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LostCoastNinja

Dedicated GPS Better than a Smartphone?

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is there a way to improve the accuracy of the phones GPS or, is there a simple but accurate stand-alone GPS with no doodads, that I can punch coords into whenever my phone is bouncing the g/z from 0 to 65 feet away.

What some people are doing is to pair their smartphone with a bluetooth GPS dongle. Unless you use a really cheap/bad one, you should get quite good position accuracy with that. The other option (also common) is to use something like a basic eTrex H, which has virtually no features but works well for the very basics.

 

I guess my next question should be, are the others, iPhone, Droid, Samsung etc., any better at GPS locations than mine ?

From my experience, it varies greatly. My HTC android is generally quite accurate, although I've seen it be way off (hundreds of meters) at least once. My wife's LG android seems to perform worse (lower accuracy and slower acquisition time), although we didn't thoroughly test that. Don't have personal experience with iphones, but judging from all the many forum threads and posts, variance seems to be similar: quite good with the new 4 series ones, and rather meh with the older ones.

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Don't have personal experience with iphones, but judging from all the many forum threads and posts, variance seems to be similar: quite good with the new 4 series ones, and rather meh with the older ones.

From personal experience, this.

 

Though the 3GS is also sufficient, as I crossed 1100 finds exclusively with it. Reports of the 4 are very much improved over 3GS. I upgraded to 4S from 3GS and its GPS capability is fantasically improved.

I would not recommend the 3G unless you have lots of patience, or a very keen geosense :P

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Probably not. We cache using droid phones, and I've recently bought a bluetooth GPS dongle (£10) to, hopefully, improve both accuracy and battery life. Since getting it we've still been finding without using it :D

Frosty68

What do you think the GPS dongle would do to enhance your GPS accuracy ? I've seen other references to these, but don't understand what they might accomplish that the phone makers would not have already installed.

Thank You

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I agree with most of the previous posts: The newer smartphones generally are pretty accurate. I can't comment on Blackberry units, however because I've never owned one. I can, however, recommend the 3rd and 4th-gen Motorola and Samsung Galaxy-series phones as having more-than-just-decent GPS receivers and the added accuracy and speed of AGPS capabilities.

 

cache.4u, I would switch your blackberry out for another phone- Not necessarily a "better one, but one with a history of being a reliable GPS receiver. Or, get the bluetooth dongle. A cheap GPS unit is just that: a cheap GPS. You probably won't realize any noticeable difference in accuracy with a low-end handheld, and it'll come with some serious downsides; Some of the devices I've checked out recently for purchase are truly dinosaurs when compared to our shiny new handheld-laptops; They're orders-of-magnitude cheaper than the new Android-based units, and also using technology that's orders-of-magnitude older.

 

Speaking of AGPS, I heard the Iphone 4 has something else in addition to A/GPS that makes it superior to other phones for our hobby...anyone know about this? I forget where I read about it-probably here in the forums.

 

LostCoastNinja

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I'm currently doing some research because my phone is up for an upgrade. I have just started caching and I use an eTrex H. I do not have a smartphone. I'm definitely doing this old school. I really like the thought of having real time caching available to me. The new GPSr units have direct connection to Groundspeak and provide paperless caching. I have to decide if it is better to spend $300 once for a GPSr or to spend $50 for the phone upgrade and then $20/month for the data package. After one year I've spent the same money but what about updates and improvements?

 

I will always keep my eTrex H because it is quite accurate on the coords. It will always be a back up.

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... and the added accuracy and speed of AGPS capabilities.

Just to prevent future misinformation: AGPS does help with initial fix acquisition times, but it does not improve accuracy once a fix has been established.

 

Speaking of AGPS, I heard the Iphone 4 has something else in addition to A/GPS that makes it superior to other phones for our hobby...anyone know about this? I forget where I read about it-probably here in the forums.

Maybe you're thinking of GLONASS support? I remember reading that it has it, but I also remember reading that nobody has ever actually seen it use GLONASS sats.

Edited by dfx

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...Maybe you're thinking of GLONASS support? I remember reading that it has it, but I also remember reading that nobody has ever actually seen it use GLONASS sats.

Nobody has actually seen an iPhone use GPS sats either :)

 

I haven't found an iPhone app that shows satellite positions or real signal strength;; just the basic "yes, you have a fix" or "no you don't." On the other hand, the folks at LabSat have run their GPS+Glonass simulator against the iPhone 4s and say it is able to use GLONASS signals.

