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What's better, GPS devices or Smart Phones for Geocaching?

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Hi all, I'm thinking about buying a GPS device but I wonder what are the pros and cons for GPS devices and Smart Phones? Which is better and why?

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Hi all, I'm thinking about buying a GPS device but I wonder what are the pros and cons for GPS devices and Smart Phones? Which is better and why?

 

Here are a few things I came up with:

 

Smartphone:

 

Pros:

 

-Can get caches anywhere, anytime (as long as you have a date signal)

-Convenient, most likely take it with you already

-Can get your email for notifications

 

 

Cons:

 

-Not durable, drop it in the water it's ruined

-You may or may not have to buy an app (there are some good free ones out there)

-Of you're hiking and it runs out of battery it's not like you can bring an extra set :/

 

Handheld GPSr:

 

Pros:

 

-Rugged, durable, can take a beating

-better accuracy possible, depends on what phone you have and the GPSr itself

-Don't have to have an app for it

-Some have longer battery life, can bring an extra set of battery's

-It's how geocaching was started :laughing:

 

Cons:

 

-Have to get caches from a computer, although it's easy with programs like GSAK

-You might have to buy maps for it

 

That's all I can think of for now, I'm sure other members will give you lots more. :) I'll update the list if I think of more too.

Edited by CEH2000

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Hi all, I'm thinking about buying a GPS device but I wonder what are the pros and cons for GPS devices and Smart Phones? Which is better and why?

"Better" is horribly subjective.

 

What may be good from your perspective may not be so good from another person's perspective and vice-versa.

In the arena of technological advancement, differentials between the two devices are closing -- rapidly.

 

Wait for 2 days, and things are bound to change some more.

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You've opened up a big can of worms....

 

CEH2000 is on the right track.

 

First and foremost - NEVER NEVER buy a smartphone for only geocaching. Buy a smart phone because you need/want it for everything else a smart phone does. Smart Phones are not cheap to own.....

 

A smart phone is just another tool you can use to geocache with. If you already have a smart phone, get an App (free or not) and go have some fun.

 

If you find yourself enjoying this hobby, you will eventually buy Premium Membership (pocket queiries) and you will eventually buy a handheld GPS. Guaranteed. My husband and I started using smart phones and now we have 2 smart phone and 3 GPS's (Iphones, Oregon 450, GPSmap62s, Nuvi 2450). We utilize all of them while caching.

Edited by Lieblweb

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Hi all, I'm thinking about buying a GPS device but I wonder what are the pros and cons for GPS devices and Smart Phones? Which is better and why?

 

Here are a few things I came up with:

 

Smartphone:

 

Pros:

 

-Can get caches anywhere, anytime (as long as you have a date signal)

-Convenient, most likely take it with you already

-Can get your email for notifications

 

 

Cons:

 

-Not durable, drop it in the water it's ruined

-You may or may not have to buy an app (there are some good free ones out there)

-Of you're hiking and it runs out of battery it's not like you can bring an extra set :/

 

Handheld GPSr:

 

Pros:

 

-Rugged, durable, can take a beating

-WAY better accuracy

-Don't have to have an app for it

-Some have longer battery life, can bring an extra set of battery's

-It's how geocaching was started :laughing:

 

Cons:

 

-Have to get caches from a computer, although it's easy with programs like GSAK

-You might have to buy maps for it

 

That's all I can think of for now, I'm sure other members will give you lots more. :) I'll update the list if I think of more too.

 

Plus one except for Way better accuracy. I occasionally use my Galazy S4 and Montana simultaneously and while they will sometimes be 20 feet different that is well within acceptable parameters for any device. I taught a geocaching class several times and as we approached the first cache I asked the students to keep their eyes on their device (all were handhelds) and find the closest reading. Then I have them look up and see how far apart they are scattered. So two devices that far off is fine. I also have friends that have found thousands with their iPhone and when we go together sometimes my Montana is closer and sometimes their iPhone it.

