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Plutoberth

Why do you still use external GPS devices?

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

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I use both a handheld GPS (Garmin 62S) and a smartphone (iPhone 6).

 

1. The GPS is better when I'm out hiking in the woods where I'm likely to lose cell reception.

2. When I know I'll be in an area with poor/no cell reception, it's faster to load the GPS than it is to save caches on the iPhone along with their maps.

3. The batteries in my GPS last a lot longer than my iPhone battery. It's easier to change the GPS batteries than to remember to carry a USB charger for the phone.

4. Even though I have a Lifeproof case for my phone, if I'm navigating across the a boulder garden, bushwacking up a hill or fording a stream, I'd rather have a GPS in my hand (or clipped to my belt or knapsack) than to be holding my iPhone.

5. I prefer creating custom GPX files that filter out caches with lots of DNF's, puzzle caches, etc. It's too many extra steps to get that list onto my iPhone, versus a few mouse clicks to send my filtered list from GSAK to my Garmin.

 

The iPhone is helpful for spur of the moment geocaching in areas with good cell coverage, and for viewing photos if I'm having trouble finding the cache. It's easier to type a field note on my iPhone. Field notes are not yet available in the Geocaching® app so I am forced to keep using the Geocaching Classic app.

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

 

One of the reasons that I use a handheld GPS is that I frequently travel internationally where using a cell phone (and specifically, cellular data) can become very expensive. Before I travel I can load the maps I'll need and cache data for more caches than I've found in 9+ years playing the game. My handheld also uses replaceable AA batteries. GPS applications on a smart phone are notorious for draining the battery very fast, which means you'll likely need to connect it to a computer or a charger far more frequently than you'd need to connect a handheld GPS to a computer to download additional cache data.

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I use both a handheld GPS (Garmin 62S) and a smartphone (iPhone 6).

 

1. The GPS is better when I'm out hiking in the woods where I'm likely to lose cell reception.

2. When I know I'll be in an area with poor/no cell reception, it's faster to load the GPS than it is to save caches on the iPhone along with their maps.

3. The batteries in my GPS last a lot longer than my iPhone battery. It's easier to change the GPS batteries than to remember to carry a USB charger for the phone.

4. Even though I have a Lifeproof case for my phone, if I'm navigating across the a boulder garden, bushwacking up a hill or fording a stream, I'd rather have a GPS in my hand (or clipped to my belt or knapsack) than to be holding my iPhone.

5. I prefer creating custom GPX files that filter out caches with lots of DNF's, puzzle caches, etc. It's too many extra steps to get that list onto my iPhone, versus a few mouse clicks to send my filtered list from GSAK to my Garmin.

 

The iPhone is helpful for spur of the moment geocaching in areas with good cell coverage, and for viewing photos if I'm having trouble finding the cache. It's easier to type a field note on my iPhone. Field notes are not yet available in the Geocaching® app so I am forced to keep using the Geocaching Classic app.

 

Yeah that cleared it up.

Thanks for answering :)

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I also use both. Phone for casual caching, GPS for all day outings because of accuracy, battery, durability.

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4. Even though I have a Lifeproof case for my phone, if I'm navigating across the a boulder garden, bushwacking up a hill or fording a stream, I'd rather have a GPS in my hand (or clipped to my belt or knapsack) than to be holding my iPhone.

 

I have a good case for my phone, which already has a high water resistance/shock resistance rating. However, if I were in conditions like that and were to take a fall and the device I was holding was a GPS instead of my phone was damaged, I still might be able to get into my pack, pull out my phone and call for help. If my phone was damaged because I was using it to navigate to a cache, the GPS isn't going help at all.

 

 

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My phone just wouldn't stand up to the kind of caching we do much of the time.

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

 

Pretty simple, really.

 

We don't own a mobile phone of any type.

 

So we would need to pay for another device and for making it work if we want to cache with a phone.

 

 

B.

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I have a Nexus 6 and its built-in GPS supports Glonass in addition to GPS, it fixes quickly and it's accurate, as you say. Everything is great as long as I am in open space or there are only a few trees around.

 

But once I'm in a deep wood it goes worse, the position jumps or is just not so accurate. I was pretty disappointed when I realized this but then I thought: "Hey, it is a phone. Its primary function is to make calls or communicate through GSM/LTE/Wi-fi. GPS reception is of secondary importance (maybe ternary?)."

 

That's why is still use my bluetooth dongle (Qstarz BT-818) - it's primary (and only) function is GPS signal reception (it does not even know Glonass) and everything is optimized for this. And it performs much better in a forest than Nexus 6 itself. I usually carry it on my hat or hold it in my hand high enough when approaching the GZ so as to not throw electromagnetic shadow with my body to it and I go straight to GZ (when compared to my friend with his phone zigzagging around ;) )

 

And by the way, bluetooth connection takes much less energy out of my Nexus battery than to power its built-in GPS chip which is good as well (one does not have to charge the phone so soon).

