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Moun10Bike

Can a Smartphone Replace a Dedicated GPS?

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Like you I am fortunate enough to have an iphone 5 and an Oregon 600. I'm interested in what app and map you use on the iPhone. The one thing which I like most about the Oregon is I can load custom maps (in my oase 1:25K Ordnance Survey maps - I'm in the UK). These are better at showing footpaths (and features like hedges) than any of the map options I can get using the official app on the iPhone. But maybe with a different app I can do the same on the iPhone?

Any reason to not simply use paper maps? I'll either have an old and tatty copy of the OSM with me or a print out and whatever scale I need from somewhere.

 

But I am awfully old fashioned and have a bit of a thing about paper maps I suppose :-)

 

I carry a paper map too!

 

But sometimes I get confused and I'm not sure where I am (on the paper map). Which is why I like having this specific custom map on the Oregon so much - it matches the paper map I use exactly. So now I can see exactly where I am on the map (and if I'm correctly following the public footpath).

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Have you ever tried using a Smartphone when it's tipping down with rain? I usually carry a Smartphone for looking up cache details and logging finds as I go but always use the eTrex for navigating in adverse weather conditions. If I happen to be somewhere without the eTrex and wonder if there's any geocaches in the area the Smartphone is usually fine.

I also find the Smartphone useful if looking for caches which have been set using a Smartphone as I've found coordinates often differ from those given by the eTrex by as much as 50'.

In short - it's horses for courses. If you only cache in favourable weather conditions a Smartphone is fine. If you are worried about getting your Smartphone wet then uses a proper GPS.

See, this is where you're stating your own experience and opinion as if it's universal. It's not.

Yes, I for one do cache in all sorts of unfavourable weather, and my smartphone is and has been just fine, thank you.

Once again, if you are prepared, as anyone with an electronic device should and will be, for whatever they know their device isn't optimal to handle, then there is no issue.

 

A "waterproof GPSr" will of course by default be better suited to fend off rain and ground water. A "protected smartphone" (ie with waterproof casing), or even a regular one that the owner cradles protectively in the rain, will be just as suited for caching without issue. Also, My iPhone(s) have been in the rain, splattered with drops, and been just fine. I can't say it enough - it's surprisingly resilient.

 

It's statements like the bolded above that start debates, because it's based on presumptions and opinions. Now, if you don't want to use your smartphone in the rain, then that's your choice; it's perfectly legitimate and most likely safer, depending on the brand, even if not adequately protected. But to say that a "smartphone is fine if you only cache in favourable weather" makes so many presumptions both about the hardware and about the user (and what constitutes "favourable" :P).

 

Use what you like, use what you prefer, know its limits, and protect it accordingly -- whatever device you use.

Edited by thebruce0

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I wonder how much grant money I can get to give this a full range testing and attempt to put the debate to rest.

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I wonder how much grant money I can get to give this a full range testing and attempt to put the debate to rest.

 

It will probably be put to rest about the same time that the debate between Apple and Android is settled. But I think there is general agreement that either a smartphone or dedicated gpsr will get you to the general cache location, provided that the hider's coordinates are reasonably accurate. So for purposes of this game we are discussing matters of personal preferences. Since the latter is personal, we could could continue to discuss it forever, even if it was definitely proven that a particular gpsr might be slightly more accurate than a particular smartphone - or vice versa.

Edited by geodarts

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I wonder how much grant money I can get to give this a full range testing and attempt to put the debate to rest.

You shouldn't be surprised if you could do so. It's a Master's Degree-worthy bit of IT research. Need a degree?

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If you're used to a GPSr, then a smartphone is "fragile".

A smartphone is fragile, regardless of what device you are used to.

Perception really has little to do with a label like "fragile"

Kinda like a Ming vase. If you drop it, bad things can happen. :lol:

That doesn't mean that they can't be suitable for caching.

 

If you're used to a smartphone, then a GPSr is excessively durable.

I'm used to a smartphone. I have to carry one for work.

I don't think my 60CSx is excessively durable.

It was designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor use.

 

Others may say that a couple of minor additions to preparedness and those things are perfectly within feasible capabilities of a smartphone as well.

My teenage daughter might argue that point with you. :lol: She has gone through several smartphones, both iPhones, 'Droids and even a Windows phone. All died painful deaths whilst encased in Otterbox cases. I'm unwilling to test it on my phone, but if someone wants to send me their smartphone, in the protective case of choice, I'll take a video of me driving over it with my truck, then pitching it onto the blacktop at 45 MPH, just so we can definatively state if after market additions can make a smartphone as durable as a traditional handheld. :huh:

 

Smartphones, recent models especially, are completely capable of geocaching and placing caches -- when used and read properly -- as much as any GPSr.

So long as you are okay with less precise coordinates...

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There are types of smartphones that are dustproof, shockproof and waterproof. Just google on ip67 certified smartphones. Some examples: the Motorola Defy can be kept 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes. And on youtube you will find videoclips shot underwater with an Xperia smartphone. These phones are resistant against rain.

My boss issues the Casio G'zOne Commando, which is said to be a fairly tough phone, compared to others in that market. The website brags about being able to immerse it, and still shoot video. The first one I killed popped off my belt clip and dropped about a foot, striking the seat rail of my patrol car. That was enough to break the screen. The second one I killed stayed put, in my belt clip, whilst I was assisting FHP with a fatal traffic crash, in the rain.

 

Still, it's tougher than an iPhone. :lol:

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The study is comparing a smart phone with a dedicated GPS.

 

No, it started with two Garmin GPSmap60CSx and two types of iPhones. My red Ferrari is faster than my neighbours black Subaru. So red cars are faster than black cars.

 

 

Which only goes to show that the study is flawed. It was also done in a limited area which consistent (and likely good) cellular service. If they had gone 50 miles or so northwest, in Adirondack park, the results might have differed. I live in a spot where I get pretty good cell service. I can't get even 1 bar at my brother and sisters house...about 4 miles from where I live.

 

 

The thread has drifted a comparison of a dedicated GPS to a smartphone with an additional protective case

 

I recommend you google on ip67 certified devices. And you will find that a variety of smartphones are more shockproof and waterproof than a list of handheld gps devices.

 

 

"a list of GPS devices"? As in a cherry picked list of smart phones and a cherry picked list of handheld gps devices? As an avid sea kayaker, and want to bring along electronic devices with me for what is a very wet sport, I'm familiar with the ipx6 and ipx7 ratings. My first handheld GPS, which I bought 7 years ago, was not only IPX5 and IPX7 certified but it (alledgedly, I never tested it) floats. It's been underwater many times during rolling practice and always worked flawlessly (until it was stolen). On the other hand, I bought a IPX7 certified camera that I frequently used in the water. It fell out my pocket at the bottom of a water park slide and spent about 20 minutes under a couple of feet of water. It did't survive.

 

As far as I can tell, a basic Samsung Galaxy S4 is not IPX6 or IPX7 certified. I did find a rugged case that is IPX7 certified for that phone and it sells for $102. A Garmin Etrex 10, which *is* IPX7 certified sells for $110. At the end of the day, if you want a smartphone with IPX5 and IPX7 protection you're either paying extra for a case or paying extra (than you would for a non-ruggedized phone) for the very limited number of models that are IPX5 and IPX7 certified out of the box.

