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SMjayjay

Why get a GPS?

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I have an garmin eTrek (very basic unit). My familly and I have used it to find a few geocaches, but we have not been able to figure out how to load maps. Consequently, we've always used a combination of the GPS and a paper map. (works ok)

 

NOW I have committed to teaching my girl scout troop all about geocaching, and my biggest question is, with the smartphone apps and ipad apps, is there any reason to buy a handheld hiking GPS, if you have a smartphone (yes most f the girl scouts have their own)? do the Smartphone apps use the same satellites? Would we have to have "cell phone reception to use the smartphone for geocaching?

 

Would the smartphone have all the access to the same maps you can use with the handheld GPS units ?

 

(I don't have a smartphone yet -- I managed to use the iPad in my neighborhood to find a cache and it worked ok.)

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I think it's great that you're wanting to teach them caching, the more the merrier and anything that acts as an excuse to drive people into the outdoors is a good thing.

I use both smartphone and a handheld (etrex 30),

the phone uses the same satellites as the GPSr, but is less likely to get a decent lock under dense tree cover

the phone can have maps and cache data put onto it to allow offline (no data signal) caching,it's also great for impromptu "I'm in a strange town, I wonder if there's a cache nearby" caching, the etrex is useless for that

Phone batteries are pretty rubbish when running gps and a caching app, a few hours on a full battery is about it, the etrex will do about 24, you probably won't be taking them out into the wilds, but imagine the fun 10 miles out with no map,compass or waypoint to navigate to anymore

handhelds are generally waterproof, phones significantly less so.

 

If one of the girlscouts drops her phone in a stream while performing a task using it that you encouraged of her, would you be responsible?

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Hand held GPS units are more rugged, have better battery life, and only use the satellite signal, so are more accurate more often...

 

'Phones can, and do, use the phone network signals to work out where they are, which can be many feet inaccurate. (This can often be 'user error' rather than 'device error')

 

Both use the same satellites to find their location.

 

Remember that when placing a cache, the guidelines require that you 'Use a GPS to get the coordinates.'

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What etrex do you have? If you have an extrex 10, then you cannot load maps onto it. Trouble with relying on phones is the signals can be pretty temperamental especially under trees and the battery life is not wonderful. Agree wouldn't let the girls use their phones in case of breakage.

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Would the smartphone have all the access to the same maps you can use with the handheld GPS units ?

Smartphones have full access to the Internet. Cache descriptions & logs, satellite maps, driving directions, everything. And the Apps find nearby caches on-the-fly. That's great for urban caching in particular. Hiking GPSrs are designed much more ruggedly, and you don't need to find an “App” for them, but if the phone works, use it.

 

The thing I can't figure out is how all the kids can afford a data connection. It's great that they can, but I see the subscription prices and can't justify it even for myself, let alone for every family member. If you count PM as a monthly fee, that's super cheap compared to a data plan. And I only use my phone as a phone.

Edited by kunarion

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Otterbox makes great phone cases that are pretty rugged and have, in my opinion, saved my phone from being ruined by the hands of my 4yr old... also I have a battery plug in that will charge my phone with out a wall or car connection up to two times... cost around thirty dollars but works great for times when ive been low on battery. I would suggest a parental consent before taking the girl scouts out using their own phones and maybe instead of downloading the apps for actual caching a simple compass app that you can input coords into. That way they can follow along and pair up instead of having a whole troop glued to their phone. Sounds like a fun and hope it works out getting them involved in a great sport!

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Lessee here....

 

Unlike most, some cannot receive a valid data signal anywhere around where they live;

Batteries and battery life;

Ruggedness;

Not all like to pay data/roaming;

And then, some just have an aversion to smart phones....

..... maybe it's not an aversion to the phones themselves, but what they perceive of many others' (not all) use of those phones, and they don't want to get sucked into that cycle.

 

 

Anything else....?

 

:blink:

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Not everywhere you go has cell service. Phones sometimes have really bad accuracy compared to GPS units. And yeah, using something that can withstand being dropped/getting wet is a big plus. If you're out in the woods and using a device to bring you home, you want something rugged and reliable. My GPS takes 2 AA batteries. I take extra batteries along so if the batteries need replacing, I can easily do that.

 

I think it all depends on what type of caching you want to do. If you just want to do urban caching, a phone can work great. If you want to do long hikes into the woods, you may want to get a GPS.

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Just to sort of echo what others have been saying...

 

You can't usually beat a GPS for accuracy, especially when placing a cache.

 

The phone apps are good for impromptu caching, especially in an unfamiliar town, but the battery life is rubbish. Unless you have a charger on hand, don't expect it to last long at all.

 

I usually use a combo of both. iPhone App for quick, urban P&Gs, and to look up cache descriptions and/or hints, Garmin 60CSx for longer treks and placing caches.

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Hello, you would need cellphone reception to be able to find the caches, It also uses the internet, which can cost a lot of money if you aren't on a plan, The benefits of a GPS are having satellite reception anywhere whereas if you go to a remote area with a cellphone, it won't work. If you wan't to go paperless geocaching with a GPS you will need to get a premium membership on geocaching.com. With an iPhone you get the description and the hint and a fairly good GPS if you are in an area with good cellphone coverage for $10 overall, (The cost of the app) I find the app pretty good for when I'm just out and about and I'm bored.

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In the game of geocaching, a dedicated GPS is still a HUGE part of the game. Whereas a GPS-enabled cell phone can be convenient and make for an easy cross-over use to bring more geocachers into the game, they are not as reliable as a dedicated GPS in the game of Geocaching.