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I have a Nexus 6 and its built-in GPS supports Glonass in addition to GPS, it fixes quickly and it's accurate, as you say. Everything is great as long as I am in open space or there are only a few trees around.

 

But once I'm in a deep wood it goes worse, the position jumps or is just not so accurate. I was pretty disappointed when I realized this but then I thought: "Hey, it is a phone. Its primary function is to make calls or communicate through GSM/LTE/Wi-fi. GPS reception is of secondary importance (maybe ternary?)."

 

That's why is still use my bluetooth dongle (Qstarz BT-818) - it's primary (and only) function is GPS signal reception (it does not even know Glonass) and everything is optimized for this. And it performs much better in a forest than Nexus 6 itself. I usually carry it on my hat or hold it in my hand high enough when approaching the GZ so as to not throw electromagnetic shadow with my body to it and I go straight to GZ (when compared to my friend with his phone zigzagging around ;) )

 

And by the way, bluetooth connection takes much less energy out of my Nexus battery than to power its built-in GPS chip which is good as well (one does not have to charge the phone so soon).

Wow what a coincidence, I have a Nexus 6 too :)

Thanks for answering.

Edited by Cakeofdestiny

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Wow what a coincidence, I have a Nexus 6 too :)

Thanks for answering.

 

Oh great! :) I wonder what your experince will be like under a dense tree cover. But anyway, it is a great device and I love my Nexus, I just let his little buddy (Qstarz) help him with satelites. :)

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I use my gps because I have had it for years. I know how to put the caches I want to find on it. I know how to use it. It uses inexpensive rechargeable batteries. I also have an iPhone. My iPhone has several geocaching apps on it . It also has a to do list. On the to do list is "get comfortable with using phone to geocache. That item keeps getting pushed down the list. The fact is if what you are doing works, why change.

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First reason I don't use a phone is that costs too much. Second reason I don't use a phone is that I find it easier to set up query and down load the caches I want to look for into the GPS. Thirdly, I live in the country where mobile service is sometimes limited. The fourth reason is that I can park the car, chain up the pushbike and log where it is so I can get back when I get lost! Hasn't happened yet.

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I have both a smartphone and an Oregon 600. I use the Oregon 600 for most of my caching, for the reasons The Leprechauns listed. I only use the phone as a backup, or if I don't have my Oregon with me, or to get live data.

 

One additional reason is maps. I have a specific map of the UK which shows details of footpaths etc which is in a format specific to Garmin. Also I cache in many countries, and it is easy to load different open (free) maps.

 

Now it may be possible to do the same with a smartphone, but I don't know how.

 

Also, a general comment - many cachers cache happily with only a smartphone.

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

 

I have an old GPS 62s, so I'm still using it. I'm in no rush to upgrade. In the pre-app days I would have already moved up to a more current GPS with more current maps. But now I don't need to. Saves me 100s of dollars.

I use my iphone a lot for spontaneous geocaching. It does a great job. I love the convenience of having access to my iphone camera, and to the geocaching website.

 

I use my handheld GPS

  • If I'm having trouble finding the cache.
  • If I'm looking for a multi (I find the app confusing for multi stage searching).
  • If the app isn't working (site down); or cell signal coverage is bad.
  • I'm driving. I like to download choice caches and use those as my base. It's better for driving. My area is cache dense. Using the app while driving is too distracting and difficult when trying to figure out which cache I should try next.

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Wow what a coincidence, I have a Nexus 6 too :)

Pair that with Locus Map Pro (best app I've ever bought), and you'll really wonder why people still buy handheld GPS units.

 

Sure a phone is fragile, but I treat mine carefully, and always stow it in rough terrain. Hey, I've damaged my Garmins too by being less than careful with them. But I"m not buying any more Garmins.

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The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Many people have access to a GPSr already, no special phone. And you can enter coordinates manually into some pretty archaic GPSrs, and go find a cache. The Geocaching.com site is set up for ease of loading a handheld GPSr. Well, at least that's still the plan, I think :anicute:.

 

If made a Geocaching web site, I may set it up to "Send To" a GPSr, since those devices almost always can receive GPS :anibad:. Load it and go. The site works with a GPSr. Borrow one, and try it out with no added expense.

 

If your phone is perfectly fine for you, don't worry about it.

Edited by kunarion

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Thanks for answering a question from a new Geocacher. Even though I only started yesterday it looks pretty cool now.

I didn't multiquote because then it'd fill up the whole page, if one of you saw this, thanks :)

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The cord on my phone isn't long enough to get me to a cache. It's plugged into the wall. And I'm pretty sure it doesn't get GPS signals. And it doesn't have a display. On the other fin, my GPS does all of that quit well!

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Thanks for answering a question from a new Geocacher. Even though I only started yesterday it looks pretty cool now.