 

and additional battery back to improve battery life,

 

On my Galayx S4 I just take spare batteries with me. And agreed, they are not AA but not every GPS device has standard AA either (though most have).

 

And I suspect, those additional batteries are not free.

 

pre-loading the smartphone with pocket queries and map tiles (requires a premium membership)

 

My Galaxy S4 has an option for external sd cards so I can take unlimited geocaches and map tiles with me. Besides, I have a list of solved mystery caches with me as an gpx from GSAK.

 

(or when data roaming charges are exorbitant).

 

New rules are soon to be implemented in Europe about that. Otherwise it is buying a prepaid sim-card and there you go.

 

I'm quite familiar with data roaming charges and not just in Europe as I travel quite a bit (24 countries on four continents in the last 10 years). I've looked at international data plans and pre-paid SIM cards, and, again they're not free.

 

When you add up the additional costs of ruggedizing a smartphone, a battery pack or additional batteries, the cost of international data plans and/or pre-paid SIM cards, and a premium membership (so that you can download PQs and offline maps) for caching where isn't cellular data service at all, I suspect that you could easily exceed the cost of a basic, rugged, handheld GPS like a Garmin Etrex 10.

Edited by NYPaddleCacher

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There are types of smartphones that are dustproof, shockproof and waterproof. Just google on ip67 certified smartphones. Some examples: the Motorola Defy can be kept 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes. And on youtube you will find videoclips shot underwater with an Xperia smartphone. These phones are resistant against rain.

My boss issues the Casio G'zOne Commando, which is said to be a fairly tough phone, compared to others in that market. The website brags about being able to immerse it, and still shoot video. The first one I killed popped off my belt clip and dropped about a foot, striking the seat rail of my patrol car. That was enough to break the screen. The second one I killed stayed put, in my belt clip, whilst I was assisting FHP with a fatal traffic crash, in the rain.

 

Still, it's tougher than an iPhone. :lol:

 

I also have the Commando and the newer Commando 4G... Compared to other phones in the market I have found them to a lot tougher overall. I have yet to fully test the Commando 4G, but the Commando I still have has been dropped about 12 feet, went swimming with it in both fresh and salt water, played with the touch screen underwater in the pool, Geocache with both Commandos, and have done almost everything imaginable to the Commando except drive over it with my vehicle. I am pretty satisfied with how both have help up. I am always recamending them to anyone willing to listen and who is hard on a phone.

 

Back to topic, I do not have a degree, so yes, I will take one in a heartbeat. I am sure I can get a friend of mine with a PHD to back me on the research aspect of it and since he loves technology, I am sure I can get him to lend his name. Being here in Upstate NY, we have a nice varity of weather and terrain to test with all within about an hours drive from my house, though may need to travel to the SW for some of the testing.

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Have you ever tried using a Smartphone when it's tipping down with rain? ...

In short - it's horses for courses. If you only cache in favourable weather conditions a Smartphone is fine. If you are worried about getting your Smartphone wet then uses a proper GPS.

 

I live in Seattle.. Well...actually worse. I'm an eastsider, bound by a few mountains (which collect the clouds). My little city actually has twice the amount of rain that Seattle does.

 

So....---yeah. Yeah, i have used my iphone in the rain.

 

And TBH...our weather is almost NEVER "favorable"

 

Anything else?

 

Btw, found 2 T5 caches today, it was the wettest I ever got kayaking. It's January, it was 37°, the water level was low so entry/exiting my craft was....difficult. I'm a terrible kayaker (hence the amount of water on me and my craft)

 

All done with my iPhone. Yes.

 

So...horses for courses, I guess

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Oh, Clan. Here we go again.

 

A smartphone is fragile, regardless of what device you are used to.

In its bare state, a smartphone (unqualified by brand) has a wide variety of fragility. That is a fact. Demonstrated by various "smartphone" models incapable of surviving a drop and shattering, to for example, my own first hand experience of my 4S going through a series of common damaging scenarios in its life, including more extreme environments while caching, and I'm still using it just fine. "Fragile" is vague, and only relevant depending on what context in which you make use of the device. China is "fragile" when you're boxing it to move house. It's not as "fragile" when you've placed it in your cabinet or are setting out dinner on it. That is to say, how you treat it depends on context, regardless of its base fragility. Heck, the Nalgene controversy! Oh no! It's not that durable because I drove over it with my truck and it shattered! ... ...

 

The way I use my device, I don't need to treat it as 'fragile'. So a more durable device to me is irrelevant. The way a GPSr owner likely uses their device, they would be almost guaranteed to consider a smartphone 'fragile', because they're used to using the device in ways a smartphone may not withstand.

That is what I meant by perception, and why the debate will never end. Being used to my smartphone, a more durable outdoors handheld GPSr would be needlessly durable for my use and taste. I see no personal benefit to using a GPSr, in my case, for additional durability. Someone else may see added value in a more durable device. That's great. But the way I see it, that level of durability is achievable with my device, were I to desire to add that level of protection. So the 'added' durability of the other device is a non-issue. For me.

 

Everyone has different use scenarios, and so everyone's experience will be different regarding various devices. The only productive discussion that can be had is that which objectively describes how a device was used and how well it fared, so people can better decide which device is best for themselves.

 

We agree that dedicated handheld GPSrs - designed for accuracy and designed for durability from the start - will withstand more than a smartphone when compared bare-bones.

Your experiences (or your daughter's) with your devices do not speak for everyone, as valid as they are, since other people have had vastly different experiences. My point is and has always been simply - you prepare to use your device as you see fit, for your own uses. Share your experience, but don't make blanket judgements based on that - let other people decide for themselves.

(side thought; based on browsing of similar device threads recently in this forum, it seems like there are more smartphone advocates now on the 'decide for yourselves' side of the fence, but more handheld advocates on the 'mine is better than yours' side of the fence)

 

She has gone through several smartphones, both iPhones, 'Droids and even a Windows phone. All died painful deaths whilst encased in Otterbox cases.

I would stop buying otterbox cases :P Or, teach her how to take better care of her phone(s)! Seriously. If your daughter has gone through numerous phones, all dead from irreparable damage while within highly durable otterbox cases, I do not think the problem is the case, let alone the smartphone... o_O

 

So long as you are okay with less precise coordinates...

Oh stop it... I think there may only be one or two people in this thread who've said anything close to the point that smartphones could potentially out-perform dedicated GPSrs in GPS accuracy, technologically speaking. Practically, in the context of geocaching, and as testified so many many times in these very threads, mid to high-end smartphones perform more than sufficiently, technologically, for getting to, and for determining, geocache coordinates, in a wide variety of non-urban, more extreme environments; and sometimes unexpectedly better than dedicated GPSr counterparts. The user factor is the most significant issue with coordinate determination in this context, not the technology.

 

These days, comparing any above average GPS-capable device for geocaching is like comparing two brands of high end audio systems for living room use. You'd need to be an audiophile to pick out any difference in quality anyway. And with GPS's, the difference in accuracy in the context of geocaching is (technologically) virtually irrelevant (and don't quote me out of context - that applies to upper end GPS capable devices, smartphones included, not any smartphone).