 

Hiding a cache with a phone is, generally, not as accurate as you will find with a GPS. most phones do not have a "drop pin here" or "Mark Waypoint?" function. This makes for some fudged coordinates on many caches hidden with a phone.

 

Remember, no matter how fancy the "phone", it isn't a GPS first. Most smartphones are computers/cameras/phones first, and GPS is just a nice little bauble to entice you into loving your turn-by-turn functionality.

 

GPS, on the other hand, are made to talk to satellites to determine coordinates. The interface is designed for setting and finding markers. Some might have a camera or bluetooth, but they are GPS first, gadget second.

 

Until they make a GPS that has a phone, you should always have a GPS unit to play this game. It doesn't have to be expensive. For example, a Garmin eTrex "Yellow" GPS from 2004 is still a great unit for geocaching, and can be found for ~$50 used and working. ~$100 for a much-improved entry-level GPSr is a great buy, and you never have to be connected to internet, 3G 4GLTE, or pay a monthly usage bill. If you really like the game, get the right tools. You'll be thankful that you did.

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In the game of geocaching, a dedicated GPS is still a HUGE part of the game. Whereas a GPS-enabled cell phone can be convenient and make for an easy cross-over use to bring more geocachers into the game, they are not as reliable as a dedicated GPS in the game of Geocaching.

 

Hiding a cache with a phone is, generally, not as accurate as you will find with a GPS. most phones do not have a "drop pin here" or "Mark Waypoint?" function. This makes for some fudged coordinates on many caches hidden with a phone.

 

Remember, no matter how fancy the "phone", it isn't a GPS first. Most smartphones are computers/cameras/phones first, and GPS is just a nice little bauble to entice you into loving your turn-by-turn functionality.

 

GPS, on the other hand, are made to talk to satellites to determine coordinates. The interface is designed for setting and finding markers. Some might have a camera or bluetooth, but they are GPS first, gadget second.

 

Until they make a GPS that has a phone, you should always have a GPS unit to play this game. It doesn't have to be expensive. For example, a Garmin eTrex "Yellow" GPS from 2004 is still a great unit for geocaching, and can be found for ~$50 used and working. ~$100 for a much-improved entry-level GPSr is a great buy, and you never have to be connected to internet, 3G 4GLTE, or pay a monthly usage bill. If you really like the game, get the right tools. You'll be thankful that you did.

 

This^

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Hello, you would need cellphone reception to be able to find the caches, It also uses the internet, which can cost a lot of money if you aren't on a plan, The benefits of a GPS are having satellite reception anywhere whereas if you go to a remote area with a cellphone, it won't work. If you wan't to go paperless geocaching with a GPS you will need to get a premium membership on geocaching.com. With an iPhone you get the description and the hint and a fairly good GPS if you are in an area with good cellphone coverage for $10 overall, (The cost of the app) I find the app pretty good for when I'm just out and about and I'm bored.

 

The bolded part of the above statement is not correct, at least for all phones. My Motorola Bionic has a real GPS that uses the same satellites that any dedicated handheld GPS uses. The GPS works great even when I have no phone service. I agree with other comments regarding battery life and ruggedness. My Bionic is usually more accurate than my Garmin GPSMasp 76cs.

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Until they make a GPS that has a phone, you should always have a GPS unit to play this game.

 

Garmin tried that and it did not work out very well. But more on point, I have two "paperless" handhelds, a pda/gpsr (for wherigos), and an iphone5. These days, I take the handheld if I am placing a cache, going on a long hike, or need a specialty feature like chirp. But other than that, the phone allows me to keep track of solved puzzles/completed challenges; provides offline topo maps or street routing that equal or surpass the handhelds; displays the cache page far more beautifully than the handheld (which is invaluable for earthcaches, letterboxes, or any other situation where display is important); it filters the pocket query so that I can easily identify the caches I want to do and plan accordingly; and it offers special toolkits or resources for a wide variety of caching situations.

 

The last several hikes I have done, it has been just as easy to use the phone (although I had the handheld with me as well). The last Wherigo I did, it was easier to use the phone. The last time I placed a cache, I had remarkably similar coordinates using both systems. There are situations where a gpsr will be more sensitive, but there also are situations where the satellite image on a phone will get me closer than my handheld.

 

This game was born using units that very few people would want to use today. To play this game, you actually need very little. There is something inherently satisfying about taking out a handheld, a way that connects to the history of the game. It also can be the right tool for the job.

 

But is a handdheld necessary to play this game? To use an analogy, phones are changing the way many people take pictures, and there is no reason why they cannot change the way many people cache. My dslr will take pictures that my phone cannot do, but iphoneography can be equally creative - allowing you to take great shots and filter them in ways that go beyond what can be done on a camera alone.

 

Still, when all is said and done, if I were teaching photography, I would want to use a dslr. If I were teaching this game to a group of girl scouts (like the OP), I would want to round up enough handhelds to make it work (the local caching community might be able to help). The tools on a handheld would not require any particular apps and offer the best introduction to the game.

Edited by geodarts

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Reading this topic hits close to home today as I went out for a winter ATV ride just out side of town. I was excited to get the caches that were out there located on a road where 4X4 was required. When I got to close to the place the first cache should be, I went to open the App on my phone and there was no service. Made me sure wish I had my Garmin along. So, in short, because I wanted to "Ride Light" and not carry my GPS, I rode by several caches that I was excited to get but could not.