Edited by Walts Hunting

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If you find yourself enjoying this hobby, you will eventually buy Premium Membership (pocket queiries) and you will eventually buy a handheld GPS. Guaranteed. My husband and I started using smart phones and now we have 2 smart phone and 3 GPS's (Iphones, Oregon 450, GPSmap62s, Nuvi 2450). We utilize all of them while caching.

 

Funny you say that, 'cause for me the longer I go, the less inclined I am to spend the money on a standalone GPSr. I've gotten this far without one and like the conveniences of the smartphone. I suppose if I ever start caching out in the wilderness where data signals are spotty or nonexistant, I'll look into an inexpensive GPSr...but as it is I rarely have a signal issue and my smartphone is usually pretty accurate - sometimes getting me to within 5-10 feet. I don't think it's at all "guaranteed" that the OP will want a GPSr.

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Hi all, I'm thinking about buying a GPS device but I wonder what are the pros and cons for GPS devices and Smart Phones? Which is better and why?

 

Here are a few things I came up with:

 

Smartphone:

 

Pros:

 

-Can get caches anywhere, anytime (as long as you have a date signal)

-Convenient, most likely take it with you already

-Can get your email for notifications

 

 

Cons:

 

-Not durable, drop it in the water it's ruined

-You may or may not have to buy an app (there are some good free ones out there)

-Of you're hiking and it runs out of battery it's not like you can bring an extra set :/

 

Handheld GPSr:

 

Pros:

 

-Rugged, durable, can take a beating

-WAY better accuracy

-Don't have to have an app for it

-Some have longer battery life, can bring an extra set of battery's

-It's how geocaching was started :laughing:

 

Cons:

 

-Have to get caches from a computer, although it's easy with programs like GSAK

-You might have to buy maps for it

 

That's all I can think of for now, I'm sure other members will give you lots more. :) I'll update the list if I think of more too.

 

Plus one except for Way better accuracy. I occasionally use my Galazy S4 and Montana simultaneously and while they will sometimes be 20 feet different that is well within acceptable parameters for any device. I taught a geocaching class several times and as we approached the first cache I asked the students to keep their eyes on their device (all were handhelds) and find the closest reading. Then I have them look up and see how far apart they are scattered. So two devices that far off is fine. I also have friends that have found thousands with their iPhone and when we go together sometimes my Montana is closer and sometimes their iPhone it.

 

Thanks! Updated. :)

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I wouldn't say that "don't have to have an app" is a big plus for a handheld GPSr. Handhelds have software pre-installed. Typically you have no choice but to use this software. With smartphones it's way easier. You can try different software for positioning/mapping/geocaching and choose what you like. Many of these programs are freeware or have freeware versions.

 

I don't think this issue to be a can of worms. Nikon vs. Canon has been can of worms :) With the choice between a handheld and a smartphone it's no more such an important issue nowadays I believe. Many people already have smartphones and I'd say these devices are OK for geocaching in cities and short trips in the country. The biggest problem is battery life and I used to solve it with a portable charger that works like a charm. Of course if we talk about walking for longer distances, for two or more days away from civilization, or in some really difficult conditions (mountains, backcountry skiing, etc.) I would definitely take my handheld there.

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Ruggedness and water proof and accuracy are the primary reasons I primarily cache with a "real" gps (I use an Oregon, used to use and still have a blue etrex). I still keep my smart phone with me, but if I expect ruggedness, the possibility of falling, getting wet, or whatever, the phone stays in the car.

 

I've been known to get a string of P&G's with just my phone though, but thats rare.

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the one thing that no one mentioned, with a GPS you do not have to pay a monthly fee. The money that a cell phone subscription cost in just one year can be applied to a very good pair of hiking boots (if a person is going to do any real hiking these are a must). A person could also buy a top end GPS. The money saved by using a GPS could also be used to pay for gas in a car, this is very important for geocachers that are doing lots of caching. In some weeks I will spend $200.00 to $300.00 for gasoline alone but I drive a Mustang and I have a heavy foot.

For me if I would have had to pay a monthly fee to use a GPS my guess I would have never gotten into this habit.