 

/soapbox

(I should just purchase a soapbox and live on it) :omnomnom::ph34r:

Edited by thebruce0

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It will probably be put to rest about the same time that the debate between Apple and Android is settled. But I think there is general agreement that either a smartphone or dedicated gpsr will get you to the general cache location, provided that the hider's coordinates are reasonably accurate. So for purposes of this game we are discussing matters of personal preferences. Since the latter is personal, we could could continue to discuss it forever, even if it was definitely proven that a particular gpsr might be slightly more accurate than a particular smartphone - or vice versa.

 

Well put. I find it interesting to discuss and compare personal preferences, but there never will be an agreement that one is better than the other.

 

From my own experience - my first smartphone geocaching experience was with an iPhone 3GS, compared to a Garmin Legend HCx. I found the iPhone to be less accurate - i.e. from my experience I had consistently better success with the Garmin. In my view the iPhone really wasn't "good enough". I later tried a iPhone 4S, and this was much better - I would say "good enough", though I still did better with the Garmin. Now I have an iPhone 5S; this is better still - I would say similar to the GPSr. (I've since also upgraded by GPSr to the Oregon 600).

 

I still prefer the Oregon (for reasons I've already posted about). But the iPhone is certainly up to the job, and has some advantages. So I can understand why some would prefer the iPhone. Others have different Smartphone devices which may be better or not.

 

While any generalization will cause argument, I will make one. Compared to a dedicated GPSr, smartphones software provides more options. The Oregon 600 is great but the software is limited to what Garmin have provided. There are updates mainly to fix bugs; the features of that unit are not going to change much. With a Smartphone, new versions of apps, as well as alternate apps are being created all the time. It is a faster moving situation.

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While any generalization will cause argument, I will make one. Compared to a dedicated GPSr, smartphones software provides more options. The Oregon 600 is great but the software is limited to what Garmin have provided. There are updates mainly to fix bugs; the features of that unit are not going to change much. With a Smartphone, new versions of apps, as well as alternate apps are being created all the time. It is a faster moving situation.

 

This generalization is not necessarily true. Example: the option to receive chirps.

Edited by Twentse Mug

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While any generalization will cause argument, I will make one. Compared to a dedicated GPSr, smartphones software provides more options. The Oregon 600 is great but the software is limited to what Garmin have provided. There are updates mainly to fix bugs; the features of that unit are not going to change much. With a Smartphone, new versions of apps, as well as alternate apps are being created all the time. It is a faster moving situation.

 

This generalization is not true. Example: the option to receive chirps.

 

I knew it would cause an argument...

 

Detecting a chirp requires hardware that can support it. (Similar to a Smartphone supporting NFC).

 

I am not saying that every feature being added to a dedicated GPSr can be supported on a Smartphone. I am saying that when you buy model X of a GPSr, you are pretty much constrained by the software on that device. Whilst with a smartphone new applications (and enhancements to existing applications) are being made all the time.

 

That is just my opinion.

 

Now with devices like the Garmin Monterra, that situation is changing. As that is an Android device then in theory at least different apps can be installed. (I have no experience with this device and I know there are issues with it currently).

 

That doesn't stop me using my GPSr as it does what I need and I like it.

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The way I use my device, I don't need to treat it as 'fragile'.

I would argue that anyone who has owned a smartphone for more than a year, without needing to repair or replace it, is treating the device as if it were "fragile". When you constantly utilize a device which is both expensive, and delicate, you either learn to treat it with a certain degree of care, (because it's "fragile"), or you get to demonstrate how basic economics work, by purchasing replacements.

 

As noted in another post to this thread, I carry a smartphone, (issued by my employer), which I use every day. The Casio G'zOne provided by my boss was my very first smartphone, so it came with a bit of a learning curve, for me. I was told that it was a rugged phone, which could handle both small drops and getting wet, so I neglected to treat it as if it were fragile. Since I've killed two of them, I've learned that, advertising hyperbole aside, it is, indeed, fragile, and I treat it accordingly.

 

The only productive discussion that can be had is that which objectively describes how a device was used and how well it fared, so people can better decide which device is best for themselves.

I agree. Blanket statements regarding any emerging and evolving technology are usually conversation fail points. However, the current state of affairs is such that certain generalizations can still be made. For instance:

 

1 ) A smartphone is more fragile than a handheld GPSr.

1a ) If you treat your smartphone with care, and/or purchase additional protections, the delicacy is irrelivent.

2 ) The battery life of a handheld GPSr is much better than that of a smartphone.

2a ) If you purchase an external power supply, the battery life is irrelevant.

3 ) Because they still use patch style antennas, even the newest smartphone is less precise than a handheld GPSr.

3a ) The difference in accuracy is so slight that debate is usually irrelevant.

 

(side thought; based on browsing of similar device threads recently in this forum, it seems like there are more smartphone advocates now on the 'decide for yourselves' side of the fence, but more handheld advocates on the 'mine is better than yours' side of the fence)

Those who are on the 'mine is better than yours' side of the fence are correct, in the context of the particular conversations. You'll note that, when the conversations drift to discussing caching on the fly, the dedicated GPSr camp is conspicuously silent. Why? Because a smartphone is better at caching on the fly than a traditional GPSr. The same could be said for cost. Generally speaking, a person in my country is far more likely to own a smartphone of some sort, than a high end, dedicated GPSr. The marketing agencies for companies like Motorola, Apple and Casio, to name a few, are working diligently to convince Americans that they cannot survive a single day without a smartphone. < shrugs...> Companies like Garmin & Magellan would be hard pressed to make the same selling points.

 

Since so many players enter this hobby who already own a cell phone, (either a smartphone, or one which their service provider will upgrade to a smartphone for a nominal fee and a two year contract), spending an additional $500 on a handheld GPSr could easily be viewed as a financial extravagance.

 

Where the handheld users are correct in their 'mine is better' stance is when the conversation drifts toward things like durability, battery life and accuracy. Sure, these differences are correctable. Mostly. But they still exist.

 

Or, teach her how to take better care of her phone(s)!

Been there / Done that. In one ear and out the other, so to speak. Since I don't pay for the phones she destroys, I now resort to subtle reminders of past lessons. Things like, "Remember when I suggested that your back pocket is not a safe place to store your phone? If you had taken that lesson to heart, you would still have the $200 which you just spent getting your phone fixed". Unfortunately, being rather bull headed, (can't imagine where she picked that trait up...), she has to learn for herself. My only point in bringing that personal experience up was to educate folks who might otherwise believe the myth that protective cases can allow them to be careless with their phones. Even the most rugged protective case will not render the average smartphone into a device as durable as the average handheld GPSr.

 

And with GPS's, the difference in accuracy in the context of geocaching is (technologically) virtually irrelevant

I don't think you'll find many willing to argue that. Rather, the counterpoint made by those who prefer reality over hype is generally directed toward those folks who make such blanket statements as, "My phone is as accurate as a GPSr". Although the difference in precision between the best smartphone and the cheapest dedicated handheld is slight, the difference is still there. Ignoring a particular reality, however unpleasant, won't make that reality magically disappear.