 

Phone app is awesome when you just need to be close and the coverage is there to support it. I just recommend getting a GPS with the capability of paperless geocaching. I use a Garmin GPSMAP 62S and love it!

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Reading this topic hits close to home today as I went out for a winter ATV ride just out side of town. I was excited to get the caches that were out there located on a road where 4X4 was required. When I got to close to the place the first cache should be, I went to open the App on my phone and there was no service. Made me sure wish I had my Garmin along. So, in short, because I wanted to "Ride Light" and not carry my GPS, I rode by several caches that I was excited to get but could not.

 

Phone app is awesome when you just need to be close and the coverage is there to support it. I just recommend getting a GPS with the capability of paperless geocaching. I use a Garmin GPSMAP 62S and love it!

 

I don't know what app you use, but not all apps require phone/data service to use them on the phone. For example, CacheSense (Android and Blackberry) allows you to load a GPX file from Geocaching.com and then it works much like a handheld paperless GPSr from there. If you do not have a data connection then CacheSense disables all the features that require it. The GPSr functionality of a cell phone does NOT require a data or voice connection to work properly. Of course, using CacheSense in this way requires a little planning to download the caches in the area you will be in before heading out, but a handheld GPSr has the same requirement.

Edited by GeePa

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Pro GPSr

There is no phone service in the areas where I like to cache.

My phone does not have the "breadcrumb" feature that my GPSr has.

My phone battery life is about 1/8 that of my GPSr batteries (but I carry extra phone batteries--ca. $25 for 2 batteries and a charger on eBay. Yay Android!)

My phone is supposedly much more fragile and less waterproof than my GPSr, but I haven't had a problem with it so far. I keep the phone in a dry bag.

I can mark tracks, routes and waypoints on my GPSr.

My GPSr lets me project waypoints, but there's probably a phone app to do that, too.

In my area we have an invaluable resource in the Northwest Trails maps, which can be loaded onto many GPS units and no phones.

 

Pro smartphone

Can't PAF from a GPSr (assuming I have phone signal).

Can't take pictures w/ my GPSr (Garmin 60CSX)

Nice for unplanned out-of the-area in-town caching.

Can't see the cache page or access the internet from my GPSr (or my phone, if there's no data connection)

I can store and read cache pages, pdfs, etc. offline.

 

It's nice to have both, but out in the woods, my phone becomes just a camera and PDA. I think the ruggedness and tracking features of a GPSr make it a better caching companion. I usually carry both, plus a paper map and compass, though.

 

Please teach the Girl Scouts map and compass skills. A ranger once told me the rangers often have to rescue people who head out into our mountains with what she called the "the 3 S's"--shorts, sandals, and cell phones. I read logs by unprepared cachers all the time--people who do not (cannot?) read topo maps and get themselves into trouble. An "adventure" of this type can be just one more error away from a tragedy. Please educate the girls about safety in the outdoors--it's much more important than finding film canisters under lamp post skirts!

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I started out with my smartphone and loved it, the handheld GPS is not as user friendly BUT the cellphone lost signal ALOT, battery would wipe out quickly due to GPS drain, it would often glitch and bug and I would have to reset it a few times before getting back on track. One moment I am 40 feet away the next it would glitch and say I was 700ft in the wrong direction, sometimes it was right I was 700ft in the wrong direction other times it was just an odd glitch.

 

Countless GPS hunts were cut short if it got cloudy outside, the phones never seem to have as strong of a signal as a regular GPS.

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Reading this topic hits close to home today as I went out for a winter ATV ride just out side of town. I was excited to get the caches that were out there located on a road where 4X4 was required. When I got to close to the place the first cache should be, I went to open the App on my phone and there was no service. Made me sure wish I had my Garmin along. So, in short, because I wanted to "Ride Light" and not carry my GPS, I rode by several caches that I was excited to get but could not.

 

Phone app is awesome when you just need to be close and the coverage is there to support it. I just recommend getting a GPS with the capability of paperless geocaching. I use a Garmin GPSMAP 62S and love it!

 

I had a similar experience last summer when I got a rare (for me) opportunity to do some out of state caching in Colorado. I was there for a class and we finished early on Friday, so on a whim we decided to drive to the top of Pike's Peak. Before we headed out I scouted out the caches along the road to the top, but I just figured on using my iPhone in the usual manner and neglected to save those caches in the app, nor did I enter the coordinates in my Etrex which I had brought along. Lo and behold, there's no cell phone service at all on that mountain (I had kinda figured reception would be great, I mean, we're at the highest point for miles around, right? Flatlanders....😏).

 

Anyway,missed out on what would have been a great "highest elevation" on my caching stats. Had to settle for the one at the Christmas Village tourist trap at the bottom of the mountain where we finally got reception again.

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The iPhone 3 was horrible, the 4 O.K. and now I have a 5. I have the app on it and save my PQ's to it......I like to have it in the truck to have the latest cache info....we travel and my pq's could range from a couple of days to a month old.

Where the rubber meets the road, we use the 62S ( just got a second one)....best of the many units I've used.

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Try dropping your smart phone in a creek and see how well it works when you retrieve it.

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They day the invent a smart phone that will survive a dunk in a creek, a fall from the roof of a moving car onto asphalt, a screen that is easily readable in direct sunlight, a battery life of 15-25 hours of constant use and inexpensive, readily available field replaceable batteries is the day the handheld GPS will be obsolete.

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I have both a smartphone and a GPS (Garmin Oregon 550T), both of which I use for geocaching.

