Jump to content

Handheld GPS or android?


Recommended Posts

Which one is better? i have a phone but was wondering if a handheld GPS would be better.

Neither one is "better".


Mostly personal preference, along the lines of:


Battery life;

Means/areas of use;


EDIT to add: Regarding perceived "accuracy", I think that is more along the lines of User ability rather than Device ability.

Some folks use a phone exceptionally well, while others do not.

Ditto with a stand-alone unit.

Edited by Gitchee-Gummee
Link to comment

i used an iphone 4 until my wife upgraded me last week. i agree with personal preference. i've had no problems w/exception of about 30' radius accuracy. besides it makes finding a cache much more gratifying. who wants to be handed a prize for putting in some numbers and not looking. it's a modern day treasure hunt.

Link to comment

Which one is better? i have a phone but was wondering if a handheld GPS would be better.


A real GPS won't crap out on you in the middle of "no cell service" land.


Neither will a phone if you prepare appropriately for the conditions you expect to find while enroute to GZ. To slow battery use you can always turn off services that are non essential (if there is no signal you don't need the phone's main radio active), you can moderate usage of the device (Do you really need to check the gps to see where you need to put your next step or just every few K to check on progress?) and you can take backup power with you.

Edited by Tassie_Boy
Link to comment

Both are nice to have.


For finding and hiding, the gpsr is the better choice for those who get into geocaching and end up caching more than just occasionally. Except for a few specialized phones, a gpsr is going to provide longer battery life, be more rugged, be more water resistant, and will usually be easier to read in bright sunlight. Once a PQ is loaded into it, it'll work in just about any area of the world all by itself. My experience is that a gpsr is easier to use when hiding caches as well.


Of course, a phone is certainly handy at times. While i have used one to find caches, mine is slower and doesn't seem to be as accurate as the gpsr. Having said that, there's no doubt my old timer doesn't work as well as most of the newer phones these days. It's also nice being able to receive cache notifications and then use it to go for the here and there impromtu cache when the gpsr is at home.

Link to comment

If you do all your caching in town, your phone should be all you need. In settings like that, you can zoom in close to the marker with satellite view, and pretty much conclude "it has to be either that tree, or the sign next to it." But... if you go out in the woods, phone GPS usually isn't up to the task. Tree cover degrades the already fuzzy accuracy, and looking at the satellite view, one tree looks like another, and you end up with a GZ the size of a football field.

Link to comment

I use a Garmin Oregon 450 and love it. However... I prefer to D/L the gpx. files directly to the unit instead of using PQ's. My personal preference is to delete the individual files off the unit once I've found them and clear my logs. I prefer this especially on those days when I find ten or more. Easier to remember which ones to log online. Accuracy is pretty reliable too.


With that said, I sometimes cache with a friend that is fairly new to caching and uses a Samsung Galaxy with the app. The advantages he has are helpful at times. The phone populates caches as he nears them; he doesn't have to have, download, or keep the files on the phone. The satellite imagery available on the phone app is also adventageous over the GPSr maps at times too.


We were caching last weekend and he was able to zoom in on imagery that I could not. On the other hand, we searched another cache the next morning and his phone took him in the opposite direction of the cache.


Largely personal preferrence as there are pros and cons to both. YMMV.

Link to comment

I prefer the gpsr for most geocaching but occasionally use the phone to dig deeper into the prior logs when I need an additional hint for a tough cache. Sometimes we need to go back 20 to 40 logs to find the couched hint we need. I also use the phone for spontaneous caching.


I agree with the gps durability comments especially in the rain and that gpsrs are more accurate for hiding and finding caches. Mostly I just like the feel of the gps and the nostalgia of having been using them for 13 years of mighty fine geocaching.


The newest caching phone app is very sweet and easy to use and we have cached with folks who primarily use phones and they work very well for them. It is very useful to have those instant aerial photos to zero in on a location which makes up for the times when the phone accuracy is not so good.


Smartphone tip for a new user: We have some caches in a marginal data availability area and apparently newbie smartphone cachers who like to log as they go sometimes get the submission unsuccessful message due to limited data reception.


I learned that my phone will resubmit automatically as soon as data is found and I suspect the new cachers who don't track their find count just keep hitting the submit button until two to seven Found Its eventually get posted to the page... and this often happens on the next few caches down the trail as well.


Each time this means that I need to send my polite email with multiple post avoidance tips and to let them know I will take care of the redundant find logs and they will get an email notice of log deletion.

Link to comment

I almost always use my Garmin 60Csx, it reliably gets me there. I don't have a smartphone, but do have an Android tablet which I bring along in the car so I have some paperless caching features with me. That can be a huge help, but a lot of newer dedicated GPS units also have that feature. The navigation feature, GPS antenna and compass hardware in the tablet I have are not ideal for honing in on GZ, so I rarely ever use my Android device for cache unts (only if it is the only thing I have or if the cache is really easy.

Link to comment

My Android phone really doesn't have the battery life for a day of geocaching. My iPhone is a bit better, but so far I haven't been impressed with its accuracy on the occasions I've used it. Ultimately, the Oregon works for me because it's so durable. I know people can get those cases for phones, but I use my phones all the time and don't want them encased in extra bulk.

Link to comment

Besides battery life, drop both of them in a waterpool, lay them in the sand/mud, rinse them of with water and use them with dirty/sandy/wet hands....

Then decides what works better for you, a phone or a "real" GPS :rolleyes:



And keep a mobile phone for reading back more logs, or see pictures, just in case.

Edited by Venzent
Link to comment


As this thread seems to be specifically about "Android", and not the generic smartphone debate, I'll keep this canned response short and relevant:


100% smartphone user here, over 7000 finds around North America. No phone case. External AA battery pack. Used successfully numerous times without cell reception (GPS does not require it), in urban jungles, in dense forest, in desert, over water (sailing, and tubing down rivers), in wilderness, while bouldering and caving (not using gps, obviously), and on long and short trips, with and without power sources.

Devices used: 3GS, then 4S, now 5S.

Mistakes: Dropped 3GS (my first smartphone) in a pond, it dried and continued working but insufficiently; replaced it, but eventually I upgraded. 4S dropped to my ankles in water and quickly retrieved, dried and continued working. Later, 4S dropped on pavement and the back glass shattered - cracks remain, with no adverse effects. I purchased the 5S (still have and use 4S) - first issue long after purchase, it fell into a snow bank at my house and remained there all winter. Found and dried in spring, but wouldn't work sufficiently, had it replaced.

Considering how much I use my phone, how wildly and unsafely I use my phone, without a protective case (save exceptional circumstances, such as a waterproof container for multiple items while tubing), that is an amazing track record for the brand.


Device capability: Entirely dependent on brand and model. Smartphones do more than GSPRs, but high end GPSRs will have better GPS reception and capability than smartphones.

Device durability: Depends on brand and model, how you use it, and preparation.

Battery life: Depends a bit on brand and model, but mostly how you use it and preparation.


Out of the box: A high end handheld GPSR will give you fewer concerns, and better accuracy.

One you prepare whatever device you have for how you use it, to your own satisfaction, all other issues fall by the wayside.


You can do much more with a smartphone, but it will cost you a bit more to give it the same usage standard as a GPSr out of the box. That's about as far as the objective difference goes.


Subjectively? Decide what's good for yourself :P

And regardless of your device, you'll always prepare to whatever degree you consider sufficient. For a smartphone, that naturally means "Do I want a protective case? Do I want a battery backup of some kind?"



All that said, per the OP, I personally prefer iOS over Android, so I can't comment on how an Android device specifically would compare to a dedicated handheld GPS. :laughing:

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...