 

Under ideal conditions, the difference in precision is often less than the distance between the last digit in the Hddd* Mm.mmm coordinate format, about 6' here in Central Florida. As you said, it's negligible. In this hypothetical ideal location, comparing a smartphone and a handheld, (assuming the claims of accuracy from most manufacturers), and assuming both devices are used by folks who are experienced in using them, the GPSr will get you between 0 and 9 feet from the target, whilst the phone will get you between 0 and 16 feet of the target. Not really worth arguing about, eh? As signal strength is reduced, (heavy tree cover / stormy weather / etc), these numbers increase, for both devices. Because the smartphone, (even the best smartphone), enters the competition with a notably weaker patch style antenna, the degradation of precision when utilized under less than ideal conditions is greater than that of a high end handheld.

 

So, back to the OP.

 

Can a smartphone replace a dedicated GPSr?

 

Yes, given that the user recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of both.

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Heeeey! Now there's a Clan reply I can (mostly) get on board with :P

 

I would argue that anyone who has owned a smartphone for more than a year, without needing to repair or replace it, is treating the device as if it were "fragile". When you constantly utilize a device which is both expensive, and delicate, you either learn to treat it with a certain degree of care, (because it's "fragile"), or you get to demonstrate how basic economics work, by purchasing replacements.

And after you use it an amount of time, that is simply how you use it. Thus the perception - I have the way I use my device. So, I don't need added durability, so buying a handheld GPSr for durability is a non-issue. You have the way you use your device. So, buying a smartphone as a replacement would mean a noticeable reduction in durability, and the feeling that the smartphone is "fragile". Different direction, different personal use contexts. IF I wanted to do more things and I were more concerned about what my smartphone could handle, then I might consider a more durable device. Until that point, durability of the smartphone is not even a matter of better or worse, it's a non-issue, in my case. (for example) - the reason it's good to know your own intended uses, to determine which device is best for you. (as opposed to blanket statements like "get a handheld because it's more durable!")

 

The only productive discussion that can be had is that which objectively describes how a device was used and how well it fared, so people can better decide which device is best for themselves.

I agree. Blanket statements regarding any emerging and evolving technology are usually conversation fail points. However, the current state of affairs is such that certain generalizations can still be made. For instance:

...

Yes! :D

 

Where the handheld users are correct in their 'mine is better' stance is when the conversation drifts toward things like durability, battery life and accuracy. Sure, these differences are correctable. Mostly. But they still exist.

In those cases, there are plenty of smartphone owners who acknowledge and admit (especially in this thread!) that of course the bare-bones state of handhelds designed for durability, battery life, and gps accuracy, are better than 'smartphones'. No one disputes that (well, mostly). It's when that argument is pulled into the context of geocaching that the lines between camps are magnified.

 

Even the most rugged protective case will not render the average smartphone into a device as durable as the average handheld GPSr.

Based on some reports I've read in the forum, there are most certainly some "fragile" handhelds, and surprisingly so. But again, the audiophile analogy. Sure, a durable case may not be as rugged as a designed-tough handheld in extreme cases, but... when you get the case, will you use it to a point it (likely) indicates it can't handle? Or past whatever you've read other people experienced it can't handle? That's also part of preparation. Whether it's your device or whatever accessories you buy, know what it can handle. If I bought a 'light' armor case for mine, I may feel that I don't have to be as "tender" with it, but I wouldn't presume it's so tough I could drive over it. That is to say, if I knew I was prone to dropping my phone from my pocket, I might invest in a light case. If I was worried about dropping it in the water while out canoeing, I might buy a waterproof case.

You know... that also helps make the argument that the smartphone's durability (or basic lack of) is beneficial as it's far more flexible in that case :P

Maybe I want a highly capable, yet considered "fragile" device for which I can swap out protection specific to any short-term use!

 

Although the difference in precision between the best smartphone and the cheapest dedicated handheld is slight, the difference is still there.

Correction: Not the "best" smartphone vs the "cheapest" handheld. Most top-line smartphones rival above average handhelds for accuracy. At least as reported by people in these forums. And also by my own experiences in caching groups, every time (and I'm not exaggerating) we arrive at gz, when people are staring at their GPSs, they are all wandering sometimes up to 30-40 or more feet trying to pinpoint gz, calling out their distances; and no amount of info is sufficient to determine the actual GPS location. And more often than not, I've found my phone to be within that group, if not one of the closest to gz. Of course that entirely depends on how accurate the posted coords are in the first place. But the accuracy comparison as slight between "best smartphone" and "cheapest dedicated" is not correct, and at best misleading. At the very least, it would be better stated as "best smartphone" and "average dedicated".

 

So, back to the OP.

Can a smartphone replace a dedicated GPSr?

Yes, given that the user recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of both.

:antenna:

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I don't think you'll find many willing to argue that. Rather, the counterpoint made by those who prefer reality over hype is generally directed toward those folks who make such blanket statements as, "My phone is as accurate as a GPSr". Although the difference in precision between the best smartphone and the cheapest dedicated handheld is slight, the difference is still there. Ignoring a particular reality, however unpleasant, won't make that reality magically disappear.

 

Under ideal conditions, the difference in precision is often less than the distance between the last digit in the Hddd* Mm.mmm coordinate format, about 6' here in Central Florida. As you said, it's negligible. In this hypothetical ideal location, comparing a smartphone and a handheld, (assuming the claims of accuracy from most manufacturers), and assuming both devices are used by folks who are experienced in using them, the GPSr will get you between 0 and 9 feet from the target, whilst the phone will get you between 0 and 16 feet of the target. Not really worth arguing about, eh? As signal strength is reduced, (heavy tree cover / stormy weather / etc), these numbers increase, for both devices. Because the smartphone, (even the best smartphone), enters the competition with a notably weaker patch style antenna, the degradation of precision when utilized under less than ideal conditions is greater than that of a high end handheld.

 

 

I would be convinced if you could show me a link to test results from a controlled study. Equal circumstances like the same constellation of satellites. If not, then it is just another generaliziation.

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Too many posts to read but count me in as having tested the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 5 and BOTH were more accurate than Either my Garmin GPS V or the Garmin 60CSX.

 

It bugs me at times how inaccurate caches can be considering that either way, coordinates should never be more than say 10 feet off. Sure...might have to spend a little time and do some averaging. It also bugs me that people think the aerial images from google maps are not accurate. Sorry....they are accurate...quite accurate (position, not age).

 

Use the Geodetic Survey Marks (like I have) to test for yourself. I found the iPhones to be accurate well before the GPS units and more stable. Most are no more than 3 feet off.

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Actually satellite imagery can be off in more rural areas... I most often use hybrid view, which shows the road lines with the imagery, and outside the city quite often the roads aren't in sync - and if I let the gps settle, the map road lines are more precise than the satellite imagery. You should be able to find this occurring if you view some close tiles even just in google maps on the web. Here's an example - I wager if you were to go to the intersection and stand on the eastern corner, your gps would place you in the middle of the intersection according to the imagery, but properly placed on the road map.

 

Best practice is to look around in hybrid mode for roads and see if the imagery is in line. If not, adjust your cache search accordingly ;)

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This article was just passed around here at work and I found it interesting. I debated whether to post it here or in the GPS and Technology forum, but decided on here given its general relevance to geocaching.

 

Can a Smartphone Replace a Dedicated GPS?