In an urban surrounding in my home country, the iPhone is sufficient.

As soon as I go rural though, the Garmin wins out. First of all, it doesn't mind getting wet.

Then it won't break when I drop it which happens rather frequently.

Also, I have various topographic maps stored on it.

For the iPhone, I haven't found maps in this quality so far.

Then, specially if I'm abroad, going online with the iPhone to load maps would be very expensive.

 

Therefore, the tool of choice is always the GPS, but while in a city, the smartphone would be ok too.

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I placed my Garmin 550 on the hood of my truck while getting a P&G. Moments later I am driving away at 50 mph when I see something move on my hood and then follow its path through my side view mirror as it blows up upon impact with the street.

 

That was my Garmin 550. I dejectedly, yet quickly, retrieved the pieces, the main unit, the backplate, and the two batteries before other cars smashed them. Put the thing back together and it still works. The screen suffered no damage and the case did not crack. There are deep gouges on the back of the unit and it isn't so pretty any more but it keeps on finding caches.

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They day the invent a smart phone that will survive a dunk in a creek, a fall from the roof of a moving car onto asphalt, a screen that is easily readable in direct sunlight, a battery life of 15-25 hours of constant use and inexpensive, readily available field replaceable batteries is the day the handheld GPS will be obsolete.

This^

 

Especially the batteries part. My smartphone doesn't do well for long caching trips. Even when plugging the phone into a charger between caches drains the battery too quickly for a long day of caching. (More so when out of the car for more than a couple of park-and-grab caches, which is pretty often for me.)

 

But, as I'm driving around for daily errands, etc, a smartphone works fine. For anything else, I'm loading up my GPSr.

 

Also, there is much more to using Geocaching as a learning experience for something like scouts. It's more than just about finding a container and signing a logbook. It's about active navigation, history of navigation, technology, and reasoning skills.

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Hello, you would need cellphone reception to be able to find the caches, It also uses the internet, which can cost a lot of money if you aren't on a plan, The benefits of a GPS are having satellite reception anywhere whereas if you go to a remote area with a cellphone, it won't work. If you wan't to go paperless geocaching with a GPS you will need to get a premium membership on geocaching.com. With an iPhone you get the description and the hint and a fairly good GPS if you are in an area with good cellphone coverage for $10 overall, (The cost of the app) I find the app pretty good for when I'm just out and about and I'm bored.

 

The bolded part of the above statement is not correct, at least for all phones. My Motorola Bionic has a real GPS that uses the same satellites that any dedicated handheld GPS uses. The GPS works great even when I have no phone service. I agree with other comments regarding battery life and ruggedness. My Bionic is usually more accurate than my Garmin GPSMasp 76cs.

 

A few points of clarification.

 

Most smartphones use a real GPS chip and obtain coordinates using the same satellite signals used by a dedicated GPS. Some, if not most smartphones use "aGPS" (Assisted GPS). aGPS uses cell tower triangulation to improved the time to initial satellite lock. Using cell tower signals can provide an estimated location that can reduce the time it takes for a satellite lock, but does *not* improve accuracy.

 

An internet connection is not required for the GPS in a smartphone to work. However, most smartphone geocaching apps obtain the cache information in "real time" via a cellular or wifi connection and the mapping tiles are loaded in real time as you scroll/zoom the map. Some geoaching apps, allow you to download pocket queries (if you're a premium member) and mapping tiles for the list of caches, which effectively will allow you to navigate to caches using maps without a data connection. This is essential if you plan on trying to use a smart phone for geocaching in another country because data roaming charges can be astronomical.

 

One of the reasons for using a dedicated GPS in lieu of (or in addition to) a smart phone is that you can easily load a complete set of base maps and waypoint information for thousands of caches into the GPS while traveling. The battery life with a smartphone (which would require periodic recharging) verses a dedicated GPS (most use inexpensive AA batteries) is an issue. The ruggedness and water resistance of a handheld GPS is also a big factor for me.

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Most smartphones use a real GPS chip and obtain coordinates using the same satellite signals used by a dedicated GPS. Some, if not most smartphones use "aGPS" (Assisted GPS). aGPS uses cell tower triangulation to improved the time to initial satellite lock. Using cell tower signals can provide an estimated location that can reduce the time it takes for a satellite lock, but does *not* improve accuracy.An internet connection is not required for the GPS in a smartphone to work.

Correction:

 

Almost every smartphones use AGPS

 

AGPS do not use cell tower triangulation. AGPS use dataconnection to get information from some servers, to get information about where the satelites should be, so the smartphone do not have to search the satelites like an ordinary GPS. With AGPS the phone "only" have to confirm the information from those servers. Without dataconnection, some will experience that it takes longer time to get GPS-signal, cause the phone have to search the satelites like a ordinary GPS.

 

The phone uses Cell tower triangulation, until AGPS or GPS is working. And if you loose sight of satelites, Cell tower triangulation takes over until satelites are back again, and you proberly want notice it. Maybe you notice bad accuracy.

 

Cell tower triangulation, should only be used when you have big trouble getting GPS sight(maybe indoor), cause it gives bad accuracy. I think thats why those who are use to a ordinary GPS experience phones as very unaccurate. Like driving with slick tires in snow.

 

Try a trip without cell tower triangulation, and it feels like using a ordinary GPS!!

