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Best phones for GPS?


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First off, I've read the sticky on GPS recommendations :) What I'm wondering is what phone you recommend for geocaching. I'm looking to upgrade my phone and wow, my current phone has a horrible GPS system. The last time I went in the woods it had me jumping all over the map while I stood in one spot. I talked to someone at T-mobile who does geocaching and he recommended I do NOT get the HTC One, said the GPS is horrible. However, he didn't have anything he DID recommend for me. I was wondering if anyone here has any suggestions? I cannot afford a GPS device right now so I've been using my phone. Thanks in advance!

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Well, you know what you have read and you know what you have/have not been told... but do you really know anything about phone units and GPSr units? I mean you, yourself? Not some guy that would really like to sell you another phone. It's really kind of surprising that he couldn't make a recommendation. Makes one wonder, does it not?

 

Now, it is true that not all phones are created equal. Too, older-style GPSr units are not as "good" as new-style units. But... guess what?

They all are used and used successfully by many folks to this day.

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Phones (not necessarily the GPS chip in the phone), because they use an antenna that is a compromise for receiving different signal types, have one inherent fault. They are fairly well noted for not working well under forest canopy. Now a GPSr, with an antenna that is specifically tuned for receiving satellite signals fairs a bit better -- even then, they still fall short at times under heavy canopy (especially wet canopy).

Your jumping all over the map under canopy was probably not the fault of your unit. If you were close to the coordinates you were probably looking at the unit -- I mean it was leading you here, there and everywhere, right? I suggest that you were looking at the wrong thing -- the unit. Look for the cache (or its hiding spot) instead of the unit. Yes, you were "letting" it lead you astray. When that happens, put the thing away and look for the cache, instead.

 

A consumer-grade GPSr unit (or phone) can only do so much -- it is not a battlefield unit nor is it designed to deliver a Tomahawk missile through a window (those missiles are a million+ bucks a copy for some reason). You cannot expect it to put you dead-on to a set of coordinates. It will only get you "close enough", from thereon you need to use your own on-board computer and sensory capabilities.

Expect it to get you within 20-30 ft of the cache under ideal circumstances. A larger distance under less-than-ideal circumstances, such as "in the woods". Of your two finds recorded, one hint indicated that the cache was in a stump -- it don't get much better than that (although I wouldn't truly call that a "hint", more like "special delivery"). Don't see a stump? Don't waste time at that spot even if your unit does direct you there.

 

All that said and done, phone GPS units are getting better every day (daily it seems, according to the advertisements). I'll leave pointing out the "best" one to the folks that know phones better than I do and keep up with all the makes and models.

 

I could be off-base here, but it seems strange that you are willing to pay... what, around $200 for a phone, then a data plan, plus an app? A very good dedicated GPSr can be had for between $100 - $200 and no data plan is necessary. Batteries are cheap and easily switched out when necessary -- it's a bummer to run out of battery juice with the nearest charging location 1/2 mile or more away through the swamp with no trail to follow. Do you carry a spare (charged) phone battery? I hear they are 'spensive.

 

So, there ARE options. Many folks use both and are very happy with the results.

Edited by Gitchee-Gummee
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Don't make geocaching your primary purpose for buying any given smart phone. You just might be disappointed.

 

Get a smartphone for all your other home/businesses needs - and use Geocaching on the side.

 

Nothing beats a handheld GPS for geocaching.

 

I've had iphone 4 and currently have a iphone 5. Sure...it does OK.... and yes, it also bounces you around and takes way too long to settle down COMPARED to a handheld GPS.

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I have an iPhone 5S for geocaching and I am NOT happy with that device. The screen is too small but the worst feature is power hungry GPS, which allows only a couple of hours geocaching if you don't optimize the usage by closing the GPS program for every 10 secs that you certainly don't need that. But what would then better? How do I know?

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... iPhone 5S ... the screen is too small ...

Yet the screen of the iPhone 5s is larger - both in inches and pixel count - than most handheld GPSRs.

 

...worst feature is power hungry GPS, which allows only a couple of hours...

Indeed, battery life of any smartphone will pale in comparison to most handheld GPSRs. However, with careful usage you CAN get a full day of geocaching out of it. There are also auxiliary battery packs. And the AC adapter+charging cable that comes with the iPhone weighs less than a pair of alkaline AA batteries.

 

"WHAT?! You expect me to take a power cord geocaching?" -- Probably, yeah. If you're caching with a phone instead of a dedicated GPSR, you probably shouldn't venture into the rough. And if you're not roughing it, you can probably find a power outlet now and then.

 

Smartphone GPS -- Ideal for finding the nearest cafe, if not the nearest cache! :D

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Don't make geocaching your primary purpose for buying any given smart phone. You just might be disappointed.

 

Get a smartphone for all your other home/businesses needs - and use Geocaching on the side.

 

Nothing beats a handheld GPS for geocaching.

 

I've had iphone 4 and currently have a iphone 5. Sure...it does OK.... and yes, it also bounces you around and takes way too long to settle down COMPARED to a handheld GPS.

 

I agree. I have had an iPhone 3,4, and now 5 and none of them compare to most of my dedicated GPS units.