I didn't multiquote because then it'd fill up the whole page, if one of you saw this, thanks :)

Thank you for the thank you. I think you will do well in this Forum because you have already recognized that you will hear a diversity of opinions, and you're soaking them up.

 

Always remember that there are dozens of different ways to "play" geocaching. Being a casual "cacher of opportunity" using a smartphone is one such way. If someone has fun doing that, that's terrific. If someone else only uses a $500 GPS receiver to find caches that require miles of backcountry hiking, that's also terrific.

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Phones generally don't have coordinate-averaging or waypoint projection functions.

 

When you hide a cache, it's desirable to get as good coordinates as you can. Most geocachers do that by letting dedicated GPS units average the coordinates for a few minutes. That allows them to "settle down" and give more accurate results.

 

Some multi and puzzle caches require in-the-field projections, such as "go 963 feet at an azimuth of 47 degrees true." Dedicated GPS units handle this easily. Phones not so much, unless you get a dedicated app to do it, and even then you have to cut-and-paste between multiple apps.

 

Dedicated GPS units tend to be a lot more rugged, as well.

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

 

Like you I am a newbie and use a smartphone with the geocache app installed on it. While I will not have to worry about losing my wireless signal as I am only doing urban geocaching, like others I do have to deal with running out of battery power. I am also traveling to each geocache site via my recumbent bicycle, I call it Geocaching by Bicycle. While riding I use an app called Map My Ride which is literally my bike computer for speed, distance, etc. I also listen to music via my Rhapsody app with my smartphone connected via bluetooth to a speaker. And I take photos of the geocache's as well as the general area the cache is located in. So I am probably using 3 to 4 more times the battery power than someone who is just out using their smartphone device with only the geocache app running.

 

I do have and use a couple of external power packs connected via micro USB cable to my smartphone but even with these I can maybe search for, locate and log 2 to 3 caches before I have to return home or find some place to charge my phone via the regular charger.

 

But I am working on getting a newer higher capacity external power pack for my device.

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I use both a GPSr and my phone.

 

GPSr:

-- Most of the time, especially when hiking or biking. I have a mount on my bike handlebars to hold my GPSr.

-- More durable, better reception, and less screen glare than my phone.

-- Longer battery life. It's easier for me to switch out 2 AA batteries than to hold my phone while it's attached to a power pack.

-- Has buttons, so I don't have to deal with touchscreens. I have trouble with touchscreens when wearing gloves without the fingertip pads and when it's raining.

 

Phone:

-- To take my own photos.

-- If I'm having trouble finding a cache, then I'll look up the cache page (usually on geocaching.com via my browser) to check Gallery photos and read older logs. GPSr's only load a handful of most recent logs.

-- When doing multi's and Earthcaches, I find it easier to read the long cache descriptions on my phone's larger screen.

-- Spontaneous caching when I don't have my GPSr or I don't have the area loaded on my GPSr.

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Phones generally don't have coordinate-averaging or waypoint projection functions.

Depends on the app. The one I use for caching interfaces smoothly to an averaging app (no copy/paste of coords), and has geo-puzzle stuff like projections built right in.

Edited by Viajero Perdido

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My answer's simple. I inherited the eTrex Vista HCx that I currently use from my late father, and it reminds me of him every time I use it.

 

Sure, I'd prefer to have something with GLONASS access, Internet capability and less drift in heavily wooded areas, but it gets the job done.

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Some people swear by the phone. But I can tell when I go looking for a cache if a phone was used to hide it.

The cords are usually off quite a bit. Not many people realize that a lot of cell phones smart phone included.

Use the cell towers to locate positions. Also those that claim a GPS chip is inside are both right and wrong.

Strange huh! I did some research and found that smart phones that claim to have GPS chip actually use both methods.

The phone first starts out with cell tower GPS then switches over to GPS chip when it thinks that it has good location.

I was recently out in an area where cell reception was very low to zero. The phone GPS did not locate me and the map was gone.

That is another bad thing about phone GPS it needs the internet for the map. My Delorme PN60 kept me on track and I found many geocache.

No internet needed. About Delorme, Garmin bought them. The Delorme product line is going to be gone soon. When product runs out

no more GPS and no more TOPO software. The In Reach is now a Garmin product and will continue.

I like to stick to a dedicated GPS then no troubles. The smart phone for calls and the internet.

Just remember when no signal most likely no GPS on that phone.

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

 

read the responses in this thread, and you'll realize that a LOT of people are just plain wrong:

a) it won't work without cellular data

B) it won't work in deep woods

c) it won't work offline

d) it's not accurate enough

e) it will eat up your datas !

f) but my neighbor said it CANT work !