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with a GPS you do not have to pay a monthly fee. The money that a cell phone subscription cost in just one year can be applied to a very good pair of hiking boots

We used a smartphone without a SIM card in it for caching, before we switched our cell service to it. In other words, you don't HAVE to pay a monthly fee if you're using a smartphone for caching and not as a phone.

 

If you're using a smartphone ONLY for caching, then get a GPS as it's more durable and designed more for the activity. If you're using a smartphone for caching AND as a phone, the monthly fee is much more for the phone, not for the caching.

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Some excellent responses here thanks!

Just to clarify, I already have a smartphone which I'm using and also the official app. I use two other apps, Geo-placer and MapMyRun (to calculate distance between new cache locations) which are great additions to help me geocaching.

 

I can understand the need for better accuracy as I really only get 3 metre accuracy on the phone and also the durability as if dropped could potential be an expensive replacement!

 

Think I'll stick with the phone for now but a dedicated device would be a great addition to the arsenal in the future!

 

Thanks all

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I've cached with iPhones 3= horrible and 5s= O.K., but I prefer caching with GPS units, mainly our 62S units.

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It seems that the OP has received the info that they need, but I'm still going to move this thread from Geocaching Topics to GPS and Technology. Perhaps there are still some more good points that can be made there.

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Sounds like you have already gotten your answer and I'd say you've made a good choice. The smart phone is a good way to get an introduction to this great hobby. Of course, it's not as rugged, but if you are careful with it, you should be able to find a few caches that way. If you are going to be the type of geocacher that just wants to find the occasional geocache and maybe just finds a handful of caches on any given day, then the smart phone might be all that you ever need.

 

If you decide to get more serious, and want to go after more challenging caches involving long hikes (needing better battery life) and varying terrain (need a rugged unit), or finding 20+ caches in a day (battery life), or start hiding some caches of your own (better accuracy), then it is probably time to upgrade to a handheld GPS.

 

Have fun and happy geocaching!

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Chiming in with some more thoughts & tips...

 

Hi all, I'm thinking about buying a GPS device but I wonder what are the pros and cons for GPS devices and Smart Phones? Which is better and why?

Yep. Can of worms. :ph34r:

 

Smartphone:

Cons:

(1) -Not durable, drop it in the water it's ruined

(2) -You may or may not have to buy an app (there are some good free ones out there)

(3) -Of you're hiking and it runs out of battery it's not like you can bring an extra set :/

#1 and 3 - easily rectified. #2 - see below.

Most would buy a protective case for the phone, whether for durability or water protection.

Personally, I take super care of my phone. Because it's not just a gps device. It's an all in one. Accidents can happen, sure, but you take care of every device to the degree you feel it is worth taking care. "Dropping" my phone isn't a concern, because I don't think of it as something I can drop :P Nonetheless, I personally run a greater risk because I don't put out the $ on protective casing.

 

Battery? External pack. You can get a AA pack for cheap these days (~$20) for most any smartphone brand, then you can share the same handful of batteries you would have were you to carry around your handheld. Depending on how much you use your phone or keep it doing things in the background while caching, let alone keeping gps reception on the entire time (as handheld owners are wont to do), battery will deplete faster, yes. A handful of rechargeables makes that a non-issue. My habit: if battery is of concern, I keep GPS reception off (Geosphere allows this) until I need to locate myself on the map (eg, hiking a few km on trails? No need for GPS until nearing destination; save battery)

 

Handhelds:

Cons

-Have to get caches from a computer, although it's easy with programs like GSAK

Oops, GSAK is an app ;) (let alone requiring a computer to get caches)

(and GSAK is free nag-ware, but you can buy it for full support and features- and it benefits even smartphone users who want to keep their database on the PC instead of device)

 

First and foremost - NEVER NEVER buy a smartphone for only geocaching. Buy a smart phone because you need/want it for everything else a smart phone does. Smart Phones are not cheap to own.....

