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Roelwin

App on phone vs dedicated GPS

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I've been Geocaching for a month or so. I am using the free c:geo app on android device (Samsung s4 mini). So far everything is going fine.

 

After reading a bit on several places I was wondering the following: "Is there a reason for me to consider buying a (expensive) dedicated GPS device instead of my free c:geo app on my android phone?".

 

Thank you for sharing your point of view.

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It's an entirely personal decision provided you can come up with solutions for phone battery life issues and caching when you have no cell coverage.

 

I have both a phone and a GPSr (entry-level, perfectly adequate for my needs and didn't cost the earth). I use the GPSr for planned trips where I have run a PQ and downloaded it to the GPSr. But for some occasions, I simply save the PQ to an offline list on my phone and carry a powerbank to charge up the phone.

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I do most of my geocaching with an Android app (one of the API partner apps). I use my eXplorist when I need a device that is more durable/waterproof than my phone, or when I need more battery life than my phone offers.

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The one GPSr device I owned was a major PITA...an eXplorist 310, I think. The battery life on that thing was as bad as my cell phone's. I swapped out batteries four times in the two weeks I owned the thing...and it never got me any closer to a cache than my phone did. Only things it had going for it was durability and no need for a cellular data connection.

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I have only ever used a dedicated GPSr, but I have gone caching with people who use apps on phones. The big problem with the phone seems to be battery life; their phone is dead after a couple hours, but my GPSr is still going strong. Durability is another strong point in favor of the GPSr--imagine dropping your phone while hunting in a rock pile, no problem with the handheld GPSr.

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I primarily cache with my phone these days as the majority of my caching is just when I get a moment and the app allows me to geocache without advanced planning. I use my dedicated GPSr when I'm going out for longer periods of time, in remote areas, or in the rain like I did this past weekend.

 

I've also dropped my GPSr from my bicycle and had it run over by a car.

 

You can certainly do a lot of geocaching with your phone and the app. There are pros to a dedicated unit too, however.

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The big problem with the phone seems to be battery life; their phone is dead after a couple hours, but my GPSr is still going strong.
Yep. I once used my phone on a 5-hour geocaching hike. It barely lasted to the end, and I was relying on others' devices, using my own as little as possible. When I'm geocaching on my own, the phone battery lasts only a couple hours.

 

My eXplorist lasts all day on a set of batteries, with charge to spare.

Edited by niraD

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Your phone will work fine. S4 mini is a nice unit. However, if you are going off the beaten trail and/or outside of cell coverage, you need to prepare. I have a thread that is a nice guide to help with the verious issues you will likely run into. It is a little old, but most of it is still relevent.

 

http://forums.Groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?showtopic=241889&view=findpost&p=4224465

Edit to add:

here is another good link

http://forums.Groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?showtopic=305204&st=0&p=5191286entry5191286

Edited by Andronicus

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Get a good GPS like a Garmin 62S. I started playing another GPS game where only a smartphone can be used. In under 2 hours my iPhone 5S battery is dead and I'm wired to an Ancar charger.Then there is screen visibility ( invisibility ) in bright sun....if I had to cache with an iPhone for 8 hours I'd lose my sight if not my mind. Durability and waterproofing are issues but a good case takes care of that.

I also find a good GPS with quad. helex antenna is more accurate in some environments.

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Ok so if i summerize the above posts:

 

You can buy a dedidicated GPS, because:

- It's more durable

- Batterylife is better

- No need for data connection

- Better screen visibility

 

If i understand correctly a dedicated GPS isn't by default more accurate than a phone.

 

Conclusion: Both options will work fine, it's more a personal decision.

Edited by Roelwin

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Ok so if i summerize the above posts:

 

You can buy a dedidicated GPS, because:

- It's more durable

- Batterylife is better

- No need for data connection

- Better screen visibility

 

If i understand correctly a dedicated GPS isn't by default more accurate than a phone.

