Android devices and an equally wide range of external GPS units available.  Thankfully, the method described in this post will allow you to overcome shoddy GPS readings!