Edited by GS64

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Most smartphones use a real GPS chip and obtain coordinates using the same satellite signals used by a dedicated GPS. Some, if not most smartphones use "aGPS" (Assisted GPS). aGPS uses cell tower triangulation to improved the time to initial satellite lock. Using cell tower signals can provide an estimated location that can reduce the time it takes for a satellite lock, but does *not* improve accuracy.An internet connection is not required for the GPS in a smartphone to work.

Correction:

 

Almost every smartphones use AGPS

 

AGPS do not use cell tower triangulation. AGPS use dataconnection to get information from some servers, to get information about where the satelites should be, so the smartphone do not have to search the satelites like an ordinary GPS. With AGPS the phone "only" have to confirm the information from those servers. Without dataconnection, some will experience that it takes longer time to get GPS-signal, cause the phone have to search the satelites like a ordinary GPS.

 

The phone uses Cell tower triangulation, until AGPS or GPS is working. And if you loose sight of satelites, Cell tower triangulation takes over until satelites are back again, and you proberly want notice it. Maybe you notice bad accuracy.

 

Cell tower triangulation, should only be used when you have big trouble getting GPS sight(maybe indoor), cause it gives bad accuracy. I think thats why those who are use to a ordinary GPS experience phones as very unaccurate. Like driving with slick tires in snow.

 

 

I'm not really sure that is a correction. "Some, if not most smartphones use aGPS" is essentially the same as "almost all smartphones use AGPS". Almost all *new* smartphones have AGPS but there are still a lot of smartphones being used that are *not* nuew.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "dataconnection". Although the ephemeris information is "data", so are SMS messages and they can be sent and received when "data is turned off" on a smart phone.

 

 

Try a trip without cell tower triangulation, and it feels like using a ordinary GPS!!

 

I have, in, I think 19 different countries on four continents. Other than the TTFF (time to first fix) difference, the point is, once you have a satellite connection there is no accuracy improvement that really has any relevance for geocaching.

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One more option, but I don't know how many park systems do this. I know that our state and county parks systems do rent-a-gps programs for geocaching in their parks. They usually are old extrex legend style gps's, but they can be a great alternative to buying gps's or using a smartphone.

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One more option, but I don't know how many park systems do this. I know that our state and county parks systems do rent-a-gps programs for geocaching in their parks. They usually are old extrex legend style gps's, but they can be a great alternative to buying gps's or using a smartphone.

 

I work in a library that has a few GPS receivers that can be checked out. The university outdoor education program also has an extensive outdoor equipment rental program and may include GPS units. Those could be a couple of other options.

 

Earlier in the thread Brian wrote:

 

They day the invent a smart phone that will survive a dunk in a creek, a fall from the roof of a moving car onto asphalt, a screen that is easily readable in direct sunlight, a battery life of 15-25 hours of constant use and inexpensive, readily available field replaceable batteries is the day the handheld GPS will be obsolete.

 

That day may be closer than you think. There are numerous "battery life extender" cases on the market including a few that incorporate a solar panel. It may be awhile before one could get 15-25 hours of battery life with constant GPS use, but it could be getting better.

 

Some of the cases for iPhones that are available now are quite rugged, particularly the ones from Otterbox that not only are designed to withstand shock and bumps but are constructed with a material that can improve ones "grip" on the device (making is less likely it might be dropped). There are also a few products such as one from HZO that creates a coating on the electronics itself. See

.

 

Currently, if one if looking for a digital camera, there are a lot of offerings of waterproof, shockproof cameras, and even video cameras like the GoPro specifically designed for skiing, diving, and other outdoor activities. It may only be a matter of time before we can buy ruggedized versions of a smartphone that uses internal waterproofing technologies, rugged cases, and long battery life for those that are going to be out in the wild for long periods of time.

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Last weekend I was out and had left my GPS at home, so I decided to use my smartphone to find one particular cache.

 

I arrived at GZ and my smartphone reported an accuracy of 30 metres (versus 3 metres reported by my GPS).

 

As a result, I had to check every tree in the area to find the cache.

 

I also happened to get some snow on my phone (Otterbox case, screen protector) and some got into the earpiece of the phone.

As a result, the earpiece suffered permanent damage...it still works but it's no longer as clear as it was.

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I love using my smartphone to geocache! I use it more often than the handheld GPS because I find my smartphone has much better accuracy. But I've not put the GPS away. It comes out when there is no phone reception. So it doesn't make the handheld GPS units obsolete. Now if they ever get great phone receptions on every square inch of the globe no matter where you are, then it might make GPS units obsolete. :D

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I love using my smartphone to geocache! I use it more often than the handheld GPS because I find my smartphone has much better accuracy. But I've not put the GPS away. It comes out when there is no phone reception. So it doesn't make the handheld GPS units obsolete. Now if they ever get great phone receptions on every square inch of the globe no matter where you are, then it might make GPS units obsolete. :D

Smart phone pros:

Live geocache search (great for spontanious caching)

PQs

Cached geocache data(for when in areas with no phone reception)

Live maps (don't have to load ahead of time)

Cached maps (for when in areas with no phone reception)

wide variety of maps available

High accuracy (most newish phones; do rigorous test before purchasing)

multiple apps available

Fast GPS lock

Built in compass (all newish phones)

Cheap if you have one already (no extra cost if you already have a phone/plan)

Built in camera

 

Smart phone cons (and mitigations):

Short battery life (bring spare, or battery powered charger)

Non standard batteries (buy off e-bay for >$10)

Not rugged (use otterbox, screen protector etc, or buy Samsung Rugby)

Low sensitivity (every smartphone I have tried has this issue, only work around I know of is a good bluetooth GPSr)

Some users may not know when the smartphone has accurate GPS lock vs. unaccurate cell tower or wifi triangulation (learn to use your phone)

High cost if you don't have a plan anyway ($50 per month?)

