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jhpwolf

GPS vs iPhone

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Hi...went out on my first every cache today, throughly enjoyable afternoon and the dog is now hanging! Anyway, I used the Geocaching free app on my iPhone 6, and when I got close to the cache, it basically said, your phone will only be accurate within 20 foot. I would never rely on my phone when hiking (usually OS maps), but thought it may work well for this, however, a 20' variable is 400sq feet of woodland to look for a small box. My question is, does a Garmin or good quality GPS unit provide closer coverage than a 20' range? And what would your recommendations be for me going forward, iPhone or GPS? and if GPS, which one?

 

Thanks very much in advance ;o)

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Use your geosense (it will develop with time). Is there a nearby stump? A hollow in a tree base or somewhere else on the tree? A pile of sticks or rocks? A faint geotrail? Look up, is it hanging? Check the Difficulty rating, if it's 3 or more it'll be a tricky find - try lower D rated caches to start with.

 

Also let your iphone settle for a minute, the gps may get more accurate as you do your search and it recalculates your location.

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Welcome to the hobby.

 

Personal grade GPS unite have that same 20' accuracy. It's as good as it gets, and it depends on number of satellites the unit can 'see'.

 

Depending on your Latitude and Longitude, the thousandths of a minute can be around 5 to 6 feet, so that can give 30 or more square feet with the same coordinate reading.

 

The thing is, you have to put down the unit when you get close, and start looking for places that a cache could be hidden.

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In practice, a dedicated GPS unit isn't going to get you any closer than 20ft either. Under ideal conditions, a consumer GPSr will be accurate to about 3m (10ft). That applies both to your device, and to the cache owner’s device, so you may find the container 5-6m (16-20ft) from ground zero under ideal conditions. Under less than ideal conditions, both GPSr readings can be much less accurate. And that applies both to dedicated GPS units and to smartphones that incorporate GPS technology.

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Thanks all....very helpful. I couldn't find this one, I did stop using the device and started following my nose (so to speak...where would I hide it? type of thing).

 

In short, not much difference between the phone and the GPS units, especially under trees.......do any of you still use a phone GPS....or move to more spliced equipment?

 

I had a hit though and I did find another (start of a 70 long Geo Trail) but it was getting dark...so all still to play for.

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In short, not much difference between the phone and the GPS units, especially under trees.......do any of you still use a phone GPS....or move to more spliced equipment?
In areas with good reception, it probably doesn't matter much which device you're using. But devices with high-sensitivity receivers will do better in areas with poor reception: under heavy tree cover, in narrow canyons, in urban canyons, etc.

 

With that said, I use my phone for most of my geocaching, including relatively remote locations with no cell or data connection. But I do use my eXplorist when I need better durability, battery life, and/or GPS reception than my phone provides.

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In short, not much difference between the phone and the GPS units, especially under trees.......do any of you still use a phone GPS....or move to more spliced equipment?
In areas with good reception, it probably doesn't matter much which device you're using. But devices with high-sensitivity receivers will do better in areas with poor reception: under heavy tree cover, in narrow canyons, in urban canyons, etc.

 

With that said, I use my phone for most of my geocaching, including relatively remote locations with no cell or data connection. But I do use my eXplorist when I need better durability, battery life, and/or GPS reception than my phone provides.

 

Thanks.....just day one, so will keep with the phone for a while and try to hone my craft....may treat myself to a bit of kit later.

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In short, not much difference between the phone and the GPS units, especially under trees.......do any of you still use a phone GPS....or move to more spliced equipment?

 

I use both, but mostly my iPhone 6. But I find I need my GPS as a back up.

 

Sometimes I can't get a signal on my phone. Sometimes the GC app isn't working. Sometimes the battery on my phone is draining and I forgot to bring my power bank. Then I use my gps.

 

Same with my GPS, sometimes I download files, get out to the field and find that the geocaches didn't load (often due to a corrupt file). Sometimes I want to be able to check the GC website for more information about the cache owner or to read more logs.

Edited by L0ne.R

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In short, not much difference between the phone and the GPS units, especially under trees.......do any of you still use a phone GPS....or move to more spliced equipment?