 

a- the cellular and gps antennas are not entertwined, or dependant upon each other. either will work just fine without the other.

b- i keep trying to find woods deep enough to make this true, i hike and ride thousands of miles each year, and have only found train tunnels and caves to support this.

c- just plain wrong, see a-

d- anyone that takes the time to enable their gps antenna (instead of wifi + cellular) and goes out to test it's accuracy vs a standalone will be surprised. if they don't try it, they'll keep repeating the same mistakes, much like the responses in this thread.

e- JUST LIKE STANDALONES, you should download a map to a device before heading into an area. open street maps has the entire world, for free.

f- that's not all he's said that was wrong

 

go out, test for yourself. it's eye opening.

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I was recently out in an area where cell reception was very low to zero. The phone GPS did not locate me and the map was gone.
Last weekend, I was geocaching in an area with no cell reception. I even put my phone in Airplane Mode to save its battery. But the GPS system in the phone worked just fine, and we found several geocaches using it.

 

There were no maps, but that's because I hadn't downloaded any maps to my app beforehand. (We used a paper map to get from cache to cache instead.) But for other geocaching trips, I've downloaded maps to my app in advance, and then I had maps even in areas with no cell reception, even with the phone in Airplane Mode.

 

That is another bad thing about phone GPS it needs the internet for the map.
Well, naturally you need the internet if you're going to download maps live over the internet. But if you've downloaded the maps in advance, then you don't need the internet to use those maps.

 

There are reasons why I sometimes use my eXplorist rather than my phone, but the "no internet equals no GPS" myth isn't one of them.

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Ahh... so many factors.

As a smartphone user exclusively for 7 years, I can attest to the point that smartphones are most certainly sufficient for finding and placing in multiple environments, even extreme/difficult; over water, in urban cores, over desert, under heavy canopy, without cell signal, long excursions, etc...

But, brand is a huge factor. Older models are less effectively or require more time/work for smooth caching. Some manufacturers use different technologies, and certainly more recent models with more powerful CPUs are technically better as well.

 

All the issues described by others in their uses are not issues for me, because...

1. How you regularly cache determines

2. How much risk your device faces

3. How much risk you're willing to accept and

4. How much time/money you're willing to put in to caring for your device (how "out of the box" you want to use your device)

 

Also, bad placement coordinates does not mean "smartphone user". I've been in plenty of group searches where I've stood on the cache and various handheld users have their head down to their device trying to locate gz, calling out different distances that don't make sense at all.

 

That said, getting accurate coordinates should be easier and/or quicker with a dedicated device, and some devices may provide more accuracy, but the coordinates the user stores for a listing entirely depend on how well the user makes use of the device. Generally, a dedicated device is more trustworthy, but good smartphones and good handhelds will easily provide sufficient accuracy. Since both users could publish inaccurate coordinates, there's no way to know just from your searching what device was used to publish coordinates, and so...

 

It's always good practice to be prepared to put the device away when you're close to gz and start searching with your geosense. You could have the most accurate device and be standing on GZ, but if the coordinates themselves are wrong (whatever device was used to read them), that device won't help you find the cache.

 

Anyway, so many factors in determining what device is right for you. One of the first questions to ask when someone says "smartphone" is what brand and model?

I began in '09 with an iPhone 3GS, and had no concerns (for my use and experiences, all of the above). I moved to a 4S, 5S, and am now on a 6S Plus. With each upgrade GPS reception has become faster and more accurate if the more difficult environments - but I've never had an issue that made me wish I had a dedicated handheld. Including concerns about durability, readability, battery life, weathering, etc.

 

That said, there's merit to the concern about accidents (which can happen to any device), and if your one device is your phone which is sort of important for emergencies, then that's definitely a significant risk to consider.

 

However, the best geocaching combo is and always will be both a handheld and smartphone, IMO. Best of both worlds :)

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

 

read the responses in this thread, and you'll realize that a LOT of people are just plain wrong:

a) it won't work without cellular data

B) it won't work in deep woods

c) it won't work offline

d) it's not accurate enough

e) it will eat up your datas !

f) but my neighbor said it CANT work !

 

a- the cellular and gps antennas are not entertwined, or dependant upon each other. either will work just fine without the other.

b- i keep trying to find woods deep enough to make this true, i hike and ride thousands of miles each year, and have only found train tunnels and caves to support this.

c- just plain wrong, see a-

d- anyone that takes the time to enable their gps antenna (instead of wifi + cellular) and goes out to test it's accuracy vs a standalone will be surprised. if they don't try it, they'll keep repeating the same mistakes, much like the responses in this thread.

e- JUST LIKE STANDALONES, you should download a map to a device before heading into an area. open street maps has the entire world, for free.

f- that's not all he's said that was wrong

 

go out, test for yourself. it's eye opening.

 

Since you mention a few things there that I specifically mentioned I thought I would clarify. First of all, my comments are based on my experience using the official geocaching app since it was introduced an the new Geocaching App for Android. It is also based on using both a handheld GPS and/or smartphone in 23 different countries, including Cuba where it is not only illegal to bring a handheld GPS into the country, but there is very little access to the internet.