 

Conclusion: Both options will work fine, it's more a personal decision.

If your on a budget, you can do like I did. There are rare times I would like a handheld. There are also times when I take the kids or a noob with me that I would like to had them a GPS to use. So I bought some old Garmin eTrex of of kijiji (kind of like craigslist). pay $35 or $40 max. Don't get suckered into paying more. And make sure it has an H in the part number (eg. eTrex Legend HC). That H is super importent, it is the newer much better GPS chipset.

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Ok so if i summerize the above posts:

 

You can buy a dedidicated GPS, because:

- It's more durable

- Batterylife is better

- No need for data connection

- Better screen visibility

 

If i understand correctly a dedicated GPS isn't by default more accurate than a phone.

 

Conclusion: Both options will work fine, it's more a personal decision.

 

I strongly disagree with the visibility comment. The few GPSr units I've handled did not even come close to the visibility of either my current phone or my previous one, even with the brightness jacked all the way up.

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Everyone keeps saying you need cell coverage to use a smartphone. That is not true. If you download the maps and the caches to your phone, you do not need any cell coverage at all. So strike that off your list as well. :)

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I use both but prefer pocket queries and a dedicated GPS. The main reason is that the GPS can be dropped onto rocks or into streams with no damage and that maps still works great even out of cell coverage. (A dedicated GPS needs to have maps installed, otherwise the phone is MUCH better - buy one without maps and add then add them. http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/ is a good source)

I use the phone when I am racing out for a FTF - just because it saves me 15 minutes.

I take both on trips, using the phone as backup (set to airplane mode to save battery). The phone downloads images which may be needed for some caches, gps usually does not include images.

Another possible advantage with a phone is immediate online logging. I don't use this feature - typing on those screen keyboards is too hard. I take a notebook and log when I get home.

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My recommendation to the OP and others is to always find something you like, and stick with it until you find yourself getting frustrated, needing something different, or want some feature that you do not have.

 

I use my iphone on the trail all the time. Even if I have my gps (Oregon 600), I still use my phone for reading cache descriptions, looking at offline maps (pocket earth, gaia gps), or marking a cache as found for field notes. Not to mention taking pictures or doing wherigos. A handy button in the caching app I use turns off the gps function, so I do that if I am walking several miles down the same trail, but other than that the phone is as easy to use as anything else.

 

Okay, I dropped it a couple of seeks ago in the San Joaquin delta. I had gotten too careless or overconfident when kayaking. After the rice treatment, it worked fine for about a week before finally bricking for good. I now have a waterproof / shock resistant case for the new one.

 

Of course I also once dropped a gpsr (Colorado) on a flat section of the trail, but it must have hit a rock at just the wrong angle. Even with a screen protector, the screen was destroyed. Things happen. So use whatever works for you, but .know its limits and take appropriate caution.,

Edited by Keystone

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As others have said, it's mostly a personal preference.

 

I started using just smartphones (both an LG Optimus Pro and Galaxy S5 Active), but then bought an Etrex 20 a few months later. I regularly use both types of devices for caching. I've only noticed a couple times, under tree cover, where the GPSr seemed less jumpy than the smartphone.

 

  • Screen visibility - For me, the Etrex is easier to look at than the smartphone. I have to turn the smartphone on 100% brightness and shade it in order to read what's on the screen. The high brightness uses more battery.
  • Screen size - If I'm just looking at an arrow, then an Etrex-sized arrow is plenty large.
  • Durability - I don't worry about dropping the Etrex, laying it on dirt, getting it wet, etc. I'm more careful and concerned about my phone.
  • General fit - The smaller Etrex is more comfortable for me to hold while hiking, or attach to my bag/belt, or attach to my bike. It's easier for me to navigate the GPSr with one hand, whereas I usually need two hands for the phone (one to hold, the other to swipe).
  • Batteries - I'd rather carry extra rechargeable AA's than to buy/carry extra batteries for the phone. I already own rechargeable AA's, so I can always use the batteries if the GPSr doesn't need them. Not so with the spare phone parts.
  • Logging - The phone allows for immediate logging in the field, but I personally don't like doing that (unless it's an FTF). The GPSr lets me quickly log found/unfound and I can add field notes if desired. The field notes are very handy for me. I understand that field notes can be done on phones too, but I didn't find it to be as easy as with the GPSr.