 

Hand Held GPSr Pros:

Rugged

Maps

PQs

High accuracy (newish ones with WAAS or EGNOS)

High sensitivity (when equipped)

Longer battery life

Standard AA batteries

Built in compass (only new models, usualy costs $100 extra)

Built in camera (only new models, usualy costs $100 extra)

 

Hand Held GPSr cons (and mitigations):

Maps get old (update from internet)

Updating maps a pain in the butt (don't know of a mitigation)

No maps if you leave installed map area (new GPSrs have tons of memory, so unlikely)

No live Geocache information (new GPSrs have tons of memory, so all caches near you can be loaded on)

Updating geocache information a pain in the butt (regularly load on PQs, still a pain)

Not good for spontanious cacheing (updated PQs will help, but only if you are within the area you have caches downloaded for)

All data transfers are via cables, usually USB (maybe one day someone will make a wi-fi enabled GPSr)

No built in compass (buy more expensive GPSr with a built in compass)

 

So there you are. Is one better than the other? No, just different. It depends on your personaly style and preference

Edited by Andronicus

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Maps get old (update from internet)

 

Online and loaded maps get old, and never assume because you are looking at Gooogle's latest map it is close to accurate. I've spent the past few years correcting Google maps within 20 miles of my home and they still aren't close to correct. They promise more but deliver less than old USGS maps that GPS relies on. OK maybe the road data is newer.

 

Updating maps a pain in the butt (don't know of a mitigation)

 

This I don't get at all. If I want to load newer maps it's a matter of a few mouse clicks and at most an hour or two of waiting for them to load while I do other things.

 

No maps if you leave installed map area (new GPSrs have tons of memory, so unlikely)

 

Once an issue but as you mentioned not so much with newer units. Many will hold maps for most of the US

 

No live Geocache information (new GPSrs have tons of memory, so all caches near you can be loaded on)

This is certainly where the Smartphone has a distinct advantage. Your handheld relies on the data you download.

 

Updating geocache information a pain in the butt (regularly load on PQs, still a pain)

 

I disagree with this one. Updating the cache info takes a few mouse clicks, whether using DeLorme's Cache Register or the latest version of GSAK. It took me 10 minutes to set everything up and I load up my unit with several mouse clicks and I'm out the door in short order.

 

Not good for spontanious cacheing (updated PQs will help, but only if you are within the area you have caches downloaded for)

All data transfers are via cables, usually USB (maybe one day someone will make a wi-fi enabled GPSr)

No built in compass (buy more expensive GPSr with a built in compass)

 

If you load your GPS regularly you can cache spontaneously in your home area. But yes, the smartphone rules when it comes to "what cache is close to me" no matter where you find yourself. If you enjoy that sort of caching then go for it.

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Maps get old (update from internet)

 

Online and loaded maps get old, and never assume because you are looking at Gooogle's latest map it is close to accurate. I've spent the past few years correcting Google maps within 20 miles of my home and they still aren't close to correct. They promise more but deliver less than old USGS maps that GPS relies on. OK maybe the road data is newer.

Online maps are constantly updating, especial OpenStreetMaps. And when you don't trust one, almost all geocaching apps allow you to switch to another map provider. Then there is the satalitte view. Only a few very high end hand held units have this so far.

Updating maps a pain in the butt (don't know of a mitigation)

 

This I don't get at all. If I want to load newer maps it's a matter of a few mouse clicks and at most an hour or two of waiting for them to load while I do other things.

An hour or two? You just made my point. With a smart phone, it just works on its own (unless you are going out of cell coverage, and you are trying to cache maps. But even then, it is no were near an hour or two.)

No maps if you leave installed map area (new GPSrs have tons of memory, so unlikely)

 

Once an issue but as you mentioned not so much with newer units. Many will hold maps for most of the US

 

No live Geocache information (new GPSrs have tons of memory, so all caches near you can be loaded on)

This is certainly where the Smartphone has a distinct advantage. Your handheld relies on the data you download.

 

Updating geocache information a pain in the butt (regularly load on PQs, still a pain)

 

I disagree with this one. Updating the cache info takes a few mouse clicks, whether using DeLorme's Cache Register or the latest version of GSAK. It took me 10 minutes to set everything up and I load up my unit with several mouse clicks and I'm out the door in short order.

On a phone, it takes literal seconds to update.

Not good for spontaneous caching (updated PQs will help, but only if you are within the area you have caches downloaded for)

All data transfers are via cables, usually USB (maybe one day someone will make a wi-fi enabled GPSr)

No built in compass (buy more expensive GPSr with a built in compass)

 

If you load your GPS regularly you can cache spontaneously in your home area. But yes, the smartphone rules when it comes to "what cache is close to me" no matter where you find yourself. If you enjoy that sort of caching then go for it.

 

I am not trying to say phones are better. They definitely have their own issues. The biggie being sensitivity. I don't know any phone that will work even half reasonably under dense tree cover. Like I mentioned, this one can't be over come without external hardware.

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You know, if Garmin (or someone) made a GPSr with wifi, you could tether it to a smart phone, and then you could have the best of both worlds (assuming they didn't screw up the firmware). Considering that a wifi chip would cost them about $0.29, and they would likely increase the price of the GPSr by $100, I am not sure why they haven't done this yet?