Edited by Portland Cyclist

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...Maybe you're thinking of GLONASS support? I remember reading that it has it, but I also remember reading that nobody has ever actually seen it use GLONASS sats.

Nobody has actually seen an iPhone use GPS sats either :)

 

I haven't found an iPhone app that shows satellite positions or real signal strength;; just the basic "yes, you have a fix" or "no you don't."

 

Oh interesting, didn't know that. I thought there was a way to make it show individual signal strengths for each satellite etc, like I have on my phone.

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I haven't dug around in the SDK myself, but since nobody seems to make an app that shows realtime sat positions and signals strengths I'm guessing there aren't supported calls in the location manager for that. Most every app just shows a position and a accuracy estimate - no details exposed to the user about how it was derived.

 

Real-time sat positions and strengths are in that "Gee, I wish I had this..." category. And then when I think about it, I don't really know if it matters. I'd more like something like Trimble GPS Planning utility on the iPhone.

Edited by Portland Cyclist

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Real-time sat positions and strengths are in that "Gee, I wish I had this..." category. And then when I think about it, I don't really know if it matters.

 

Most of the time and for most people, it probably doesn't. But the question about GLONASS is exactly one of those cases where it would come in very useful. :)

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I might have to backtrack here. Last time I looked for one (some months ago), there wasn't anything that would should satellite positions. This conversation prompted me to look again and came across this: P-track

 

Of course, it doesn't answer the earlier comment about live signal status -- but it does show satellite positions. For 99 cents I figure it'd be worth a donwload just to play with it.

 

edit to add... not so much. guess I wasted 99 cents :)

Edited by Portland Cyclist

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I also have a battery backup that holds a full charge. But the 4S lasts long enough for a sufficiently lengthy excursion. I'm doing a cache a day, and I'm already in the habit of charging it once every day or two (I use it for FAR more than caching) and it's perfectly good for a caching session.

I also just picked up a 4xAA external battery pack, since the proprietary battery that itself needs recharging with its own unique plug is just annoying. If I'm out for all day event, it's just easier to carry a bunch of AA's for emergency power.

Also, no data connection is needed with the Geosphere app either, as it's an offline caching app, presuming you have maps cached (when you have data just move around and download the map tiles you'll need). It's its own database built from PQ downloads.

 

I've got the 4 AA pack too. With lithium batteries it works very well. Plus no recharging needed.

 

I use a combo of my old sporttrak and my iPhone. The iPhone is pretty good, especially for on the fly Geocache searches. I curiously hit the "find caches" button in a target parking lot and found I was 60 feet from one.

For backwoods stuff I'll take the sporttrak. Better battery life, visual backtracking, better accuracy in the woods, and it's 6 years old and if I drop it down a hill, in a creek or something it's much cheaper to replace.

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Now, if only it were water resistant...

The Xperia Active finally appeared in the US according to this CNET article: CNET link

 

EDIT: It does ANT+ used by the Chirp, heart rate monitors, bike computers etc

Edited by John E Cache

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now go find 67 caches in the woods with heavy tree cover and come back and report your experience

ok. I've done that. in the woods of the rainy PacNW. Works great.

 

(surprise, I'm joining in! hehe)

 

Lifetime iPhone geocacher here, over 1200 finds. Cached with a 3GS for over 2 years - cached in a desert with no data signal (only gps), cached under dense forest, and in dense urban jungle.

 

It's not the device, it's how you use it.

 

Recently upgraded to the 4S, and it is absolutely superb! "Smartphone" is a term that has such a wide variance in quality that one can't compare "smartphones" vs "handhelds". You have to provide makes/models for comparison. Certainly the cream of the crop of smartphones (iPhone 4, 4S, perhaps some recent droids?) can rival upper class handhelds, but of course the cream of the crop of dedicated handheld GPS devices will be faster and more accurate. There's no debating that.

 

 

Totally agree with all of this. I had the 3GS for my fist 750 finds. The iPhone 4 for the next 300 finds, and am now on 4s and LOVE it!! I don't have an otter box for it, when it gets wet I just wipe it on my jeans. iPhone's are pretty darn durable, and pretty darn accurate.

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I've got a question....

 

It's great that you smart phone users are enjoying the experience and not having problems. That'll keep you 'in the game' ...it's all about having fun no matter what device you use.

 

For those who use smartphones and love the experience - Have you ever used a modern handheld GPS to geocache with?

 

I'm just curious to know how many of the dedicated smart phone users have used both and still think a smart phone is better than a handheld GPS?

 

I have both and use both.