 

I use both, but mostly my iPhone 6. But I find I need my GPS as a back up.

 

Sometimes I can't get a signal on my phone. Sometimes the GC app isn't working. Sometimes the battery on my phone is draining and I forgot to bring my power bank. Then I use my gps.

 

Same with my GPS, sometimes I download files, get out to the field and find that the geocaches didn't load (often due to a corrupt file). Sometimes I want to be able to check the GC website for more information about the cache owner or to read more logs.

Thanks....really helps to have some perspective based on experience to work with. Very much appreciate the thoughts to help me plan ahead. Mainly, just looking forward to getting out there again and finding some more....

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That accuracy number is only an estimate. It's know as EPE (estimated positioning error). Every mfr. of GPS devices (including smart phones) has their own algorithm that they use to devise the EPE. Bottom line is that it's an estimate, not a hard number. The EPE will be based on a number of conditions including the current satellite alignment and allowances for signal bounce (AKA multipath errors).

 

That said, I've found that my handheld GPS is generally more accurate than my phone. I often start with the phone and if I have difficulty finding the cache, I go to the handheld GPS and it takes me to a smaller search area. Still, GPS or smartphone, the device will only bring you to the general location because you are still dependent on the coords that the cache owner's unit provided and those coords have an EPE. Hence the cache can be 20, 30 feet or more from where your device says it is.

 

Smart phones and dedicated GPS units have their advantages and disadvantages.

 

Advantages of smartphones:

As long as you have cell service, every cache in the area is at your fingertips. No need for pre planning.

Accuracy is OK, usually good enough to allow you to find the cache.

Immediate logging of your find.

 

Disadvantages of smartphones:

Battery life if you are away from a recharging source. Battery chargers can help, but now you are awkwardly carrying your phone and charger and you need to remember to charge both both before heading out.

With no cell phone service you are SOL unless you previously downloaded a pocket query

Accuracy is just OK and not sufficient for hiding caches.

Not durable or waterproof. In the field a unit can get knocked around, doused with water, snow, rain etc. They are not made for that sort of stuff.

Displays are hard to read in direct sunlight.

 

Advantages of handheld GPS units:

Excellent battery life. A pair of AAs should last you for a full day of caching and more. If the batteries do fail you can pop in a fresh set of AAs in a minute.

Screen is readable in direct sunlight (more so for the non touch screen units)

Great reception nearly everywhere.

Very durable and waterproof. Drop it on rocks, get caught in a drenching rain, accidentally drop it in a puddle or stream, even have it fall off the roof of your car at 30MPH, it can take it.

Slightly better accuracy.

Never a need for cell phone reception.

 

Disadvantages of handheld GPS units:

You need to download caches ahead of time. Depending on your unit it can hold 2,000 to 5,000 caches but you must keep refreshing your unit to make sure you have the latest info.

You can write field logs, but you need to wait until you get to your computer before you can upload them to the website.

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I enjoy using the geocaching app. You get a great picture of the map and you can log your cache right there. I have a GPS that I never use for geocaching anymore.

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That accuracy number is only an estimate. It's know as EPE (estimated positioning error). Every mfr. of GPS devices (including smart phones) has their own algorithm that they use to devise the EPE. Bottom line is that it's an estimate, not a hard number. The EPE will be based on a number of conditions including the current satellite alignment and allowances for signal bounce (AKA multipath errors).

 

That said, I've found that my handheld GPS is generally more accurate than my phone. I often start with the phone and if I have difficulty finding the cache, I go to the handheld GPS and it takes me to a smaller search area. Still, GPS or smartphone, the device will only bring you to the general location because you are still dependent on the coords that the cache owner's unit provided and those coords have an EPE. Hence the cache can be 20, 30 feet or more from where your device says it is.

 

Smart phones and dedicated GPS units have their advantages and disadvantages.

 

Advantages of smartphones:

As long as you have cell service, every cache in the area is at your fingertips. No need for pre planning.

Accuracy is OK, usually good enough to allow you to find the cache.

Immediate logging of your find.