I wouldn't say that one type of device is always better than the other. It's an indvidual preference and whatever works best for you.

 

Personally, I carry both. If it's a park-and-grab, an urban cache, an FTF attempt, or a Wherigo...then the phone is my go-to device. In other cases, I use the GPSr for finding the cache and logging Find/DNF/etc. If I get stuck at GZ, then I'll pull out the phone to look at the cache page, read past logs, or view pictures. Even though logs are available in the GPSr, it's easier for me to read them on the phone.

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All you did was post personal preference as to why you shouldn't.

 

Every response will be based on personal experience and preference :P

 

Yes, the same "tired old" arguments against "cellphones" (awful name - if you cache with a phone, you cache with a smartphone), which are most often coming from people who have experience with both and prefer the dedicated GPS. People who prefer their smartphone have decided that their solution to those concerns are worth the effort.

 

So yes, it very much is a matter of personal preference.

You can ask for people's experiences, and try to find someone who caches like you, has similar preferences as you, and decide to put more weight to their comments regarding which is better or worse.

 

There is no objective better or worse, if you can use any device and find (even place) geocaches.

 

As for the OP, just two things to add:

 

1. Emphasis on the 'cell coverage' thing - as mentioned, cell data coverage isn't necessary, if you prepare. GPS on most recent smartphones is accurate without cell tower signal, though that signal will boost location speed. Don't buy a (smart)phone wihout actual GPS reception capability. AFAIK, any phone with A(ssisted)GPS does not require cell signal for GPS to work. However, to save battery you should turn off the phone's constant attempt to seek out a signal. Sometimes airplane mode will do that, but iPhone airplane mode also turns off GPS reception (you instead need to manually turn off all the cell/data features)

 

2. Battery - for iPhones (any smartphone actually), you can buy AA battery chargers. So just as anyone going on a trail or long hike might take a handful of charged AA's for their device, you can do the same if you have a AA pack for your smartphone. No difference. Except that if you don't pay attention to your battery usage you may need to use more batteries faster. Always carry rechargeables. And have a car charger.

 

Honestly, the same arguments keep coming up.

It's just a matter of how much you know about your device, and how much you're willing to put into protecting it and using it optimally, and if it does what you want it to do.

 

---ETA

The only point I've so far determined against smartphones, which doesn't have a feasible solution which still lets me use the device, is that cold plays havoc with the phone's battery reporting. Unless you can find a container that stays warm when you actively you use as you normally would, there's no way to keep it normal except in your pocket close to your body, which sort of defeats the purpose :P

Every other concern in my experience has a simple (ymmv) solution.

Edited by thebruce0

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All you did was post personal preference as to why you shouldn't.

 

Every response will be based on personal experience and preference :P

 

Yes, the same "tired old" arguments against "cellphones" (awful name - if you cache with a phone, you cache with a smartphone), which are most often coming from people who have experience with both and prefer the dedicated GPS. People who prefer their smartphone have decided that their solution to those concerns are worth the effort.

 

So yes, it very much is a matter of personal preference.

You can ask for people's experiences, and try to find someone who caches like you, has similar preferences as you, and decide to put more weight to their comments regarding which is better or worse.

 

There is no objective better or worse, if you can use any device and find (even place) geocaches.

 

You are exactly mentoining why I asked my inital question. I only have expierence with my phone, but I wanted to hear the opinions of others why a dedicated GPS device could be a consideration. In the end a dedicated GPS device is not free at the local electro store, so opinions of others are really appreciated. There was a reason why I placed the question in the 'Getting started' forum :).