 

TL;DR - The iPhone (4 and 4S tested in this study) is very accurate, but still not as accurate as a dedicated GPS. On average, the dedicated GPS units are about 5-6M more accurate.

 

Yes.

But not in every circumstance.

Lack of cell coverage may cripple a smartphone.

A smartphone is not particularly rugged, so taking one into the back country has it's risks.

Even so, a smartphone may bring a toolset and functionality a typical GPSr will likely never have.

Battery life is a major concern, but this can be overcome with solar chargers and models with user-replaceable batteries.

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It also bugs me that people think the aerial images from google maps are not accurate. Sorry....they are accurate...quite accurate.

I'll have to side with TheBruce on this one. There are spots here in Central Florida where Google Earth is surprisingly accurate, assuming my 60CSx is providing reasonably accurate coordinates. However, there are also spots around here where the accuracy is abysmal. It certainly is not consistent across the board.

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It also bugs me that people think the aerial images from google maps are not accurate. Sorry....they are accurate...quite accurate.

I'll have to side with TheBruce on this one. There are spots here in Central Florida where Google Earth is surprisingly accurate, assuming my 60CSx is providing reasonably accurate coordinates. However, there are also spots around here where the accuracy is abysmal. It certainly is not consistent across the board.

I can't remember any areas around Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, Texas and some other areas around the US. I guess there is bound to be some inaccuracies, but listening to some geocachers, they are never accurate...off by 100 feet or something. Nope....you just suck at using GPS.

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ok, so I just got a "real" GPSr on Wends and I compared it to my Commando 4g Smartphone. I picked a cache that I had previously found and knew exactly where it was. I must say, I am impressed with the Commando. Here is more data so everyone can pick me apart.

 

Smartphone:

 

Commando 4g LTE with data off so it was straight GPS signal

battery was 100% at start

Standing accuracy +/-10ft (yes that is FEET with a smartphone)

Distance to cache with device a measured 1 foot from cache: 2ft reading

Distance to cache with device at vehicle outside next to driver door: 65ft reading

 

GPSr:

 

Garmin eTrex (the yellow one with globe above the screen)

battery was 100% at start

Standing accuracy +/-15ft

Distance to cache with device a measured 1 foot from cache: 1.75ft reading

Distance to cache with device at vehicle outside next to driver door: 60ft reading

 

For both devices

 

experiment time was 0015

temp of -4F

I started at my place of work, turned both GPS's on waited 10 min with them both on the dash as to have best view of the sky, then drove apx 1 mile to my parking spot for the cache.

 

My conclusion

For this particular suburban cache both devices were accurate enough to get me in the general location of the cache to make the find attempt. I did not see the dedicated GPSr as having more of an advantage over the smartphone in this particular situation.

 

 

Let the feeding frenzy begin...

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Standing accuracy +/-10ft (yes that is FEET with a smartphone)

No hungry sharks here. :lol:

But you should know that the number which represents accuracy, on both devices, is meaningless. It has more to do with algorithms than precision.

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Standing accuracy +/-10ft (yes that is FEET with a smartphone)

No hungry sharks here. :lol:

But you should know that the number which represents accuracy, on both devices, is meaningless. It has more to do with algorithms than precision.

 

ok, I could understand that, however, why then do they label it as being accuracy if what you say is true? Not that I am saying you're wrong, I'm just speaking from my POV of having limited knowledge and use of GPSs. I do want to dive into them more technically, especially if I can get a buddy of mine to lend his name to doing a more in depth study than the experiment from the OP. I would not mind being the gopher tech in such a study.

 

So what number should I look at for percision then?

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I should also note in my comparision post (#123), that there was no overhead canopy and both devices had a clear view of the sky.

Edited by SirBowen

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Standing accuracy +/-10ft (yes that is FEET with a smartphone)

No hungry sharks here. :lol:

But you should know that the number which represents accuracy, on both devices, is meaningless. It has more to do with algorithms than precision.

 

ok, I could understand that, however, why then do they label it as being accuracy if what you say is true? Not that I am saying you're wrong, I'm just speaking from my POV of having limited knowledge and use of GPSs. I do want to dive into them more technically, especially if I can get a buddy of mine to lend his name to doing a more in depth study than the experiment from the OP. I would not mind being the gopher tech in such a study.

 

So what number should I look at for percision then?

What is called accuracy is often labeled as Estimated Position Error. The manufactures have some leeway as to how they define EPE, so you can't always compare the EPE of one unit to another.

 

The EPE is a computed number that depends on the geometry of the satellites used to compute position (referred to as Horizontal Dilution of Precision or HDOP) and a value that is transmitted in the message from the satellite that predicts the ranging error (URE). Units can use WAAS signals or other augmentation to reduce URE.

 

So if the smartphone and handheld manufacturers use the same formula for EPE, any difference you see is due to the units not seeing exactly the same satellites (effecting the HDOP) and whether or not the unit is using WAAS or other augmentation. CR's antenna argument is that the larger antennas in a handheld unit might "see" more satellites and thereby get a better geometry with lower HDOP. On the other hand a smartphone with a G3/G4 connection may be able to get better augmentation data than from WAAS, or the handheld might be better in areas without cell coverage because it has WAAS and most smartphones don't.

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What is called accuracy is often labeled as Estimated Position Error. The manufactures have some leeway as to how they define EPE, so you can't always compare the EPE of one unit to another.

 

The EPE is a computed number that depends on the geometry of the satellites used to compute position (referred to as Horizontal Dilution of Precision or HDOP) and a value that is transmitted in the message from the satellite that predicts the ranging error (URE). Units can use WAAS signals or other augmentation to reduce URE.

 

So if the smartphone and handheld manufacturers use the same formula for EPE, any difference you see is due to the units not seeing exactly the same satellites (effecting the HDOP) and whether or not the unit is using WAAS or other augmentation. CR's antenna argument is that the larger antennas in a handheld unit might "see" more satellites and thereby get a better geometry with lower HDOP. On the other hand a smartphone with a G3/G4 connection may be able to get better augmentation data than from WAAS, or the handheld might be better in areas without cell coverage because it has WAAS and most smartphones don't.

 

It has less to do with the size of the antenna and more to do with the polarization of the antenna. Patch antennas are linearly polarized. If the transmitter and receiver both have linearly polarized antenna and one of them is tumbling, like satellites in space have a tendency to do, then the signal strength will increase and decrease as the polarization matches and then doesn't. To overcome this GPS satellites use circular polarized antennas. This reduces the signal fading in and out. In same circumstances it eliminates it all together. A helical antenna on a GPSr has about a 3db increase in signal strength over a patch antenna. What that means that whatever signals a patch antenna can "hear" a helical antenna will hear the same sign but twice a strong. Sometime this means the difference between receiving a signal and not receiving a signal from a satellite.

 

The difference in antenna is more pronounced when you first turn you GPS on. A GPSr with a helical antenna (and all other factors being the same) will "get a lock" and download the almanac data quicker than a GPSr with a patch antenna. This is because your GPSr only receives. It can't ask the satellites to retransmit any data that it missed because the signal faded out in the middle of the transmission and it got corrupt data. If your GPSr misses a portion of the transmission it has to wait until the almanac data transmission repeats and hope to get the portion that it missed during one of the repeats.

