Has anybody else tried using a TomTom MKii Bluetooth GPS?

Gromittoo

New Member
Has anybody else tried using a TomTom MKii Bluetooth GPS? They can be had as New Old Stock (NOS) on eBay for ~$23. The Dual xgps150a is available on Amazon for $81. On a whim, I bought the I bought TomTom MKii, and it came today.

History:
I got sick of getting "searching for GPS" on my phone, and missing turns in Philly. When it would happen, I would take my phone off its magnetic mount, and throw it up on the dashboard for 10 seconds to get a better signal, and put it back in the mount. This does reduce missed turns, but it doesn't inspire confidence in my passengers.

Recently, I dug up an old reliable TomTom 2505 I had in a drawer, replaced its Li-ion battery, and put it up on the dashboard of my Prius. It gets a solid signal, and never has a delay anywhere in Philly. Too bad I can't put my phone up there ( I would not be able to reach it). The way I use the TomTom is to leave it on in 3D mode, and when I see "searching for GPS" on my phone, I watch for the street name of the next turn on the TomTom 2505.

So I started researching getting an External GPS.​

Today:

I unpacked the MKii Bluetooth GPS. It came with no instructions. Using the manual on the TomTom website, I was able to pair the device. I use a Samsung Note 3 running stock T-mobile Lollipop. I found a recommendation on the web to use the "Bluetooth GPS" app on the play store.

One thing that is important: The MKii takes like 5-10 minutes to lock in a signal the first time you use it. Be patient, and wait for the the power LED to start blinking. It will lock in much faster the next time you use it.

I opened the "Bluetooth GPS" app, and on the "Main" tab, I found the paired device "TomTom Wireless GPS MkII". I selected it and pressed the connect button. The "Enable Mock GPS Provider" must be checked. This is a Developer option in Android that allows the bluetooth GPS to replace the internal GPS.

Move over to the "Status" tab, and you can see the constellation of GPS satellites come in. There is a settings menu, where you can change to "Use Imperial Units" if you want MPH vs. KPH. There are a lot of other settings for compatibility with other apps, but I did not need to touch them. I recommend checking "Hide the Map Tab" to save data.

There is a NMEA tab that allows you to see the Ascii commands between the phone and the MKii. If you see weird text scrolling by, then you get a warm fuzzy that things are working.​

My Take:
I drove around my neighborhood with the Lyft Driver app in Offline mode. The blue dot (my Car) stayed current, and stayed on the road I was driving on. The Lyft app is notorious for wandering off the road, so this was a good sign. I am still nervous about trying it "Live".

One thing that concerns me is that I may have to open the app, and press the "Connect" each time I want to use the external GPS. If I get out of the car to buy food, I might forget to reconnect when I get back. I was hoping that the switch from external to internal GPS would be automatic. Maybe in the Pro version of the app. Or better yet, spend $81 for the Dual xgps150a.​

Let me know what you think!
 

Gromittoo

New Member
The MKii experiment worked great, I had solid GPS performance in both Google Maps and the Lyft Driver app. It makes a lot of sense, the MKii was way up on the dashboard, and could see at least 12 satellites at all times, if I was not in Center City Philadelphia. When I was in around tall buildings, any GPS will have some problems. Using the TomTom MKii was always much better than using my Samsung Note phone by itself.

But...

Notice I say [/QUOTE]was[/QUOTE]. The problem with using a [/QUOTE]Bluetooth GPS[/QUOTE] such as the MKii, is that the phone app has to set a developer option called [/QUOTE]Use Mock GPS Data[/QUOTE]. The [/QUOTE]Bluetooth GPS[/QUOTE] app on my phone would communicate with the MKii over Bluetooth using a standard GPS serial port data protocol, and feed that data to Android Location Services. This is the ideal way to do GPS in a car, since ideal location for the GPS antenna, is about 3 feet beyond my reach.

Lyft kept sending me text messages saying that I needed to [/QUOTE]Please stop using Fake GPS Locations[/QUOTE]. I ignored the texts, and after a week, it logged me out. I got a text message explaining why I was logged out, and I had to re-read a policy document before I could log in again.

I called the new Lyft support line, and they had no clue what I was talking about. I got forwarded to the Critical response line, and I explained the situation. The woman I talked to fully understood my situation. She said she thought there was a way to do it. She would have to research and get back to me, (but she never did).

I spoke to someone at a Lyft Help center. He said that there were problem with people [/QUOTE]faking[/QUOTE] their location. Imagine that you have a Lyft Lux vehicle. You can make a lot of money when you get a passenger, but you might wait many hours. to get it. Now imagine if you had a way to make your phone think it was at the airport. You could drive your vehicle with Uber, and periodically check your place in the Lux queue.

So I get it, Lyft is concerned about fraud. I don't yet drive for Uber, but I assume they would not like bluetooth GPS either. Still there needs to be a way to do this. The GPS performance of a smartphone was not meant for professional use.

That Said, I have found a partial solution to bad GPS performance.

From what I have read, using the GPS in a smartphone consumes a lot of battery. [/QUOTE]Location Services[/QUOTE] is designed to stop using the hardware whenever it thinks it can, to save power. We drivers have our phone plugged in all the time, so we would prefer to have [/QUOTE]Location Services[/QUOTE] optimized for performance, not battery consumption.

I found an android app called [/QUOTE]GPS Connected[/QUOTE], that does exactly that (android only). [/QUOTE]GPS Connected[/QUOTE] allows you to lock your GPS to [/QUOTE]stays on[/QUOTE]. Locking the GPS on turns off the power saving features off. It makes a big difference when you switch between the driver app, and google maps (or Waze). With power saving enabled, the background app (Google Maps) must re-establish its connection to the GPS when it is brought to the foreground. This takes time, memory and CPU. Switching also fragments memory, so the problem gets worse the longer you drive (do you find yourself rebooting your phone every time you take a break, to prevent your apps from crashing?). With the GPS locked on, none of this extra work takes place. NOT: I doubt you will be able to find such an app for an iPhone.

OK, the Driver app and Navigation apps respond a lot better with [/QUOTE]GPS Connected[/QUOTE], and the GPS in the Locked state. You have to remember to remove the lock when you stop driving, or you will burn through you phone's battery. This is a pain. I would prefer using an external Bluetooth GPS, because it works a lot better.
 

Gromittoo

New Member
I'm interested in getting one of these things to play with.

Search for the following on ebay:
"TomTom MKii Wireless Bluetooth GPS Receiver For Apple iPad 1 2 3 4 Air Mini WiFi"
and sold by: Maxtech33.

As you will note in my other post, this won't help with Lyft (and probably not Uber). At $23, it is not bad for fiddling with for non-rideshare driving. Maybe Lyft / Uber could come up with a way to use a Bluetooth GPS that does NOT expose them to fraud.
 
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