 

a) The claim isn't that "it won't work without cellular data". It's that if you are somewhere where you don't have access to cellular data or access is prohibitively expensive, it's not going

to work in the same way as when you do have access. Without cellular data you won't just be able to hit "Find nearby caches" and have them show up on a map. If you haven't previously created a list or PQ of caches and downloaded that data to your smart phone, you won't see any cache data. Even if you have pre-loaded cache data, at least with the Geocaching App, you won't get detailed

maps. You won't get those nice satellite view images Try testing it yourself with your phone in airplane mode.

 

c) Again, I don't see anyone claiming that it' won't work online. Just don't expect it to work the same way as it does online. As I said, you have to pre-load cache data. With the official map you'll only get street maps with detail layers in the area of the cache in the PQ. For that most part that works fairly well and you can also navigate to caches pre-loaded using the compass screen. You won't get satellite view though, nor will you get any photos that have been uploaded by the CO. That last piece made the difference between a find and a DNF when searching for a cache in Cuba.

 

d) I don't recall anyone stating that a smart phone GPS isn't accurate enough. Mostly what I see is a lot of anecdotal evidence from people that either have found caches using their smart phone and a few that have compared their phone with their handheld GPS. Much of that comes from what the device is reporting regarding it's accuracy. I remember when I used to have a iPhone (4S) and with a clear view of the sky it would usually tell me it accuracy was 16'. I don't recall ever seeing it below that and it was was more it jumped up to 24' (never 20 or 18). Here's an interesting paper from the Journal of Navigation called "Positional Accuracy of Assisted GPS Data form High-Sensitivity GPS-enabled Mobile Phones" (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8292634). In the abstract it states:

 

"The performance of the mobile phone is compared to that of regular recreational grade GPS receivers. Availability of valid GPS position fixes on the mobile phones tested was consistently close to 100% both outdoors and indoors. During static outdoor testing, positions provided by the mobile phones revealed a median horizontal error of between 5·0 and 8·5 m, substantially larger than those for regular autonomous GPS units by a factor of 2 to 3."

 

e) I've used the free open street maps for Garmin a *lot*. While the OSM vector maps can be downloaded to a smartphone it requires a separate app to use that data.

 

 

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Here's an interesting paper from the Journal of Navigation called "Positional Accuracy of Assisted GPS Data form High-Sensitivity GPS-enabled Mobile Phones" (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8292634). In the abstract it states:

 

"The performance of the mobile phone is compared to that of regular recreational grade GPS receivers. Availability of valid GPS position fixes on the mobile phones tested was consistently close to 100% both outdoors and indoors. During static outdoor testing, positions provided by the mobile phones revealed a median horizontal error of between 5·0 and 8·5 m, substantially larger than those for regular autonomous GPS units by a factor of 2 to 3."

 

The test data cited was published in 2011 which means contemporary iPhone models were the 3gs and 4. I think the Oregon 550 was a current Garmin model at the same time.* In the 5 years since then I believe the smart phones have improved much more than GPS receivers. A similar test today would likely find a smaller difference in horizontal performance, if any.

 

*While I found a nice timeline for the Apple products, I didn't find a similar chart for the Garmin Oregon.

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While the OSM vector maps can be downloaded to a smartphone it requires a separate app to use that data.

Separate?

 

I've taken for granted having OSM and caching in the same app.

7236e4a9-ee59-4dc4-8eca-a89df0b56dcb_l.jpg

Beat this, Garmin.

 

Does Groundspeak's app do OSM? If not, it should.

Edited by Viajero Perdido

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Not many people realize that a lot of cell phones smart phone included.

Use the cell towers to locate positions.

...

I did some research and found that smart phones that claim to have GPS chip actually use both methods.

The phone first starts out with cell tower GPS then switches over to GPS chip when it thinks that it has good location.

More precisely, some smartphones use their data connection to more-quickly download the GPS almanac and ephemerides to speed up the initial satellite lock-on. This technology is called "assisted GPS". Contrary to popular belief, most modern smartphones aren't triangulating their position based on the signal strength of nearby cell towers. That method was used in early smartphones, but it's been many years since this was standard. You're far more likely to have an actual GPS chip these days.

 

Also those that claim a GPS chip is inside are both right and wrong.

See above. While there may be some cheap smartphones available without a GPS chip, their number is negligible compared to the number of modern smartphones that do have one.

 

I was recently out in an area where cell reception was very low to zero. The phone GPS did not locate me and the map was gone.

...

Just remember when no signal most likely no GPS on that phone.

