Explanation behind Enabling GPS on iPad/iPod Touch While Tethering from iPhone

Lately, a lot of sites have been reporting about some kind of hidden GPS functionality in Wi-fi iPad which is enabled by iPhone Tethering. I would like to hereby state that this isn’t a hidden iPad 2 feature but works just the same on iPod Touch or other iOS devices without GPS.

Kyle Carmitchel was apparently the person who first discovered this feature on the Wi-fi only iPad 2 leaving the rest of the world wondering if there actually is a hidden GPS feature.

For those of who haven’t looked at iPad 2 specs, let me tell you that Apple has put the GPS chip only in the iPhone 4 and in the 3G iPad 2. Wi-fi only iPad 2 and iPod Touch do not have any kind of GPS hardware.

Ipad 2 gps google maps

Explanation behind GPS Feature on Wi-fi Only iPad:

If you tether your iPhone 4’s internet connection to the iPad 2(even the original iPad) the iPad also gains access to the iPhone 4’s location.

I first noticed this when I was traveling with both my iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4G, last month. When I switched on the Personal Hotspot feature on my iPhone, while in a taxi, I happened to try Maps on the iPod Touch and was really surprised to see it show the correct location. However, when I got to the hotel and tried the same with the Hotel’s hotspot the iPod Touch failed to locate me on the map.

Another friend of mine confirmed similar behavior when tethering from the BlackBerry to iPod Touch. There can be two logical explanations behind this:

  • The tethering device is transmitting location data simultaneously
  • Google Maps tags iPhone’s location to its IP address. The iPod Touch/iPad having the same IP address effectively gains access to the location

While I’m not sure as to which of the above is correct, I do know for a fact that the wi-fi only iPad does not have any GPS chip installed. So there’s isn’t any hidden feature on the iPad to talk about here.