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Cell phones can be used outside of cell phone coverage. You just need to do some prep first, kind of like a handheld, but easyer.
How is it easier? I really don't find copying PQ's to a GPSr outside the capabilities of a child.
For me, it's easier to load PQs or other cache data into my phone because I don't have to connect it to a computer to do so. All I need is an internet/wifi connection.

 

Most non iPhone smartphones have replacable batteries, so battery life is really not an issue.
So you are replacing batteries all day? Great fun! My GPSr gets days of caching (and constant turn by turn) without changing batteries.
Yeah, I agree that it's a stretch to say "battery life is really not an issue". Sure, my phone has a replaceable battery, but it uses its own unique type of battery that is different from the one used by the phone it replaced, which is different from the battery used by the phone it replaced, and so on. All my other devices use standard AA batteries.

 

But most of the time, my phone's battery life is sufficient for the geocaching I'm going to do that day. When it isn't, I use my GPSr.

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Sure, my phone has a replaceable battery, but it uses its own unique type of battery that is different from the one used by the phone it replaced, which is different from the battery used by the phone it replaced, and so on. All my other devices use standard AA batteries.

 

You should buy a AA battery pack for your phone. Then "battery life is really not an issue. :ph34r:B)

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Why do you all keep saying the GPS is more rugged and can be dropped on rocks in rivers etc? I mean I know it onbviously is more rugged but how clumsy are you all?? Dunno if Im geocaching wrong but I tend to not drop my stuff on rocks in rivers etc? Maybe Im more aware of my property to not drop stuff everywhere I go?

Maybe GPS unit users only should be called clumsy dropper cachers?

Ohh and direct sunlight darkness light shade I prefer my phone screen to my GPS any day of the week to look at..

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When hiking the trails I've dropped my phone and GPS. It happens especially when you're watching a screen and not your feet. You've never dropped anything ever? If happens so I would guess you have.

 

My phone is an s5 it is waterproof, shock proof and well me proof. Maybe not as sturdy as my GPSr but it sure is convenient to have everything live updated in my hand. I have found other than battery life and my handheld being a bit better for location update speeds they work about the same.. I use my hand held mostly when I have a planned trip and the phone on the fly.

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I use both but prefer my phone because thats how I was introduced to Geocaching so thats how I know it.. What I hate about the GPS is you need to sit for hours before you go out and load it up wheres the phone you just go out and do it(sometimes save a map for offline if you know reception will be dicky) and as for dropping things sure Ive dropped stuff in my life as you everyone has but when its expensive relied upon property then no sorry cant say I have! I do use a lanyard though just cos its easier to have stuff hanging round my neck then my hands are free to well do hand stuff with!!!

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Do phones have dual receivers with GLONASS gps support? My GPS does, it works very good even indoors or when much of the sky/horizon is not visible. It is very accurate nearly all the time.

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Every iPhone from 4S and up have GLONASS support. Full smartphone list

 

That's cool. I have yet to be able to use my new GPSMap 64 in the filed since it will not stop snowing but I was amazed I had 15 foot est accuracy in the middle of my home. My Delorme needed a perfect sky and no tree cover to even get an initial fix.

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Every iPhone from 4S and up have GLONASS support. Full smartphone list

 

That's cool. I have yet to be able to use my new GPSMap 64 in the filed since it will not stop snowing but I was amazed I had 15 foot est accuracy in the middle of my home. My Delorme needed a perfect sky and no tree cover to even get an initial fix.

It is probably more related to the new GPS having a more modern GPS chipset than manufacturer. I would suspect a new Delorme would be better than your older one.

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If i understand correctly a dedicated GPS isn't by default more accurate than a phone.

 

Conclusion: Both options will work fine, it's more a personal decision.

Correct.