 

ok, I could understand that, however, why then do they label it as being accuracy if what you say is true? Not that I am saying you're wrong, I'm just speaking from my POV of having limited knowledge and use of GPSs. I do want to dive into them more technically, especially if I can get a buddy of mine to lend his name to doing a more in depth study than the experiment from the OP. I would not mind being the gopher tech in such a study.

 

So what number should I look at for percision then?

 

If you are talking about what number you should look at in order to compare the precision of two different GPSrs. There isn't one that the GPSr itself can produce. Any self calculated precision is only going to be a guess. A highly calculated guess but still only a guess.

 

The position data that your GPS presents to you seems to not move around much if at all especially when you are standing still. This is a "trick" of the programming. If you could see the raw data you'd see that your GPS is actually "jumping around" quite a bit. The software smooths these jumps out for you. It also uses them to calculate accuracy. Because the GPS really can't "know" which of the many position fixes it calculates to where it actually is. So it calculates and then gives you a best guess of your current position and an estimated error for that moment in time at that location.

 

GPSrs typically use one of the following methods to guess their accuracy. Take a look at the link for details. I've briefly describe the methods below.

 

CEP (Circular Error Probability)- CEP is defined as the radius of a circle centered on the true value that contains 50% of the actual GPS measurements. So a receiver with 1 meter CEP accuracy will be within one meter of the true measurement 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time the measurement will be in error by more than one meter.

 

DRMS (also called RMS, 1Sigma) - The square root of the average of the squared horizontal position errors with 65% probability.

 

2DRMS - Twice the DRMS accuracy, with a 95% probability.

 

R95 - The radius of a circle centered at the true position, containing the position estimate with probability of 95%.

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So my totally unscientific comparison is that today my Oregon 600 took me to within a foot of a cache on a wooded hillside. My iphone had me 18 feet away. The other day, in a far more open environment, my iphone took me around 5 feet away while the Oregon pointed over 20 feet away.

 

It clearly was time to do something that was equally unscientific. I put the Oregon, a Colorado, and the iphone on my porch. Without doing anything more than turning on the devices and letting them sit for a couple of minutes, they all agreed on the North coordinates or were within .001 of each other; the Garmins ended up with a .005 difference with the longitude. The iphone split the difference (it took slightly longer to settle in). The Garmins reported an 11 or 12 foot accracy, the iphone showed 16 feet.

 

I could not let such results stand alone so I went to my drawer and got my pocket PC/PDA GPSr that I have used for Wherigos. It has a SIRF III chip. It agreed with the iphone for longitude, but had a slight difference in latitude. So with two votes in favor of the iphone for the Western numbers, I got out the GLO that I sometimes use for car navigation with my ipad. Three votes in favor of the iphone!

 

I turned the Oregon back on (using WAAS and GLONASS both times). In light of the three other opinions, it revised its reporting and now it also agreed with the iphone, acknowledging that it could be 10 feet off. At least with the West. I thought that was gracious but did not ask the Colorado to rethink its position.

 

Since I have no idea what the "actual" coordinates might be in any of these locations, I used circumstantial evidence and powers of deduction to conclude that I could cache with any of them.

 

------------------------------------

Update!

 

Bad news for the Colorado. I turned it back on. It initially reported coordinates that matched or were close to the other units. But the longer I left it on, and the more the reported accuracy improved, the further away it ended up. Is this a reason why my friends with the 60csx usually got to the cache faster when I used this as my primary device? Or could at be that the search is secondary for me and they had a sixth sense about where caches might be? In any event, it is one more reason why I use my smartphone for wherigos these days (that and the fact that it will not choke on certain commands in the cartridge).

Edited by geodarts

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one more reason why I use my smartphone for wherigos these days.

Good plan. From my experience, both the iPhone and Android platforms outshine the Garmins when it comes to running Wherigo cartridges. For me, it's not so much the accuracy that I prefer. My 1st generation iPad has a really poor antenna, and my 'Droid has the aforementioned dreaded patch antenna. Rather, the apps just seem to do a much better job than the software in my Oregon 300. With cartridges created using the Groundspeak builder, all three suffer from occasional, if rare, crashes. But with cartridges created by aftermarket builders, such as Earwigo or Urwigo, the iPhone and 'Droid seem crash proof.

 

I suspect the cause has to do with antiquated software.

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When we were in Sao Paulo driving around looking for the unpaved road to the Ape, I forgot to turn off my phone. The battery died searching for a tower. An associate has been working in Santiago Chile. He's a new cacher and is excited that I am joining him down there next month because he knows I will bring my hand held. Intl phone use sometimes has unexpected results.

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I am figureing that my eTrex will be fine to use when I go for caches that are more remote or to use to double check the phone. even though I know my particular phone will function just fine without cell coverage and keep my location, I do like redundicy. I would also like at some point to get purchase a higher end GPSr at some point, particularly one that will allow me to the Chirp caches in my area. One downfall to the smartphone with out spending almost as much money as a capable GPSr would cost.

 

However, for the best comparison, I think finding a Benchmark, making a waypoint of its lat/long in your device, then setting your device on the benchmark and seeing where it places you would be the way to see how far off your particular device is.

 

I have been looking into local benchmarks to find for just this purpose, well, and to see a bit history in the process. I figure once I have an idea what my offset is, I have a better chance to locate more caches the first time out.

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I am figureing that my eTrex will be fine to use when I go for caches that are more remote or to use to double check the phone. even though I know my particular phone will function just fine without cell coverage and keep my location, I do like redundicy. I would also like at some point to get purchase a higher end GPSr at some point, particularly one that will allow me to the Chirp caches in my area. One downfall to the smartphone with out spending almost as much money as a capable GPSr would cost.

 

However, for the best comparison, I think finding a Benchmark, making a waypoint of its lat/long in your device, then setting your device on the benchmark and seeing where it places you would be the way to see how far off your particular device is.

 

I have been looking into local benchmarks to find for just this purpose, well, and to see a bit history in the process. I figure once I have an idea what my offset is, I have a better chance to locate more caches the first time out.

Sounds like a fun, and educational endeavor. I suspect that you'll discover there is no quantifiable offset. At least not to the extent that you'll be able to say, "Okay, for really good coords, I need to go six feet, on a bearing of eighty four degrees", or words to that effect. When I picture multiple devices, searching for 'perfect' coordinates, the image that comes to mind is more like multiple circles, of slightly different sizes, laid atop one another, rotating, wobbling slightly off center. The biggest circle would be from the device with the poorest reception. (Usually the one with the weakest antenna) The smallest circle would be from the device with the strongest antenna. In terms of volume, most of the area of these wobbling circles overlap.

 

Yeah, I know. It's a quirky image, but it's the best I got! :lol:

 

Though, now that you mention it, I'm reminded of days gone by, many years ago, when the only two big players were Garmin and Magellan. When folks would hide a cache with a Magellan, others, hunting it with a Garmin, would say, "We gotta do the Magellan Two Step", hopping two jumps in some direction. Several folks swore by it. :unsure::ph34r::lol:

Edited by Clan Riffster

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I am figureing that my eTrex will be fine to use when I go for caches that are more remote or to use to double check the phone. even though I know my particular phone will function just fine without cell coverage and keep my location, I do like redundicy. I would also like at some point to get purchase a higher end GPSr at some point, particularly one that will allow me to the Chirp caches in my area. One downfall to the smartphone with out spending almost as much money as a capable GPSr would cost.

