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K & J - MD

GPS vs Phone App

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Hi fellow Geocachers. I am new to this as of a few days ago. I am currently using my cell phone with the Geocaching Intro App. I find that it never really gets me to the coordinates. I am probably within 30 - 40 feet each time. I have found that some of the more challenging multistep caches are quite challenging without a GPS. My questions:

1. Is a GPS more accurate than the phone app?

2. Does a GPS make geocaching easier that just using the phone app? (yes I know you still have to search yourself.)

2. If so, is there a recommended GPS for a beginner?

 

Thanks in advance. Any other tips for a newbie are appreciated!!

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1. Is a GPS more accurate than the phone app?

2. Does a GPS make geocaching easier that just using the phone app? (yes I know you still have to search yourself.)

2. If so, is there a recommended GPS for a beginner?

 

1. It shouldn't be but with GPS units combining sat systems they are.

2. Depends on the app. A GPS in itself runs software. There's no reason GPS software should be better than an app. There are great apps out there (even free).

2.(??) Depends on what you want. I'd stick with the app for a while if I where you. You just started and might not continue geocaching (even though now you think you will). There are so many models to choose from in different price classes so after a while you will know what you want from a GPS. Just basic navigation (with maps), want paperless caching, buttons or touchscreen? And then, there's budget of course.

 

As for the 30-40 ft accuracy, have you tried stopping for a moment to let the phone "settle"? I've seen my GPS at 5-8m from a waypoint or cache but when I look at the screen after logging the cache it's at 1m (sometimes the other way around)

There are many reasons for lesser accuracy, treecover and rain are among them. Sometimes the satellite constellation is "bad".

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1. Is a GPS more accurate than the phone app?

A caching app is only as accurate as the GPS that is in the phone.

 

If your phone has a poor GPS chip, the app will not be accurate.

 

My first smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S (GT-i9000m) had a horrid GPS chip in it, and it was only of use with a clear sky view.

 

My current phone (Sony Xperia Z3) and prior phone (LG Optimus G) both had fantastic GPS chips in the (support GPS+GLONASS).

In a few cases, I had to use my smartphone to zero in on a cache because my GPS (GPSMAP 62s) couldn't zero in as well.

 

Having said all that, once I knew I was going to stick with Geocaching I purchased a GPS (eTrex 20).

I normally use a GPS for caching and the phone for support. I'm currently using an Oregon 600.

Edited by BlackRose67

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30 feet or so is not an unreasonable margin of error. A handheld GPS is not going to put you pinpoint on top of the cache.....10-20 feet is about the very best you should expect. Plus you don't know how accurate the hider's coordinates were in the first place, so you have no way of knowing that YOUR device is 30 feet off....maybe HIS coordinates are actually 30 feet off.

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...and regardless of how accurate your own gps device/phone may be, there is zero guarantee that the coordinates you're targeting are 100% accurate to the location of the container itself, nor that the current environment has absolutely zero effect on your reading.

 

If you like capabilities and functions and whatnot, a phone gives you more. If you like a better chance for more accuracy or more speed, then a high end dedicated gps would be optimal. If budget isn't an issue.

 

If you have a smartphone, and it's a recent model, and you don't have a few hundred to throw around, then stick with the phone, and use a highly recommended caching app, or just one you find easy and comfortable to use. If you don't have a phone, then budget may be your biggest decision-maker. If you can borrow a device, try that and see how you like it.

 

Keep in mind that when you buy a phone and you're geocaching, you get much more than a geocaching/gps device when you use a phone. They're not an equal comparison when merely discussion which is better for geocaching. One does a whole lot more than just that, the other is dedicated to the primary aspect of that. Lots of stuff to consider :)

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Thank you all for your quick feedback. I will stick with my phone. I am having a lot of fun with geocaching so far. I have even been able to explore more areas around where I live. Having lots of fun!!! =)

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I am often trying to find a cache where I have no cell phone cervices so My only option is a GPS. With that said, I have actually followed my GPS (Garmin etrex 20) until it said the cache was 0 feet, I looked down, and there it was. But What I do most is a phone/GPS team. My Garmin in my right hand and My phone in the left.

 

Having a GPS pays off. I use mine almost every day, even when I'm not out caching.

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I am often trying to find a cache where I have no cell phone cervices so My only option is a GPS.

Far from it. Some phone apps work brilliantly offline; you just load the maps and caches in advance, like you do with a GPS unit.

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We started out with just the iPhone app which served us well until we knew we liked the hobby, we then purchased a Garmin Etrex 30 to be more serious about it.