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OK, seriously! How long does your GPS last on a set of batteries? How about a set of rechargable batteries? I am quite sure that most people have to change batteries on their GPS sometime. And everyone reports bringing spairs in all of the "What is in your Geocaching Backpack right now" threads.

I'm replying to this statement, since it might be interesting info for the OP (or anyone else considering a GPSr). With my Etrex 20, I can go an entire day without having to change batteries...if the batteries I start with are fully charged. I always have a couple AA's as part of my 'caching gear' because sometimes the batteries in my GPSr are already halfway used. Personally, I like to use batteries until they are drained, and then put them in my 'needs to be charged' pile.

 

Not to mention that newer phones are having longer and longer battery life. When I am planning a long caching day, I take some steps to increase the battery life (turn off all radios other than GPS; which requires preplannign, similar to a handheld, but easyer, turning the screen timout shorter than normal, clear memory and only run essential apps).

Having to prepare either a phone or a GPSr for a caching outing (ie, maps, caches, PQs, etc) may be comparable in effort...but I still don't see how battery life is comparable effort if someone has to make a bunch of changes to a smartphone's settings, while the GPSr doesn't need such changes. Do you set up a power-saving 'profile' in your smartphone and then switch to that profile when you go caching, and then switch back to the normal 'profile' afterwards? That probably wouldn't be too bad, but having to change each individual setting seems like it would be annoying to some. With the GPSr, there's no need to do anything special to conserve battery...just turn it off. In my mind, that makes the GPSr easier to deal with.

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Every iPhone from 4S and up have GLONASS support. Full smartphone list

 

That's cool. I have yet to be able to use my new GPSMap 64 in the filed since it will not stop snowing but I was amazed I had 15 foot est accuracy in the middle of my home. My Delorme needed a perfect sky and no tree cover to even get an initial fix.

It is probably more related to the new GPS having a more modern GPS chipset than manufacturer. I would suspect a new Delorme would be better than your older one.

 

OH I know it is. Ten years makes a big difference I am sure. Other than my delorme being a pain to sync with a computer it worked well. I simply made a switch to Garmin due to the open source support.

 

I got about 20 hours off my delorme not sure about the Garmin yet..

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Having to prepare either a phone or a GPSr for a caching outing (ie, maps, caches, PQs, etc) may be comparable in effort...but I still don't see how battery life is comparable effort if someone has to make a bunch of changes to a smartphone's settings, while the GPSr doesn't need such changes. Do you set up a power-saving 'profile' in your smartphone and then switch to that profile when you go caching, and then switch back to the normal 'profile' afterwards? That probably wouldn't be too bad, but having to change each individual setting seems like it would be annoying to some. With the GPSr, there's no need to do anything special to conserve battery...just turn it off. In my mind, that makes the GPSr easier to deal with.

 

I don't have profiles. I use my 5S exclusively (no other device). But my caching habits include keeping the GPS off unless I need to locate myself. I don't go into airplane mode unless I know I'll be away from a vehicle for power for a very long period of time. MY regular habit is to use as little of the phone's features as possible in order conserve power. I try to remember my AA battery pack, and I don't have a protective case (I prefer to let my phone 'breath' and I take care of my phone given that it is an expensive piece of electronics in my hand).

None of this is extra work or effort for me. It's normal. And it's not hard. But that's my own experience. Based on what I know of using a gpsr, it's a tradeoff - a few of my habits when using the phone wouldn't apply in that case, but I get so much more capability with my phone. And I do much more than just geocaching on it, even when I am geocaching. To me, the value of the phone outweighs the value of the GPSr, and my usage habits are normal for me to be sufficient.

 

Other people have different habits and different expectations. Debating opinions is pointless. To me, a change of AA's on the trail during a full day excursion is nothing. To a GPSr owner, that means extra work. It's different for everyone.

 

Tone down the personal attacks - don't take offense if someone else finds something easy that you find unnecessary or difficult. And vice versa.