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They day the invent a smart phone that will survive a dunk in a creek, a fall from the roof of a moving car onto asphalt, a screen that is easily readable in direct sunlight, a battery life of 15-25 hours of constant use and inexpensive, readily available field replaceable batteries is the day the handheld GPS will be obsolete.

 

Exactly... I use my iphone for spur-of-the-moment urban caching. But just using it as a GPS kills the battery in a few hours. My pn-60 on the other hand is a lot less expensive if I lose or break it, goes all day on a set of lithiums (and has the USB car adapter thing so I can save my batteries), is sunlight readable, can store hundreds of caches in different files, and never has to connect to the internet. Plus - I use it when I'm hiking. Being somewhere with no cell phone signal for a few days? Awesome! Unless you are trying to geocache with a dying cell phone...

 

People that don't understand cameras, give much the same argument with cameras. "My iphone 5 has a ten megapixel camera, your 6 megapixel dSLR isn't as good!"

Yeah, keep thinking that, buddy...

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They day the invent a smart phone that will survive a dunk in a creek, a fall from the roof of a moving car onto asphalt, a screen that is easily readable in direct sunlight, a battery life of 15-25 hours of constant use and inexpensive, readily available field replaceable batteries is the day the handheld GPS will be obsolete.

 

Exactly...

You know what? They have. It is called the Samsung Rugby series. However, although it has an extended life battery, it probably will not get 15h. That said, my Garmin eTrex is only rated for 10h.

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I swear by just using the phone. I have a galaxy boost. Anyway I just downloat the area if it will be without phone. The gps works despite cell phone coverage

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I use my iPad and haven't had any problems yet. If you look after your things, you shouldn't have more trouble than if you just use it normally. THe gps works with or without internet, but you'll want to save caches to the device if you are going to go outside reception areas, as you need reception to download the cache info. Not sure how the scouts would do, but i myself don't have a GPS... find the devices much more worthwhile... Yes, they have problems, but so do gpsr devices.

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I think, safety-wise, that the GPSr is better simply because of waypoints (and if I remember correctly, they need to learn how to set those and navigate to them to earn the badge). Yes, lots of caching can be done with the phone, but as soon as you're going 1/2 mile into the woods, it's a good idea to teach the girls to mark the parking area or trail head with a waypoint so that they know they can find their way back...especially if you wander in circles looking for the cache. Other than that, getting them into geocaching locally with their phones is a great way to do it, and if you ever want to take them out camping, canoeing, or backpacking to look for more remote caches, get a GPSr for that.

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Especially the batteries part. My smartphone doesn't do well for long caching trips. Even when plugging the phone into a charger between caches drains the battery too quickly for a long day of caching. (More so when out of the car for more than a couple of park-and-grab caches, which is pretty often for me.)

 

But, as I'm driving around for daily errands, etc, a smartphone works fine. For anything else, I'm loading up my GPSr.

One solution to the battery life is an external battery. I still use my Garmin as primary navigation when I do a day of caching in a FP. But I use the phone for online logging, reading logs/clues when I'm stumped, and then there's the satellite view. I just LOVE the 'radar' view the phone has in addition to the typical compass and distance. I bought an 8000ma external battery/charger for around $30. Yesterday on a long FP run (9AM-4PM), my phone was down to 20% battery by 1PM. And that's with minimal use. It goes to a forced power off in about 3 hours if I have the screen on most of the time. I kept the external battery in a jacket pocket and connected it to the phone when the internal battery got to 20%. I was able to continue to use the phone and it was back to 100% in less than an hour. The external pack still showed more than 75% 'full'. Theoretically, I could recharge the phone 4-5 times on a single charge of the external battery.

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Most smartphones use a real GPS chip and obtain coordinates using the same satellite signals used by a dedicated GPS. Some, if not most smartphones use "aGPS" (Assisted GPS). aGPS uses cell tower triangulation to improved the time to initial satellite lock. Using cell tower signals can provide an estimated location that can reduce the time it takes for a satellite lock, but does *not* improve accuracy.An internet connection is not required for the GPS in a smartphone to work.

Correction:

 

Almost every smartphones use AGPS

 

AGPS do not use cell tower triangulation. AGPS use dataconnection to get information from some servers, to get information about where the satelites should be, so the smartphone do not have to search the satelites like an ordinary GPS. With AGPS the phone "only" have to confirm the information from those servers. Without dataconnection, some will experience that it takes longer time to get GPS-signal, cause the phone have to search the satelites like a ordinary GPS.

 

The phone uses Cell tower triangulation, until AGPS or GPS is working. And if you loose sight of satelites, Cell tower triangulation takes over until satelites are back again, and you proberly want notice it. Maybe you notice bad accuracy.

 

Cell tower triangulation, should only be used when you have big trouble getting GPS sight(maybe indoor), cause it gives bad accuracy. I think thats why those who are use to a ordinary GPS experience phones as very unaccurate. Like driving with slick tires in snow.

 

 

I'm not really sure that is a correction. "Some, if not most smartphones use aGPS" is essentially the same as "almost all smartphones use AGPS". Almost all *new* smartphones have AGPS but there are still a lot of smartphones being used that are *not* nuew.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "dataconnection". Although the ephemeris information is "data", so are SMS messages and they can be sent and received when "data is turned off" on a smart phone.

 

 

Try a trip without cell tower triangulation, and it feels like using a ordinary GPS!!

 

I have, in, I think 19 different countries on four continents. Other than the TTFF (time to first fix) difference, the point is, once you have a satellite connection there is no accuracy improvement that really has any relevance for geocaching.