 

However, for the best comparison, I think finding a Benchmark, making a waypoint of its lat/long in your device, then setting your device on the benchmark and seeing where it places you would be the way to see how far off your particular device is.

 

I have been looking into local benchmarks to find for just this purpose, well, and to see a bit history in the process. I figure once I have an idea what my offset is, I have a better chance to locate more caches the first time out.

Sounds like a fun, and educational endeavor. I suspect that you'll discover there is no quantifiable offset. At least not to the extent that you'll be able to say, "Okay, for really good coords, I need to go six feet, on a bearing of eighty four degrees", or words to that effect. When I picture multiple devices, searching for 'perfect' coordinates, the image that comes to mind is more like multiple circles, of slightly different sizes, laid atop one another, rotating, wobbling slightly off center. The biggest circle would be from the device with the poorest reception. (Usually the one with the weakest antenna) The smallest circle would be from the device with the strongest antenna. In terms of volume, most of the area of these wobbling circles overlap.

 

Yeah, I know. It's a quirky image, but it's the best I got! :lol:

 

Though, now that you mention it, I'm reminded of days gone by, many years ago, when the only two big players were Garmin and Magellan. When folks would hide a cache with a Magellan, others, hunting it with a Garmin, would say, "We gotta do the Magellan Two Step", hopping two jumps in some direction. Several folks swore by it. :unsure::ph34r::lol:

 

I am not really looking for the concrete offset, but if I know over the course of 10 benchmarks my phone is an average of 10 feet off that exact spot, then I can safely say that I can expand the accepted 30 foot variance to a 40 foot variance and less the "dumb luck" factor. I have found almost half of my caches because of "dumb luck." Thought it doesn't take away from the thrill of the find, I would rather the find be more because my skill is increasing rather than I just happen to stumble upon it while doing the drunken bee dance.

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Scientific method, no need to read the previous 3 pages of postulations:

 

I put my smartphone in my left hand and my Garmin in my right hand and got closer to the cache with the smartphone. Then I put my Garmin in my left hand and my smartphone in my right hand and got closer to the cache with the Garmin.

 

Ergo, the definitive conclusion is obvious. Throw away the right hand.

 

**********************************

 

Full disclosure: I do not own a smartphone, but I am right handed, which partially explains my 500+ DNF's. :lostsignal:

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Scientific method, no need to read the previous 3 pages of postulations:

 

I put my smartphone in my left hand and my Garmin in my right hand and got closer to the cache with the smartphone. Then I put my Garmin in my left hand and my smartphone in my right hand and got closer to the cache with the Garmin.

 

Ergo, the definitive conclusion is obvious. Throw away the right hand.

 

**********************************

 

Full disclosure: I do not own a smartphone, but I am right handed, which partially explains my 500+ DNF's. :lostsignal:

While not a scientific study, this does work well at explaining difference between different devices or even bewtween two of the same model device.

 

The main reason for differences in accuracy between two devices is differences in which satellites they can decode and therefore which are used in the calculation of position.

 

The discussion on antenna are not over which antenna is better but over which antenna is better in a particular situation. A quad helix has higher gain in the direction it is pointing. This may make the difference in whether or not a signal is received thru heavy tree canopy. On the other hand the unit has to be held with the antenna pointing up to be most effective. The patch antenna is less directional. Units with patch antennas work best when held flat (so the surface of the antenna is pointing up). So simply how one holds the unit has a difference as to how accurate it is.

 

Walking toward a cache, a unit in your right hand might not only be held differently than one in your left but you might have trees, or even your own body, blocking the view of certain satellites on one side while there may be a clear view from your other hand.

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Scientific method, no need to read the previous 3 pages of postulations:

 

I put my smartphone in my left hand and my Garmin in my right hand and got closer to the cache with the smartphone. Then I put my Garmin in my left hand and my smartphone in my right hand and got closer to the cache with the Garmin.

 

Ergo, the definitive conclusion is obvious. Throw away the right hand.

 

**********************************

 

Full disclosure: I do not own a smartphone, but I am right handed, which partially explains my 500+ DNF's. :lostsignal:

 

Its a good thing I'm left handed.

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I have found almost half of my caches because of "dumb luck." Thought it doesn't take away from the thrill of the find, I would rather the find be more because my skill is increasing rather than I just happen to stumble upon it while doing the drunken bee dance.

 

I always seem to find the caches that I'm looking for in the last place that I look for them. Perhaps this method could work for you too?

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the longer I left it on, and the more the reported accuracy improved, the further away it ended up. Is this a reason why my friends with the 60csx usually got to the cache faster when I used this as my primary device? Or could at be that the search is secondary for me and they had a sixth sense about where caches might be?

 

I suspect you are relying too much on your GPSr. I suspect your friends are spending more time using their eyeballs to find the cache than you are.

 

The Garmins reported an 11 or 12 foot accracy, the iphone showed 16 feet.

 

I turned the Oregon back on (using WAAS and GLONASS both times). In light of the three other opinions, it revised its reporting and now it also agreed with the iphone, acknowledging that it could be 10 feet off. At least with the West.

 

It is clear that you don't understand what the accuracy reading is telling you. The accuracy reading does not tell you how far off the coordinates are. If the GPSr could calculate this then all it would have to do is compensate for the error and you'd get dead on position fixes every time!

 

What the accuracy reading typically is telling you is that the position that it currently showing you is based off of position fixes where 50% of those fixes are within' a, whatever number it is showing, foot radius of the currently shown position.

 

The accuracy reading isn't accuracy in the sense of being correct or precise but it is rather accuracy in the sense of data integrity.

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The discussion on antenna are not over which antenna is better but over which antenna is better in a particular situation. A quad helix has higher gain in the direction it is pointing. This may make the difference in whether or not a signal is received thru heavy tree canopy. On the other hand the unit has to be held with the antenna pointing up to be most effective. The patch antenna is less directional. Units with patch antennas work best when held flat (so the surface of the antenna is pointing up). So simply how one holds the unit has a difference as to how accurate it is.

 

 

Walking toward a cache, a unit in your right hand might not only be held differently than one in your left but you might have trees, or even your own body, blocking the view of certain satellites on one side while there may be a clear view from your other hand.

 

This more than anything else IMO affects accuracy. Most people tend to hold their GPSr close to their body. The human body is very efficient in blocking the weak signals sent by the GPS satellites.