With most smartphones, your statement is false. It would only be true if it's a very cheap or old smartphone that can only use cell tower triangulation to determine its position. If the smartphone has a GPS chip, it will be able to determine your position regardless of whether you have cell reception or not. It just might take longer and you may need to explicitly put your phone in airplane mode (I remember having to do this with an older iPhone). In your example, I suspect your phone was probably struggling to download the GPS almanac and ephemerides, but was having trouble due to the limited reception. If you flipped on airplane mode to prevent it from even trying to download this information from the cell network, I bet you'd have gotten a GPS location fairly quickly.

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Does Groundspeak's app do OSM? If not, it should.

The old ("Classic") version did, but the new version does not.

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While the OSM vector maps can be downloaded to a smartphone it requires a separate app to use that data.

Separate?

 

I've taken for granted having OSM and caching in the same app.

7236e4a9-ee59-4dc4-8eca-a89df0b56dcb_l.jpg

Beat this, Garmin.

 

Does Groundspeak's app do OSM? If not, it should.

 

That's what I mean by a separate app. Is that Locus Maps app? If that's what you're using, rather than discuss a competing app here, do you mind if I send you a PM with a couple of questions?

 

 

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Some people swear by the phone. But I can tell when I go looking for a cache if a phone was used to hide it.

The cords are usually off quite a bit. Not many people realize that a lot of cell phones smart phone included.

Use the cell towers to locate positions.

Seconded. It's gotten to the point where I use my company-issued iPhone to check coordinates if I cannot find a geocache with my handheld. More often than not, the coordinates are 40+ feet off (according to my handheld), but spot-on (according to my iPhone). Which one's right? Who knows. It just makes it easier to tell which coordinates were recorded with a phone.

Edited by BFG99

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It's gotten to the point where I use my company-issued iPhone to check coordinates if I cannot find a geocache with my handheld. More often than not, the coordinates are 40+ feet off (according to my handheld), but spot-on (according to my iPhone). Which one's right? Who knows. It just makes it easier to tell which coordinates were recorded with a phone.
It's déjà vu all over again.

 

I recall the same point being made 10 years ago, except then it was Garmin vs Magellan, rather than handheld vs smartphone.

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It's gotten to the point where I use my company-issued iPhone to check coordinates if I cannot find a geocache with my handheld. More often than not, the coordinates are 40+ feet off (according to my handheld), but spot-on (according to my iPhone). Which one's right? Who knows. It just makes it easier to tell which coordinates were recorded with a phone.

I find it hard to believe that most phones are consistently off in the same amount and direction, such that using a phone rather than a handheld will usually bring you to the right spot for phone hides.

 

I find it more likely that this has only happened a handful of times and things just worked out that way by luck, and that if you went back you'd have a different experience each time, with the handheld winning on some of those occasions.

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{SNIP}

Anyway, so many factors in determining what device is right for you.

{SNIP}

However, the best geocaching combo is and always will be both a handheld and smartphone, IMO. Best of both worlds :)

These two sentences jumped out at me from your fine post. The first quote is the universal truth: everyone should choose the tools that are best for them. The second quote matches my personal experience and philosophy.

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It's gotten to the point where I use my company-issued iPhone to check coordinates if I cannot find a geocache with my handheld. More often than not, the coordinates are 40+ feet off (according to my handheld), but spot-on (according to my iPhone). Which one's right? Who knows. It just makes it easier to tell which coordinates were recorded with a phone.
It's déjà vu all over again.

 

I recall the same point being made 10 years ago, except then it was Garmin vs Magellan, rather than handheld vs smartphone.

+1

Wow! That's been a while...

We had a few who swore that they could tell who owned what by distance "with theirs".

A local ftf hound claimed that a lot. :laughing:

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If your phone is acting accurately I would just stick with that. We have been playing over 5 years and have pretty much just used our phone. I did buy a GPS. Actually I think 2 of them but never use them. I am more comfortable with my phone. We have out over 200 hides. At first I would take my car gps and a couple of phones to get coords. Now I just use a averaging app on the phone and it works great. This is only if your phone works good with coords. I have gotten some that kind of suck but I take those back and get a different one. I wasted my money on the hand held GPS because I don't understand them or use them. If you plan to make hides get a GPS averaging app and then check the hide spot on google earth just to make sure you are in the right area.

As far as ruggedness I have a otterbox on my phone so no way to break it and for battery life I have some portable chargers if needed. If on water I have a waterproof case and a float.

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I use my iphone if necessary like I am looking for a cache not in my GPS.

I notice either the iphone distance can't keep up with me or it over shoots me. When I try to zoom in, the map disappears. Batteries last longer in a GPS. Reception is better and more accurate. I am still finding caches a distance away from the GZ coords listed on the cache page.

I also use my iphone when I don't want to take the time switching to hints and logs.

Basically I trust my GPS over the smartphone.

Edited by jellis

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If you plan to make hides get a GPS averaging app and then check the hide spot on google earth just to make sure you are in the right area.