You guys are both right aGPS can/does both quick fix using cell towers and can also send up to date GPS satellite orbital data to your phone. I have mine setup to auto-download aGPS data every 6hrs.

 

Cell tower location on my phone (by work) is good for about 30m and is instant, my phones GPS is good for 4m and takes ~8s from a cold start.

 

I think, safety-wise, that the GPSr is better simply because of waypoints (and if I remember correctly, they need to learn how to set those and navigate to them to earn the badge). Yes, lots of caching can be done with the phone, but as soon as you're going 1/2 mile into the woods, it's a good idea to teach the girls to mark the parking area or trail head with a waypoint so that they know they can find their way back...especially if you wander in circles looking for the cache. Other than that, getting them into geocaching locally with their phones is a great way to do it, and if you ever want to take them out camping, canoeing, or backpacking to look for more remote caches, get a GPSr for that.

Waypoints can be done on phones too. Neat thing I like in Locus is it will automatically load and mark the parking waypoints if they are given for a cache.

 

Phones can also track you, even if the geocaching app doesn't have tracking built-in, load one of the many sports tracking apps. They will record the GPS data and track your progress. It's fun to look at all the circles/wandering later and how many calories you just burned while caching :)

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You know, if Garmin (or someone) made a GPSr with wifi, you could tether it to a smart phone, and then you could have the best of both worlds (assuming they didn't screw up the firmware). Considering that a wifi chip would cost them about $0.29, and they would likely increase the price of the GPSr by $100, I am not sure why they haven't done this yet?

 

That would be nice but as my eTrex 30 doesn't doesn't have that feature, if I go in area where I forgot to upload the geocaches in my GPS, I just plug it to my Android phone using a USB OTG cable. Then I copy on it the GPX file that I previously exported on my phone with c:geo.

That way I get everything on my GPS: waypoints, descriptions, spoilers, comments...

 

I could directly use my phone, but I broke my last one (a Galaxy S2) while geocaching, and don't want that to happen again. And when it's sunny, you don't see anything on the phone :(

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They day the invent a smart phone that will survive a dunk in a creek, a fall from the roof of a moving car onto asphalt, a screen that is easily readable in direct sunlight, a battery life of 15-25 hours of constant use and inexpensive, readily available field replaceable batteries is the day the handheld GPS will be obsolete.

 

Exactly...

You know what? They have. It is called the Samsung Rugby series. However, although it has an extended life battery, it probably will not get 15h. That said, my Garmin eTrex is only rated for 10h.

I have a Samsung Rugby but I don't think it is considered a smart phone because AT&T requires that anyone that buys a smart phone has to take a data plan and I wasn't required to. The phone is only waterproof, as they put it, for a quick dunking in up to three feet of water. The phone has twenty days standby and nine hours talk time. There was a video on youtube that showed a guy throwing it about fifteen feet in the air and it landing on concrete without any apparent damage.

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I use both.... there are positives and negatives for each.

 

The Smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S3) for the live/dynamic information about caches (recent logs, always live to the site, new caches published) and also the satellite imagery to visually guide based on seeing trees, building to walk around, etc. Also use the phone to log into geocaching.com through the browser to check 'whatever'. I also use the phone to log alot of caches 'as the scene' especially if I drop/take trackables. Offline lists and pocket queries work great on the phone. Quick cache search when out and about.

 

The GPSr (Garmin Oregon) for more accuracy (phone gets flaky for connection in mountains, etc), no worries dropping it in water or just dropping it period, longer battery life by far, durability, connection constant, quicker updating of data (ie: metres to cache, etc). GSAK, waypoints, compass related (ie: bearing, site and go, etc).

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You know, if Garmin (or someone) made a GPSr with wifi, you could tether it to a smart phone, and then you could have the best of both worlds (assuming they didn't screw up the firmware). Considering that a wifi chip would cost them about $0.29, and they would likely increase the price of the GPSr by $100, I am not sure why they haven't done this yet?

This is a really old bump, but I have noticed that there are some newer Garmin GPSr with wifi. The Monterra has wifi, and runs Android. That is cool, so you can use your favorite geocaching app on your handheld GPSr. Use wifi tethering, and you have literealy the best of both worlds! price tag ...$730 (CND). Wow. A little out of my price range.

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You know, if Garmin (or someone) made a GPSr with wifi, you could tether it to a smart phone, and then you could have the best of both worlds (assuming they didn't screw up the firmware). Considering that a wifi chip would cost them about $0.29, and they would likely increase the price of the GPSr by $100, I am not sure why they haven't done this yet?

This is a really old bump, but I have noticed that there are some newer Garmin GPSr with wifi. The Monterra has wifi, and runs Android. That is cool, so you can use your favorite geocaching app on your handheld GPSr. Use wifi tethering, and you have literealy the best of both worlds! price tag ...$730 (CND). Wow. A little out of my price range.

 

It was only a matter of time. I just now started using a smartphone for geocaching. :laughing:

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I'm so glad that I did not have to wait to save up for a dedicated GPS device before going out on my very first 'hunt' today. Finding that second cache after a long trek in the blazing sun was so rewarding; I bet you all know that feeling. :D My Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini proved to be sufficient and amazingly accurate, enduring at least 3.5 hours of GPS tracking out of the 5 hour round trip and taking me to under 5 meters of the cache I found. Coming home was the only scary part, but I made it safely home with 15% battery left.

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A small battery recharger will let you go for 12 hours or more. Google 'Anker' for an example of the many types out there.

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