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I'm sure if I had a dedicated gps, I'd use it. Why would I not? It's a dedicated GPS :P

Point is, it really is a matter of preference and feasibility for ownership of a device. I don't see a need for me to get a dedicated GPS unit because my 4S is over-abudantly more than needed. I'm quite satisfied. I wouldn't be able to justify the purchase of a GPS device to cache with when I already have the 4S.

That's one reason why it's a loaded thread topic :) One, the labels are vague, and two, of course the best of one is better than the best of the other. Does that mean it's always better to have the one over the other? There are far too many factors involved.

 

In the iPhone 4S's case, it's most definitely sufficient for extreme caching, with the added ability of live lookups and logging, and far more friendly interfaces for GSP use. A high-end dedicated GPS device will always have better GPS capabilities, however. One would be a fool to deny that (and a manufacturer would have a failed product on their hands if a dedicated GPS device performs worse than a smartphone :laughing: )

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I've got a question....

 

It's great that you smart phone users are enjoying the experience and not having problems. That'll keep you 'in the game' ...it's all about having fun no matter what device you use.

 

For those who use smartphones and love the experience - Have you ever used a modern handheld GPS to geocache with?

 

I'm just curious to know how many of the dedicated smart phone users have used both and still think a smart phone is better than a handheld GPS?

 

I have both and use both.

 

I have a Garmin 60Csx as well that I use from time to time for one reason only-->and that's because of NW Trails. If we could get NW trails on my iPhone the I wouldn't need the Garmin.

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I've got a question....

 

It's great that you smart phone users are enjoying the experience and not having problems. That'll keep you 'in the game' ...it's all about having fun no matter what device you use.

 

For those who use smartphones and love the experience - Have you ever used a modern handheld GPS to geocache with?

 

I'm just curious to know how many of the dedicated smart phone users have used both and still think a smart phone is better than a handheld GPS?

 

I have both and use both.

 

I started way back when in 2004 with the Banana yellow Etrex. Graduated up the the eTrex Vista, and Vista HCX. I believe anyway. So I have run the gamut of a few dedicated GPS.

 

I think someone mentioned earlier about how well the GPS in the LG Optimus V is. Well, that is my primary cache finding tool now. It has no active data plan at the moment. I tether it off my Samsung Galaxy S 4G's data connection. The reason I do not use the Galaxy S GPS is because the performance of it is absolutely appalling. Takes 5 to 10 minutes to even get a fix, and has trouble keeping a fix even in a clear view of the sky. I'm apparently not the only one having troubles with this phone's GPS. It's apparently a hardware issue. So I just gave up and pulled my Optimus V out of the drawer and started using it again. No trouble locking on even deep in the woods. And the tethering lets me view overhead maps as I walk.

 

Might be somewhat complicated, but it works.

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Since reading and posting on this thread, I have decided that there is no comparison to the accuracy of my Blackberry and a dedicated GPSr. After taking some advice from this thread, I bought a used Etrex Vista H and started using it as a helper for some of the tougher finds. So far I have tried it on 9 of my DNF's and have been successfull 7 times. I had no idea my accuracy was that far off. There is no way, I will give up the features of CacheSense or Trimble Navigator c/w my Blackberry, but I will always keep my Etrex handy for the tough ones. I am fully aware of not placing too much store in the accuracy of the c/o's coords, but, in most cases they are quite good. It sure helps when your unit is accurate.

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I would never cache with a Blackberry :P

Honestly, I think the best smartphones for geocaching, at least with most recent hardware, is the iPhone 4S, and the 4. AFAIK, they have the most advanced GPS capabilities of all current market smartphones. Other brands/models will be slower and less accurate, and certainly more of a pain to use. That said, once again, top-end dedicated GPS units will (and certainly should) always have better GPS capabilities.

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Sure sounds to me by reading all these comments, that, the only ones that do not subscribe to the usefulness of a smartphone for geocaching, are the ones who have already invested in a dedicated GPSr.

Others have probably already said the same, but I'd much rather use a GPSr than my so called "smartphone". For example, today I went for a cache that I thought had been loaded into my GPSr. It wasn't there, so I used my phone. Started with c:geo, and that just led me in many different directions, all way off from where the cache likely was placed. Tried Neongeo and that was no better. I'll admit I have little patience in getting these apps to work, so maybe it's me. But, with a GPSr, I never have problems like these two apps.

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don't blame all smartphones for the failure of less-than-par smartphones ;) and/or apps!

 

I will vehemently defend the iPhone 4 and 4S + Geosphere or the official Geocaching app as viable and worthy geocaching tools. :grin:

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