The potential issue with using satellite imagery for verification is that tiles may still be slightly off, and even a few meters can make a difference. Occasionally you can tell if someone placed by sat tiles or used gps. And if you hvae a hybrid option on the map display you can sometimes tell if the tiles are off by whether the road lines are aligned with the road imagery.

 

Really, as you say, sat should be used to make sure you're in the right area, but if your gps is giving you coordinates that off, then there are other issues :P

Personally, I only place the sat tiles of higher importance when in urban areas -- GPS (handheld or smartphone) has a much higher difficulty with accurate locating when surrounded by skyscrapers where the signals can bounce. It's sometimes more accurate to visually place it with the imagery, even if the GPS can never lock on to the coordinates sufficiently.

 

When finding though, I usually look at the sat imagery first; especially on trails and sprase forests where the pin may land on a prominent feature, or near one. Almost guarnateed that's where it actually is. Then it's fun to navigate there and find out how accurate your GPS reading is.

 

Anyway, point being, sat imagery isn't always accurately reliable, but it does have its place especially where the GPS signal itself (regardless of device) has problems.

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Hey,

 

I found out about Geocaching yesterday and I already found three caches using my phone. I have noticed that in most of the promotional material, youtube videos and discussions people use external GPS devices.

My question is why?

The GPS device in phone (at least mine) is very accurate, it's fast, convenient and most people these days have phones (I.E you don't need to pay for another device). The biggest advantage IMO is not needing to use a computer every time you want to add coordinates to your external GPS device.

Are there any points that I have missed? I'm really puzzled by this.

 

Cakeofdestiny

 

read the responses in this thread, and you'll realize that a LOT of people are just plain wrong:

a) it won't work without cellular data

B) it won't work in deep woods

c) it won't work offline

d) it's not accurate enough

e) it will eat up your datas !

f) but my neighbor said it CANT work !

 

a- the cellular and gps antennas are not entertwined, or dependant upon each other. either will work just fine without the other.

b- i keep trying to find woods deep enough to make this true, i hike and ride thousands of miles each year, and have only found train tunnels and caves to support this.

c- just plain wrong, see a-

d- anyone that takes the time to enable their gps antenna (instead of wifi + cellular) and goes out to test it's accuracy vs a standalone will be surprised. if they don't try it, they'll keep repeating the same mistakes, much like the responses in this thread.

e- JUST LIKE STANDALONES, you should download a map to a device before heading into an area. open street maps has the entire world, for free.

f- that's not all he's said that was wrong

 

go out, test for yourself. it's eye opening.

 

Since you mention a few things there that I specifically mentioned I thought I would clarify. First of all, my comments are based on my experience using the official geocaching app since it was introduced an the new Geocaching App for Android. It is also based on using both a handheld GPS and/or smartphone in 23 different countries, including Cuba where it is not only illegal to bring a handheld GPS into the country, but there is very little access to the internet.

 

a) The claim isn't that "it won't work without cellular data". It's that if you are somewhere where you don't have access to cellular data or access is prohibitively expensive, it's not going

to work in the same way as when you do have access. Without cellular data you won't just be able to hit "Find nearby caches" and have them show up on a map. If you haven't previously created a list or PQ of caches and downloaded that data to your smart phone, you won't see any cache data. Even if you have pre-loaded cache data, at least with the Geocaching App, you won't get detailed

maps. You won't get those nice satellite view images Try testing it yourself with your phone in airplane mode.

 

c) Again, I don't see anyone claiming that it' won't work online. Just don't expect it to work the same way as it does online. As I said, you have to pre-load cache data. With the official map you'll only get street maps with detail layers in the area of the cache in the PQ. For that most part that works fairly well and you can also navigate to caches pre-loaded using the compass screen. You won't get satellite view though, nor will you get any photos that have been uploaded by the CO. That last piece made the difference between a find and a DNF when searching for a cache in Cuba.

 

d) I don't recall anyone stating that a smart phone GPS isn't accurate enough. Mostly what I see is a lot of anecdotal evidence from people that either have found caches using their smart phone and a few that have compared their phone with their handheld GPS. Much of that comes from what the device is reporting regarding it's accuracy. I remember when I used to have a iPhone (4S) and with a clear view of the sky it would usually tell me it accuracy was 16'. I don't recall ever seeing it below that and it was was more it jumped up to 24' (never 20 or 18). Here's an interesting paper from the Journal of Navigation called "Positional Accuracy of Assisted GPS Data form High-Sensitivity GPS-enabled Mobile Phones" (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8292634). In the abstract it states:

 

"The performance of the mobile phone is compared to that of regular recreational grade GPS receivers. Availability of valid GPS position fixes on the mobile phones tested was consistently close to 100% both outdoors and indoors. During static outdoor testing, positions provided by the mobile phones revealed a median horizontal error of between 5·0 and 8·5 m, substantially larger than those for regular autonomous GPS units by a factor of 2 to 3."