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I use an iphone 5 for about 95 percent of the caching that I do, from hikes in woods and canyons to more urban locations. It has gotten me to where I need to go, often closer to the actual cache than my handheld gpsrs. There are enough threads that compare phones to handhelds, which is not the topic. So without going in that direction, I think that after a certain point, the "best" phone for caching may be as much of a software question than a hardware one.

 

The caching app I use (Geosphere) does everything I could want. I like the way it displays cache pages, which can be important for many earthcaches, letterboxes, and other caches that rely on the graphics and longer descriptions. It acts as a database that allows me to merge searches, filter pocket queries, keep track of solved puzzles, and generally manage things so that I can find the caches I want to do. It interfaces with routing apps (such as Navigon) and offline mapping apps. And should I want to use my handheld for kayaking or other types of adventures, I can export anything I want to my gpsr.

 

Apart from that, the Wherigo app on the iphone has been very stable for me, and there are several other apps that can help with caching.

 

I have looked at some of the android caching apps on my wife's tablet, but there is nothing that I like better. So the caching and photography apps have been the main reason why I have stuck with the iphone and why it had been the best for me. There are, of course, some drawbacks. The closed Apple universe makes some things more complicated than Androids. Other people may be happy with what the Androids offer and find apps that work best for them.

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I have an iPhone 5S for geocaching and I am NOT happy with that device. The screen is too small but the worst feature is power hungry GPS, which allows only a couple of hours geocaching if you don't optimize the usage by closing the GPS program for every 10 secs that you certainly don't need that. But what would then better? How do I know?

 

It's still MUCH better than Samsung Galaxy S4, for example, where the big screen is so power hungry that IF you optimize the usage by closing the GPS program for every 10 secs you don't need it, than MAYBE you'd be able to do a couple of hours geocaching. With the screen on all of the time you could finish after an hour as well.

 

Yeah, nothing beats handheld GPS when it's about power usage. From what I've heard, iPhones are very good when it comes to power usage (and from you wrote, they are much better than most Android devices) but just keep them if you need internet (spoiler photos, etc.).

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I used my phone to grab a newly published cache a few weeks ago. The email arrived at 11pm and the cache was only 2 miles away, so I knew that I had a good shot of being the FTF. I ran out the door with my phone, which had 37% remaining battery life and found the cache first. The whole trip took less than 15 minutes, but within that small amount of time, my phone went from 37% to 9% remaining battery life.

 

This is a phone that went from 9am to 11pm with using only 60ish % of its battery life and then lost 28% of its battery life in only around 15 minutes.

 

Scew that. GPS in phones just uses way too much battery power. Sure, you can use an external battery charger, but that drain is still going on and still effecting the lifespan of your battery.

 

Not to mention, I've lost track of how many times I've dropped my 62s. It has been dropped on pavement and then kicked accidentally, dropped on gravel and wood, it has even fell into a stream. My 62s is still going strong though. Otterboxes offer some protection, but why risk your smartphone when a 62s, which is still a fantastic GPS unit, only costs $200?

 

Most people are tied to contracts with their smartphone. If you break it while Geocaching, the carrier isn't going to care. They'll still want their money each month. With that in mind, I honestly don't understand why anyone would use their smartphone for geocaching full-time instead of a cheaper and in most ways better, dedicated GPS unit.

Edited by Bio True
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I started with a Garmin Legend, then a Nuvi 1390 (and yes, it did very well), Oregon 550, Nuvi 2595, and now a Samsung Galaxy Note II (Android) with c:geo and I am a GSAK user.

The GNote is every bit as accurate as the Oregon and I prefer the performance of the c:geo app as its compass page also displays the lat/long of the GC as well as my current position. This kind of page is available with the Colorado but not the Oregon. The Oregon does however store and display more GC logs than the c:geo app.

Battery life? Hmm, I very seldom use internet access when I'm out and never for geocaching as c:geo does a great job off-line.

Using GSAK, my Nuvi 2595 is always loaded with geocaches displayed as TourGuides. For a few hours of geocaching I simply use my laptop to find likely candidates and ensure they are on the GNote then off I go. When I am in the vicinity of the cache out I go with the Gnote in hand. I do not use any device to send a note other than my home laptop as I always write a note of a few sentences and I quite often include a picture. I figure that the effort it takes to place and maintain a cache rates more than a TFTC.

All this to say that you can geocache with almost any gps device. At least once a season I manage to go caching with a friend who is an "expert" and he just needs to be in the vicinity and then he uses his geosense - amazing!

In closing, I use lat/long to find a cache GZ. A compass is only good to get near (as in 100 feet or so) after that the inherent "bounce" when you simply point the device left or right is not worth the hassle and is not as effective as walking left/right to the GZ lat/long position. My 2¢.

Edited by phlatlander
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The caching app I use (Geosphere) does everything I could want. I like the way it displays cache pages, which can be important for many earthcaches, letterboxes, and other caches that rely on the graphics and longer descriptions. It acts as a database that allows me to merge searches, filter pocket queries, keep track of solved puzzles, and generally manage things so that I can find the caches I want to do. It interfaces with routing apps (such as Navigon) and offline mapping apps. And should I want to use my handheld for kayaking or other types of adventures, I can export anything I want to my gpsr.

 

 

I got Geosphere a few months ago after reading about it on this forum. Really slick program for those using iPhones.

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