Comparing Bluetooth GPS Devices

22 May 2015 by Cory MacVie

For years, GPS devices were standalone pieces of equipment that required their own operating system and had overly complicated interfaces and functions. If someone wanted to collect data using their GPS device in the field, it often meant a lot of configuring, testing and training to collect even the most basic data. If you had a complex form or survey requiring photo collection and were concerned with location, it required that you buy expensive equipment.

Those days are officially over. With Fulcrum, you can build powerful forms and surveys in your web browser, deploy them to your smartphone or tablet and immediately begin collecting data using the GPS on your device. On some occasions, the native GPS on your smartphone isn’t accurate enough, so users must turn to external Bluetooth GPS devices for improved accuracy.

Bluetooth GPS Devices

Bad Elf's GNSS Surveyor Bluetooth GPS device

Your smartphone GPS is designed to prioritize getting a location fix quickly, with accuracy of secondary importance. However, the accuracy of smartphone GPS is continually improving, and is by no means “inaccurate”. Most smartphones and tablets made in the last year currently have a 3 - 5 meter accuracy level. On the other hand, an external GPS device is designed for precision. Once it locks onto enough satellites, it can maintain a very high level of accuracy often required in the field.

Increased Battery Life

Using Bluetooth GPS devices has another added benefit for users; it decreases your smartphone’s battery consumption. Typically, the Bluetooth connection between the smartphone and an external Bluetooth GPS requires little power, so this method can greatly increase your smartphone battery life for outdoor applications. Acquiring multiple satellite signals and calculating the location multiple times a second requires a lot of energy. Using a Bluetooth GPS pushes that workload off the smartphone, giving it a longer battery life in the field.

Comparing Bluetooth Devices

Although I am not a GPS expert, I am frequently asked if Fulcrum can be used with external Bluetooth GPS devices. I compiled this comparison chart for my own use and felt it valuable enough to share with users. External Bluetooth GPS devices work by replacing your smartphone’s native GPS location, and by then making the new location available for apps that need it. Any app that uses the device’s location service will also see accuracy and precision improvement. Many of the higher end GPS devices on the bottom of the list are extremely accurate, more so than others, however they require apps to use their SDK to conduct additional computations and to achieve sub-centimeter accuracy.

The chart below can help you find the best Bluetooth GPS device for your needs. I’ve also left links to the devices we have reviewed in the past.

  Maker Model Compatibility Battery Life Weight Accuracy Cost
XGPS150A Dual XGPS150A iOS/Android 8h 1.8oz (51.03g) +/-2.5 m $89 XGPS Review
XGPS150A Garmin GLO iOS/Android 12h 2.12oz (60.1g) 3 m $129
Dual XGPS160 Dual XGPS160 iOS/Android 10h 2.6oz (73.1g) +/-2.5 m $149
Bad Elf Pro Bad Elf GPS Pro iOS/Android 25h+ 3.2oz (90.7g) +/-2.5 m $149
Bad Elf Pro+ Bad Elf GPS Pro+ iOS/Android 25h+ 3.2oz (90.7g) +/-2.5 m $249
Bad Elf Pro Plus Bad Elf GNSS Surveyor iOS/Android 25h+ 3.2oz (90.7g) 1-3 m $599 Bad Elf Review
Trible Leap Trimble Leap iOS/Android 16h 9.5oz (269g) 2 m $999
Arrow Lite EOS Arrow Lite iOS/Android 16h 13.1oz (372g) 60 cm $1,995
SXBlue II SXBlue BlueII Android 10h 18.24oz (517g) 60 cm $2,195
Trimble R1 GNSS Trimble R1 GNSS iOS/Android 10h+ 6.6oz (187g) 60 cm $2,495
SXBlue IIGNSS SXBlue IIGNSS Andorid 10h 17.1oz (487g) 60 cm $2,895
EOS Arrow 100 EOS Arrow 100 iOS/Android 8h 13.1oz (372g) 60 cm $2,995
SXBlue IIB SXBlue IIB Android 10h 18.24oz (517g) 60 cm $3,695
SXBlue III-L GNSS SXBlue III-L GNSS Android 9h 18.24oz (517g) 10 cm $6,995
SXBlue IIIGNSS SXBlue IIIGNSS Android 9h 17.1oz (487g) 1 cm $6,995
EOS Arrow 200 EOS Arrow 200 iOS/Android 8.5h 13.1oz (372g) 1 cm $6,995
Foreign Brands              
GlobalSat Qstarz Canmore Holux        
  • Last Updated: Sept 21, 2015*

About the author

Cory is our Product Manager for Fulcrum. He works to bring Fulcrum’s field data capability into the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief sectors.

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