I was about to respond to the 'never never', but realized you're right, when I read it the right way :) Yeah, I wouldn't recommend buying a smartphone if ONLY using it for geocaching. It's a very powerful device that has many benefits, and is well worth it when those are factored into its purchase. But for caching only, it can be expensive and fragile, by comparison. For the same price you can get a better geocaching(GPS)-specialized device.

 

If you find yourself enjoying this hobby, you will eventually buy Premium Membership (pocket queiries) and you will eventually buy a handheld GPS. Guaranteed.

Bzzzt. Nope, not guaranteed. Perfectly feasible to enjoy caching with a smartphone only. Handheld isn't a requirement. :)

But upgrading to premium membership is definitely a hard step to deny!

 

Context:

I'm now 4 1/2 years caching, and only ever with an iPhone - from 3GS to 4S and now a 5S. Working towards 4000 finds, placed and own caches, and cached in most every rural/remote environment (eg, forest, wilderness, desert, GPS over open water) - not just urban city. ...well, I haven't scuba cached with an iPhone :P

 

the one thing that no one mentioned, with a GPS you do not have to pay a monthly fee. The money that a cell phone subscription cost...

BTW, you can cache using only wifi when available, if you learn tricks of map pre-caching. Technically, you don't need a data plan to actually perform the act of geocaching with a smartphone if it has real GPS reception (which I believe all recent brands now do). But it's certainly more optimal to have a data plan :)

 

In short, my typical blurb summary on this can of worms:

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

* High-end handhelds mis-used can be just as bad as low-end smartphones used well (or even high-end smartphones used badly, of course).

* High-end smartphones now perform as well as, or in many cases better than, higher than average handhelds.

* The best handheld should always outperform any smartphone in GPS accuracy and speed - that is, after all, their sole purpose of existence.

* Avoid caching with any less-than-average smartphone. Definitely do not place caches with such (you'll avoid drama, and it'll just be easier)

* Myth: "Smartphones" are not good for geocaching.

* Lie: You can't cache in non-urban environments with a smartphone.

* Insult: Smartphone cachers are idiots and the downfall of geocaching.

* Vague/uninformed: "Handheld" battery life/durability/accuracy/price is better than "Smartphones" (please be more specific!)

 

Best combination for caching: Mid to high-end GPSr + decent smartphone.

 

Perfectly feasible for caching anywhere: High end smartphone

 

Cachers no one likes: I found 2 caches! I wanna place a cache! *reads gps* 5 seconds later *publish*. ~ First posted log: "Coords are 50m out! :mad: " -- is this person a smartphone or handheld cacher? Could be either (actually either of the CO and finder could be either :P)

ie: Using a handheld GPSr is no excuse to be lazy in cache placement. It might make it easier, but every owner has the responsibility of doing their best to ensure accurate coordinates.

 

Finding a cache: Having a GPS device accuracy above ~20-30 feet especially in difficult environments is ultimately irrelevant. You can't necessarily trust that the coordinates themselves from the CO are accurate - for whatever reason (from GPS brand to caching habits to current environment reception).

Geosense is the winner near gz. (unless you're fortunate to be finding a cache that is indeed highly accurate with an informative listing, hopefully more often than not). As hinted above, you may often find in groups of cachers that when near gz everyone is spread out trying to pin down an accurate coordinate as they bounce around --- instead of looking for the cache! :P

 

My recommendations for purchase:

* Cheap and Geocaching only? --> Avg handheld GPSr

* Cheap and multi-purpose? --> Cheap handheld + avg smartphone.

* Geocaching only? --> Good handheld.

* Multi-purpose? --> Good smartphone, optionally + Good handheld

* All-out everything? --> Good smartphone, Good handheld, all the bells and whistles

* Already have a smartphone, want to go geocaching? --> Upgrade to a Good smartphone. Else if you don't already have a Good smartphone, buy a cheap handheld (at least).

 

~ "Good smartphone" - pretty much any iPhone/Android model within the past year or two; BB? not so sure)

~ "Avg smartphone" - one, maybe two generations back, but no more (these are generally much cheaper than new models, with sufficient/decent GPS capabilities)

 

Have a smartphone?