 

If you look at the radiation pattern of the two antennas you'll see that they are very similar. They both have roughly a 9 db gain in the direction that they are pointing. Construction differences can affect the gain but this is usually less that 1 db difference. The two things that a helical antenna has going for it is that it when it is held properly it will have a little more gain towards the horizon then a patch antenna does. Again, take a look at the antenna radiation pattern charts. This allow a helical antenna to hear satellites that are near the horizon better resulting in a better GDOP. The other thing a helical antenna has going for it is that it is circularly polarized where as a patch antenna is linearly polarized. For a patch antenna to receive the most signal that it can it has be in the same orientation as the signal that it is receiving. Since it is receiving multiple signals simultaneously from objects that are constantly moving on an object that is constantly moving and which itself could be moving, well, good luck with that. Some of the signal will be disadvantaged because of their polarization. However seconds later those same signal may become stronger and other become weaker as the orientation of the satellites and/or the receiver changes. Helical antennas minimize this because they are circularly polarized. You don't have the effect of signals fading in and out with a circularly polarized antenna. This means that with a helical antenna the processor has a much better chance of maintaining a "lock" on a satellite where a patch antenna would constantly be loosing and reestablishing a "lock" on the satellite.

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I have found almost half of my caches because of "dumb luck." Thought it doesn't take away from the thrill of the find, I would rather the find be more because my skill is increasing rather than I just happen to stumble upon it while doing the drunken bee dance.

 

I always seem to find the caches that I'm looking for in the last place that I look for them. Perhaps this method could work for you too?

 

staying with the perceived level of sarcasm here, I always find everything I look for in the exact place I find it in.

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I found a cache (fairly new CO) last weekend where an experienced cacher said the co-ords were 12m out. (I'm guessing the cacher has a GPS, the CO a phone - but may be wrong) With my smartphone they were 2m out. If I go back tomorrow, I wonder if they still will be?

 

I think I'm fairly typical of a chunk of the caching population: started 15 months ago, use c:geo on a Sony phone, have 11 caches of my own with no complaints about co-ords, am used to a "get within 10m and start using eyes" cache hunting technique. It's all part of the brave new world that older garmin-brandishing cachers dislike, but it's not going to change. And as long as COs with whatever technology are open to feedback about their coords, then I don't think it's an issue.

 

How good an arbiter is Google Maps or shall we not even go there?

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How good an arbiter is Google Maps or shall we not even go there?
In some places, Google Maps are at least as accurate as a good GPS receiver. In other places, the calibration of Google Maps can be off by 100ft (30m) or more, or the highest zoom level available can be low enough to severely limit its effectiveness, or both.

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How good an arbiter is Google Maps or shall we not even go there?
In some places, Google Maps are at least as accurate as a good GPS receiver. In other places, the calibration of Google Maps can be off by 100ft (30m) or more, or the highest zoom level available can be low enough to severely limit its effectiveness, or both.

An easy quick test is to view a nearby segment of road in Hybrid mode, and see how well the road line aligns with the satellite shot. There's much less margin for error in the roadmap tiles than there is in imagery alignment. If you view an intersection, you'll see just how far off the sat tiles likely are in that region.

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the longer I left it on, and the more the reported accuracy improved, the further away it ended up. Is this a reason why my friends with the 60csx usually got to the cache faster when I used this as my primary device? Or could at be that the search is secondary for me and they had a sixth sense about where caches might be?

 

I suspect you are relying too much on your GPSr. I suspect your friends are spending more time using their eyeballs to find the cache than you are.

 

Actually, no. Some people. particular those who graduated from the School of Intuitive Caching, just have an innate ability to find them. Five or six of us could be looking under every conceivable rock, piece of bark, high up in the tree, or down into the nook. And another will walk right up and spot the cache where we already searched (or will have already found it before it was published). Call it geosensing. In the end, that may be more accurate than either a smartphone or a dedicated GPSr.

 

The point, such as it was, went to the study cited by the OP. For our game, the accuracy of a particular unit will generally be good enough to get you here you need to go. That does not mean that some devices are better than others. People raised their eyes when an older GPSr usually put a friend about 50 feet from the rest of us. I sometimes watched people with the old 3Gs walk 300 feet in the opposite direction until the device settled in. Yet, somehow I have found (or not found) caches using a wide variety of devices.

 

The answer to the topic question is that a smartphone can replace a dedicated gpsr if you prefer to use it instead of a handheld. For me, it stands at about 80 percent, a closer call than it was a few months ago since I really like both devices that I presently use.

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My dedicated device was stolen, so I tried using my iPhone 4 with Geo Bucket app. It is slow to respond. I can find most caches with it, but some are ridiculously difficult. It says to go 19 feet that way. I take 2 steps and suddenly it's 23 feet behind me. I go halfway to that spot and it's 14 feet to my right! Sometimes I want to throw it in a river! As for hiding a cache, I have yet to get 3 readings that are close to each other! I am not impressed with the iPhone for caching. It works great to you get me within several feet, but for zeroing in, forget it! In that case, I resort to using The Force and forget the machine!

 

I am going to buy another dedicated GPSr and keep the iPhone for calling my wife to let her know I'm still alive.

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My dedicated device was stolen, so I tried using my iPhone 4 with Geo Bucket app. It is slow to respond. I can find most caches with it, but some are ridiculously difficult. It says to go 19 feet that way. I take 2 steps and suddenly it's 23 feet behind me. I go halfway to that spot and it's 14 feet to my right! Sometimes I want to throw it in a river! As for hiding a cache, I have yet to get 3 readings that are close to each other! I am not impressed with the iPhone for caching. It works great to you get me within several feet, but for zeroing in, forget it! In that case, I resort to using The Force and forget the machine!

 

I am going to buy another dedicated GPSr and keep the iPhone for calling my wife to let her know I'm still alive.

 

I don't like my husbands jeep. When I get in it, it wants me to drive in stick shift. I'm no good in stick shift. I try to go fast, but it just revs at a certain speed. I can't figure it out! Forget about it!!

 

I'll stick to my Mazda. It never lets me down, and goes fast when I want to! It shifts automatically!

 

 

Basically...you don't know how to use the phone. 14ft this way, 23ft that way. Usually my phone is in my pocket when I'm under 100ft away.

 

But, when I got my Garmin, I would do side by side comparisons while caching in the woods. My iPhone zeroes just fine.

 

Don't fault the device because you don't know how to use it.

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The problem is, the OP question is not specific enough, and so is prime debate material :P

 

Can a smartphone replace a dedicated GPS? What models? In what use context?

 

Qualify any answer with that, and chances are the thread will find answers. Otherwise it's all butts "but... but... but..." :unsure:

Edited by thebruce0

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Basically...you don't know how to use the phone. 14ft this way, 23ft that way. Usually my phone is in my pocket when I'm under 100ft away.

 

But, when I got my Garmin, I would do side by side comparisons while caching in the woods. My iPhone zeroes just fine.

 

Don't fault the device because you don't know how to use it.

For finding caches, putting the phone in your pocket at 20 or 30' from ground zero generally works well for most reasonably seasoned geocachers. But I'm thinking this method might not be very productive for folks who are hiding caches. :P

 

Rather than bash someone who you assume isn't using his phone properly, perhaps you could share some tips? Until I read your post, I actually thought I knew how to use my Casio Gz'One for geocaching. But since my experience yesterday pretty much matched the person you were bashing, I suppose I could use those tips as well.

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I could also use some tips on how to use my Commando 4G to properly geocache since I had a DNF yesterday while out in a wooded area caching. It would put me withing 2ft of GZ, then bounce to 21ft away, take me back to the same spot but be 6ft away, then bounce in a different dirction again. Clearly I am not using my phone in the proper way intended for the purpose of geocahing. Please tell me what I am doing wrong and how to correct it.

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