If I'm honest both have Pros & Cons, which is why when out in the field(s) we still use both.

 

A phone's main drawback is you wont always have data or signal, so unless you planned ahead and saved everything ready for offline use its limited.

A GPS unit requires no data signal & IMO has more accuracy, but planning ahead is key. You cant access the internet and add new files when on the go.

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A phone's main drawback is you wont always have data or signal, so unless you planned ahead and saved everything ready for offline use its limited.

A GPS unit requires no data signal & IMO has more accuracy, but planning ahead is key. You cant access the internet and add new files when on the go.

This just sounds kind of funny to me.

 

"A phone's drawback is you have to plan ahead for offline."

"A GPS doesn't need data but you have to plan ahead."

 

All things being equal, on the 'offline caching' front, both devices require pre-planning for offline use so the phone is better because its data capability is a bonus. :laughing:

 

But yes, both devices have their strengths and weaknesses.

 

Through my 6 years of smartphone-only caching, the only two points I'll cede that the dedicated unit natively/universally has on the smartphone now are:

 

1) The phone is a jack of all trades; the GPSr is dedicated to GPS. The latter high end should always perform better than the former high end in the area of gps usage. And I would expect to see that. (but both on average are now most certainly sufficient for accurate geocaching)

 

2) Phone drawbacks/weaknesses out of the box can all be assuaged by accessories if desired -- except use in the cold. Phone batteries will drain faster when out in the cold, in hand, in consistent use; much faster than a GPSr. I haven't found an accessory that allows you to use the phone normally, while keeping it moderately warm.

2b) If you hate accessories, then that itself is a drawback :P

Edited by thebruce0

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Phone batteries will drain faster when out in the cold, in hand, in consistent use; much faster than a GPSr.

I haven't noticed that personally. I think it depends on how big your phone's battery is, and what apps you're running.

 

My small-battery Nexus gives me a full day of caching and then some (admittedly I haven't tried a long day in cold weather), but on long hikes I keep it in airplane mode to save battery, and tuck it into my warm pants pocket for the walking parts. (Who wants to trip and lose a phone in the snow?) I don't use a case, so it's slim and pocketable.

 

Maybe it's something about the difference between Li-ion (phone) and NiMH (GPS) batteries in the cold, I dunno. I do know the batteries don't lose the power, they just lose the ability to gush it out at the normal rate, which is noticeable if the device wants a significant flow.

Edited by Viajero Perdido

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Phone batteries will drain faster when out in the cold, in hand, in consistent use; much faster than a GPSr.

I haven't noticed that personally. I think it depends on how big your phone's battery is, and what apps you're running.

 

My small-battery Nexus gives me a full day of caching and then some (admittedly I haven't tried a long day in cold weather), but on long hikes I keep it in airplane mode to save battery, and tuck it into my warm pants pocket for the walking parts. (Who wants to trip and lose a phone in the snow?)

 

Maybe it's something about the difference between Li-ion (phone) and NiMH (GPS) batteries in the cold, I dunno. I do know the batteries don't lose the power, they just lose the ability to gush it out at the normal rate, which is noticeable if the device wants a significant flow.

 

Yeah I was referring to winter geocaching on long hikes, where it doesn't even matter really how much you're actively using the device, just if it's exposed to direct cold. And I don't think it's so much that the battery itself merely dies quicker, but the device's reporting of the remaining life is thrown out of whack. My 4S and 5S would drop quickly and then shut off sometimes with a reading of 20-30% still to go. I'd put it in my inside pocket for a bit to warm up, then it would turn on again with higher battery remaining.

Still usable, but batteries on a phone don't like the cold (and that's a known battery issue :). AFAIK, many GPSrs have better battery encasing than phones with their thin backin, and I think actual batteries (AA's and such) fair better than the thin specialized phone batteries.

Edited by thebruce0

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Phone batteries will drain faster when out in the cold, in hand, in consistent use; much faster than a GPSr.

I haven't noticed that personally. I think it depends on how big your phone's battery is, and what apps you're running.

I have, it was quite humourous and annoying, when 4 different phones and a tablet all died within 20 meters of the final for an intercache due to the GPS/browser drain and cold early November Ottawa temperatures killing the batteries.

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A phone's main drawback is you wont always have data or signal, so unless you planned ahead and saved everything ready for offline use its limited.

A GPS unit requires no data signal & IMO has more accuracy, but planning ahead is key. You cant access the internet and add new files when on the go.

This just sounds kind of funny to me.

 

"A phone's drawback is you have to plan ahead for offline."

"A GPS doesn't need data but you have to plan ahead."