 

Disadvantages of smartphones:

Battery life if you are away from a recharging source. Battery chargers can help, but now you are awkwardly carrying your phone and charger and you need to remember to charge both both before heading out.

With no cell phone service you are SOL unless you previously downloaded a pocket query

Accuracy is just OK and not sufficient for hiding caches.

Not durable or waterproof. In the field a unit can get knocked around, doused with water, snow, rain etc. They are not made for that sort of stuff.

Displays are hard to read in direct sunlight.

 

Advantages of handheld GPS units:

Excellent battery life. A pair of AAs should last you for a full day of caching and more. If the batteries do fail you can pop in a fresh set of AAs in a minute.

Screen is readable in direct sunlight (more so for the non touch screen units)

Great reception nearly everywhere.

Very durable and waterproof. Drop it on rocks, get caught in a drenching rain, accidentally drop it in a puddle or stream, even have it fall off the roof of your car at 30MPH, it can take it.

Slightly better accuracy.

Never a need for cell phone reception.

 

Disadvantages of handheld GPS units:

You need to download caches ahead of time. Depending on your unit it can hold 2,000 to 5,000 caches but you must keep refreshing your unit to make sure you have the latest info.

You can write field logs, but you need to wait until you get to your computer before you can upload them to the website.

 

Excellent comparison of the devices....it should be pined it comes up so much.

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The GPS v Phone topic has long been debated - and often it comes down to the particular phone model, the caching app, and what gpsr is being discussed. There is no single answer. Although I have some quibbles with what Briansnat posted, it may come down to how you use either device and your personal preferences.

 

I use my iPhone 6 (with geosphere) for most of my caching. When I have done side by side comparisons with my Oregon 600, both at home and in the field, there is usually very little difference in accuracy. Sometimes the phone will get me closer to the cache, even in narrow canyons or forests. Sometimes the dedicated gpsr will get me closer. But when I look at the reported positions, they are usually within the same margins. I would place a cache with either device. On the other hand, the old 3GS often was not even close. So as to accuracy . . . the best answer might be that it depends.

 

As to other issues, it often comes down to how you are using either the phone or the dedicated gpsr. For me, the UI on the handheld is far more rudimentary. My phone displays cache information much better than any dedicated gpsr I have used - particularly if the cache page includes photos or graphics - so that if I need to look at the cache information I will use the phone. That can vary depending on the phone or the app, but in general the gpsr is far more limited.

 

Since I like to do earthcaching, virtuals, letterboxes, and Wherigo, the phone is often the best tool. If you are doing a series of repetitive caches on a trail, the gpsr might be better. In between, there is a lot of room for personal preferences.

 

The handheld I use will route me to a cache using beeps to warn me about turns, but the phone gives me voice directions. As long as I have downloaded and installed the proper maps for either device, routing is just a click away from the cache page. For me, the phone does it better, but again it depends on what apps, devices, and maps you are using.

 

That the phone requires planning if out of the service range is neither an advantage or disadvantage over a dedicated gps. As long as I have wifi or cellular, I can load cache information into the phone. And as long as it's on the phone, I can create and send gpx files from the app to my Oregon (with the small connecting device in my daypack). If I have no internet connection and have not loaded cache information into any device, I am not going to be caching. So some measure of planning is helpful in either case.

 

I have a case on the phone so it grips well and offers some degree of protection. Still, I have dropped it when hiking. So far, this has not been a problem. I once dropped my Garmin Colorado from the same distance when hiking and the screen shattered even with a protector. Go figure. When kayaking, I dropped my phone into shallow water and it turned into a brick - although I was able to get the data I needed off of it after a few days in rice. My gpsr is generally fine around water - except for the time the flap covering the usb port was just loose enough so that salt water got into it. So I generally leave the phone in a dry bag or waterproof case and double check the gpsr - with some measure of care both should be fine; without that there are no guarantees with either.

 

These days, you can load more caches than you ever need into either type of device - 5000 is not a firm limit depending on what you are using. Both devices should get you where you need to go. After that, it comes down to the details. At bottom, take time to learn about the device you are using and see how it works for you within this game. If you get to a situation where the phone is not adequate, you will know it and can consider your options from there.

Edited by geodarts

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