 

e) I've used the free open street maps for Garmin a *lot*. While the OSM vector maps can be downloaded to a smartphone it requires a separate app to use that data.

 

your

 

a- the official app cuts off too many possbilities to be considered as a standard of measuring a devices capabilities. i'm refering to a non-official app. reguardless of of which app is in question, the 'a' answer i gave still addresses the misconceptions. reference to satellite imagery has similar requirements- download before leaving connectivity, just like any device.... if it doesn't have the data downloaded, of course it's not available.

 

sidenote, you've traveled a lot. are you 007 ? :)

 

b- oopsie

 

c- step outside the box of 'official' apps. downloading satellite imagery is trivially easy, and happens auto-magically. again, i do my caching offline, not relying on data for on-the-go images or directions.

 

d- your summary of a study is five years out of date. eight years ago i was so impressed with the accuracy and ease of use from a first generation android that i dropped my standalones in a drawer. over the last eight years i've enjoyed leaps and bounds in application developments, and accuracy has been a non-issue. SOME PHONES are faster to triangulate than others, and some are closer to point, but the difference is so little it doesn't matter. this isn't a quotable study, just personal experience.

 

e- again, outside of the official app, things are much better.

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Anyway, point being, sat imagery isn't always accurately reliable, but it does have its place especially where the GPS signal itself (regardless of device) has problems.

 

Then there is the guidelines:

 

"You must visit the cache location and obtain the coordinates with a GPS device. GPS usage is an integral and essential element of both hiding and seeking caches and must be demonstrated for all cache submissions."

 

Because satellite imagery isn't always reliable, I think it makes sense to exclude it as a means for obtaining the coordinates.

 

Take a look at the satellite imagery in Beijing, China and you'll find that the imagery and street map layer is skewed by several hundred feet.

 

Maybe some day the satellite imagery will be globally accurate, but until then it doesn't make sense to have the guidelines say:

 

"You may obtain coordinates with a GPS device or using satellite imagery, unless you live in China".

 

 

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I find it hard to believe that most phones are consistently off in the same amount and direction, such that using a phone rather than a handheld will usually bring you to the right spot for phone hides.

 

I find it more likely that this has only happened a handful of times and things just worked out that way by luck, and that if you went back you'd have a different experience each time, with the handheld winning on some of those occasions.

 

It's certainly possible, but I'm up to 8 incidents and counting (out of the 20 or so that I've whipped the iPhone out for thus far). For this same reason, I also don't think it's a bad idea to get coordinates for caches you place yourself from 2 or more devices - or, barring that, from a device that has both GPS and GLONASS.

Edited by BFG99

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Not many people realize that a lot of cell phones smart phone included.

Use the cell towers to locate positions.

...

I did some research and found that smart phones that claim to have GPS chip actually use both methods.

The phone first starts out with cell tower GPS then switches over to GPS chip when it thinks that it has good location.

More precisely, some smartphones use their data connection to more-quickly download the GPS almanac and ephemerides to speed up the initial satellite lock-on. This technology is called "assisted GPS". Contrary to popular belief, most modern smartphones aren't triangulating their position based on the signal strength of nearby cell towers. That method was used in early smartphones, but it's been many years since this was standard. You're far more likely to have an actual GPS chip these days.

 

Also those that claim a GPS chip is inside are both right and wrong.

See above. While there may be some cheap smartphones available without a GPS chip, their number is negligible compared to the number of modern smartphones that do have one.

 

I was recently out in an area where cell reception was very low to zero. The phone GPS did not locate me and the map was gone.

...

Just remember when no signal most likely no GPS on that phone.

With most smartphones, your statement is false. It would only be true if it's a very cheap or old smartphone that can only use cell tower triangulation to determine its position. If the smartphone has a GPS chip, it will be able to determine your position regardless of whether you have cell reception or not. It just might take longer and you may need to explicitly put your phone in airplane mode (I remember having to do this with an older iPhone). In your example, I suspect your phone was probably struggling to download the GPS almanac and ephemerides, but was having trouble due to the limited reception. If you flipped on airplane mode to prevent it from even trying to download this information from the cell network, I bet you'd have gotten a GPS location fairly quickly.

My phone is only five months old.

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My phone is only five months old.

Your Motorola DROID Turbo* has a GPS chip, so it will work just fine without a cell signal. See the parts of my post that discuss phones with a GPS chip. It also has assisted GPS, which will help it more quickly get a satellite lock when you do have cell reception.

 

*You've gotta love EXIF data! :D

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My phone is only five months old.

Your Motorola DROID Turbo* has a GPS chip, so it will work just fine without a cell signal. See the parts of my post that discuss phones with a GPS chip. It also has assisted GPS, which will help it more quickly get a satellite lock when you do have cell reception.

 

*You've gotta love EXIF data! :D

OH! you must be Psycic. I never told you I had that model. Your good. :ph34r:

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