 

Talk about misquoting, did you even read it before cutting bits out to change the meaning?

If you HAVE NO DATA SIGNAL you need to have saved earlier for offline use. If you HAVE A DATA SIGNAL you're fine. See where I'm coming from? ;)

When we're caching on local moorland, the cell signal often vanishes completely, leaving the app with no map data, no way of loading more info, no way of posting logs. That to me is a drawback.

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I'm going with TheGreatEvie here. Her two lines sum up all the conversations about GPS vs Phone which has been beaten to death in this forum succintly and correctly.

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A phone's main drawback is you wont always have data or signal, so unless you planned ahead and saved everything ready for offline use its limited.

A GPS unit requires no data signal & IMO has more accuracy, but planning ahead is key. You cant access the internet and add new files when on the go.

This just sounds kind of funny to me.

 

"A phone's drawback is you have to plan ahead for offline."

"A GPS doesn't need data but you have to plan ahead."

 

Talk about misquoting, did you even read it before cutting bits out to change the meaning?

If you HAVE NO DATA SIGNAL you need to have saved earlier for offline use. If you HAVE A DATA SIGNAL you're fine. See where I'm coming from? ;)

..yeah, I did, and I wasn't disagreeing with your points, so I don't feel my quote "changed the meaning" at all.

 

Here:

We started out with just the iPhone app which served us well until we knew we liked the hobby, we then purchased a Garmin Etrex 30 to be more serious about it.

If I'm honest both have Pros & Cons, which is why when out in the field(s) we still use both.

Still true, and still agree, as per the remaining text you didn't quote of my reply ;) primarily: "But yes, both devices have their strengths and weaknesses." After that it was my own comments for the thread.

 

I was just quoting to comment on the wording of the two points you made following that which made me chuckle. That's all. I stand by it :)

 

As for this new bit:

When we're caching on local moorland, the cell signal often vanishes completely, leaving the app with no map data, no way of loading more info, no way of posting logs. That to me is a drawback.

enh, cup half empty / half full. Depends on perspective. To me that's equivalent to going out with your GPSr but without preloading maps or planning ahead. Just as much of a drawback.

It's all in preparing to use the device you have. If you use it expecting it to always be online (irrelevant with a GPSr), then going somewhere you can't would make it a drawback. But if you use it knowing that you're going somewhere offline, then you'll be prepared (whether a phone or a GPSr); so having data would be a bonus. That's why I said "all things being equal" - with both devices you need to plan ahead if going somewhere offline (but you always do with a GPSr)

But now it's just semantics :P

Edited by thebruce0

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If you HAVE NO DATA SIGNAL you need to have saved earlier for offline use. If you HAVE A DATA SIGNAL you're fine. See where I'm coming from? ;)

When we're caching on local moorland, the cell signal often vanishes completely, leaving the app with no map data, no way of loading more info, no way of posting logs. That to me is a drawback.

 

Semantics perhaps, but I do not consider the need for offline planning to be a drawback when comparing a phone to a gpsr, since planning for offline use is being discussed in both instances. An advantage to the phone is you can see if there are any caches of interest as long there is wifi or cellular data. But I rarely cache without doing some planning - if I am going someplace special I want to know if there are any caches of interest before I get there, particularly in areas where service may be a problem.

 

I agree that it's nice to have both types of devices - although if I had to choose one or the other there would be different considerations. The iPhone app I use works well with offline maps for routing, topo, streets, and many trails. Once I do a search, I can cache offline so I rarely notice a transition. I have cached with the phone in all kinds of areas, from the city to forests, mountains, and slot canyons. It's accuracy is comparable to my gpsr and it has served me well. It is all I really need to play this game.

 

Many will have no need, desire, or ability to invest in a dedicated gpsr, but there are times when I am glad to have had it - particularly since I got a little too confident or careless with the phone while kayaking. Perhaps it is because I started with a gpsr, but it does seem like it can be the right tool in certain instances.

 

Ultimately, the ways that the two complement each other is probably as important as being aware of their differences. The gpsr will take me places without worrying about the phone's limitations. The phone has features that go beyond the gpsr - and it also gives me flexibility to use the handheld even if I have not previously loaded the cache information. I usually carry MobileLite in the same bag with my gpsr - it's about the same size as the phone and can recharge it in a pinch. But it also can transfer cache information to my gpsr on the fly (allowing iphone users to access the gpsr in much the same way that an OTG cord works with Androids). The iPhone app I use exports cache data - so within two minutes (more or less) I am good to go no matter what device I want to use.

Edited by geodarts

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