 

If you're looking into purchasing a device, think of it like movie reviews - one review could be scathing while another could be praising. So which is it? Only you would know, after you see the movie - but you can certainly decide based on whether you identify more with one reviewer than another. Is either reviewer right or wrong? No, a subjective review is entirely opinion. Watch what you want to watch, enjoy it or don't. Buy what you want to buy, and be satisfied with it or not. Learn your expectations better for next time and find one that better meets it.

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The main reason is that the GPS can be dropped onto rocks or into streams with no damage.

 

I have a lifeproof case on my smartphone. Has done a great job of protecting my phone for 2 years. I have dropped it several times, hard on rocks and on concrete. So far so good, some fine scratches on the lifeproof screen but the smartphone screen is fine. I've also dropped my garmin 62s hard. Also still in good shape except for a scratch on the screen and dings in the rubber.

 

My 62s is a bit of a lemon, and it is a replacement for a 62s that was a awful lemon of a GPS. Got worse of course after the warranty was up. Kept it for 2 years then spent another $100 for a refurb. The refurb is quite a bit better but still has issues. I resent the extra money I have to spend on maps with garmin handhelds.

 

I cache with both my GPS and my iphone. My iphone does a very good job (heavy tree coverage being the exception), so most of the time I use my phone for convenience. I like being able to get to the gc website out in the field to put caches on my ignore list right away. I like being able to write notes to my blog at the cache site. I like taking photos with my smartphone. I like the convenience of doing everything on one device. Because I use my phone extensively, I carry a soundlogic 5600mAh power bank with me. I actually carry 2, but I've never needed to switch to the 2nd one during a day of caching.

 

My take on it....don't bother with the expensive handheld gps. Protect your phone with an otterbox or lifeproof case. Get a power bank.

If you can afford both, then get both. May as well have a backup device especially for heavy tree cover situations, or when you forget your power bank in the car.

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I think both points of Andronicus and mrreet are clear :rolleyes: . Thank you all for the info.

 

In the end I don't see any reason to buy a dedicated GPS device at this moment. It doesn't seem to be worth the additional advantages above a phone.

 

I didn't expected that my question would start a long discussion like this, but because there were 2 people with opposite opinions I got quite a clear view on both sides. Even though it got a bit personal (which wasn't really necesarry), it was educational. thanks for the info.

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I lost most of what was being said in that mess.. But if battery becomes and issue on your phone pick up one of those juice packs. I have one htat is about the size of a pack of smokes and charges my phone 5 or 6 times over. If the phone needs some protection I can attest to the otter boxes.. Pricey but worth it. I had mine a week on an Iphone s3 and it was knocked off my belt four stories up on a roof. It fell onto the hard ground, bounced, then crashed onto the sidewalk... Otter box had a scratch, phone worked great for many more years and drops!

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I think both points of Andronicus and mrreet are clear :rolleyes: . Thank you all for the info.

 

In the end I don't see any reason to buy a dedicated GPS device at this moment. It doesn't seem to be worth the additional advantages above a phone.

 

I didn't expected that my question would start a long discussion like this, but because there were 2 people with opposite opinions I got quite a clear view on both sides. Even though it got a bit personal (which wasn't really necesarry), it was educational. thanks for the info.

This is a good point at which to close the thread. Thank you to those who posted helpful information and opinions.

 

A number of posts have been hidden or edited because they were inappropriate for the Getting Started forum in particular, and to an extent inappopriate at all for the Groundspeak Forums. When someone asks a question in the Getting Started forum, the expectation is that all replies will be focused on helping the OP to the best of the poster's ability. Each poster ought to respect the differing opinions of others without tearing them apart, point by point, in what I like to call "quote dissection."

 

When people see back and forth arguments like what used to appear in this thread, they should alert the moderating team via the "Report this post" tool. No reports were made for this thread.

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