* Take care of it

* Buy a AA battery pack, buy a protective case

 

Ok I think that's it. again.

 

(PS: this subject is very common in the forums; a search or two and you should find many handheld/smartphone debate threads and informative helpful threads ;) )

Edited by thebruce0

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the one thing that no one mentioned, with a GPS you do not have to pay a monthly fee

 

I didn't catch the idea, sorry. What monthly fee for GPS usage you need to pay having a smartphone?

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It's hard to a followup act to thebruce0's excellent post. But in general it is important to identify what your needs might be. The OP is a premium member who has already found 197 caches. If they are already using a device, to what extent is that meeting your needs and what do you want that is different?

 

I use my iphone to give me offline voice navigation when driving to a cache, consult offline trail maps, take photos if I find anything interesting (iphoneography and hipstamatic can be just as much of a passion as anything), and to maintain a database of certain caches that I can export to a different device if necessary. I have cached with it in any number of situations - from long hikes to more urban areas, from wherigos to webcams to earthcaches - but as has been pointed out, I would not have gotten it just for caching. I also use it to listen to music or podcasts on the train, check out random information (or find a restaurant and confirm flight status), play other location-based games, and as an afterthought to make phone calls or do email. I would have the data plan even if I did not cache.

 

On the other hand, there are situations where a handheld (or a Bluetooth gpsr) comes in handy. I was glad I could supplement my iphone when traveling overseas. I might take out my handheld if hiking all day with friends. Or bring it along as a backup. If you find yourselves caching and think that a different unit would make life easier and is worth the investment, then you are probably right. Think about your needs - how you will be using a gpsr - and go from there.

Edited by geodarts

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the one thing that no one mentioned, with a GPS you do not have to pay a monthly fee

 

I didn't catch the idea, sorry. What monthly fee for GPS usage you need to pay having a smartphone?

If you are using the phone as a phone there is the fee for that service,

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If you are using the phone as a phone there is the fee for that service,

 

Of course but it's a phone, different service, you still pay nothing for GPS. It's not an advantage of a handheld over a smartphone. Vice versa, if you use smartphone you have more functionality.

 

At whole, I think that the situation has changed - comparing to early days of geocaching. At that time it was obvious that one had to buy a GPS receiver to play geocaching. Nowadays many people already have smaptphones equipped with GPS modules. So, the question has changed from "what GPS receiver I should buy?" through "is my smartphone good for geocaching or I need to buy a handheld device?" to "I've used my smartphone for a while, what will I benefit from buying a handheld?" Old-school cachers who love their handhelds sometimes appear to be quite sceptical to this approach and this can be observed in discussions about "smartphone caching". I'm a person of the same sort I think, with over 25 years of hiking experience, like my good old handheld and occassionally test handhelds for one well-known GPS developer. But the world of GPS technologies has changed since that wonderful days when geocaching was young :)

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Well said, CJ.

 

It really is inevitable. One shouldn't be attached to "handheld GPSrs", because the GPS technology itself is spreading and improving. Eventually what we know as 'handhelds' may disappear, while the technology itself will spread and be a part of many many devices. It shouldn't matter what device you use that has GPS capability, it should matter how effective that capability is in whatever device you use, and the user experience it provides in the context of geocaching. And the latter is constantly changing.

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Funny you say that, 'cause for me the longer I go, the less inclined I am to spend the money on a standalone GPSr. I've gotten this far without one and like the conveniences of the smartphone. I suppose if I ever start caching out in the wilderness where data signals are spotty or nonexistant, I'll look into an inexpensive GPSr...but as it is I rarely have a signal issue and my smartphone is usually pretty accurate - sometimes getting me to within 5-10 feet. I don't think it's at all "guaranteed" that the OP will want a GPSr.

 

And maybe what I meant was....if you're enjoying it and doing it every weekend - you'll probably want/need a dedicated GPS.

 

Without a handheld GPS, you really & truely don't know what you're missing.

 

Put it on your Christmas list....seriously.

Edited by Lieblweb

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