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actualsize

New iPhone Xr - geocaching compass won't stay synced to North

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I've seen other posts where iPhone compass innacuracy is written off by regular GPS users as normal.

 

1) No its not, and

 

2) This is not that

 

I believe something is wrong with the geocaching app, specifically, something that DID NOT affect any of my previous iPhones up to the 6s I used until recently. Several weeks ago I bought an iPhone xR, and the geocaching app's guidance compass has been pretty much useless ever since.

 

I've looked for settings within the app to explain what I'm seeing, but I'm drawing a blank. My 6s and xR settings are identical.

 

To explain: I have found all but one of my nearly 20,000 finds with iPhones. I have had very good luck with them in all circumstances, including the compass down to the last 5-to-15 feet, which is about as good as you can expect. I never have trouble before I get to that point. Never.

 

But my iPhone xR is doing something different. The North indication will drift  (or swing suddenly) any number of degrees up to 180 from where north really is while I'm still tenths of miles or hundreds of feet away from the cache. It's like the app loses track of where north is a few seconds after I start compass navigation. At these moments I switch to the iPhone Xr's own compass app, and it points to north immediately and remains steady as a rock.  Satisfied that the phone's compass is working fine, I switch back to geocaching app, and that seems to reset the app's compass. It'll be OK for a few seconds, but then it'll start to drift off into insanity once again. It is mind-numbing.

 

It's as if the app is not staying synched with my iphone Xr's very stable compass, and so it drifts -- sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly. But it ALWAYS drifts.

 

I still have my iPhone 6s, and it doesn't have this trouble at all. Could it be that the geocaching app isn't optimized for the not-so-new-anymore iPhone XR?

 

This really sucks, my 5-star geocaching app rating is down to one star. I'm going to have to switch to my 6s for caching even though it doesn't have any phone service or data. It's going to be offline caching for me until this BUG - and I'm convinced it's a BUG - gets fixed. 

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9 hours ago, actualsize said:

The North indication will drift  (or swing suddenly) any number of degrees up to 180 from where north really is while I'm still tenths of miles or hundreds of feet away from the cache. It's like the app loses track of where north is a few seconds after I start compass navigation. At these moments I switch to the iPhone Xr's own compass app, and it points to north immediately and remains steady as a rock. 

 

 

Can you try another Geocaching App?  I'm guessing the factory compass App working fine means it must be an issue with the Official Geocaching App.  But maybe you'd get more data on what the phone is doing, by comparing other Apps.

 

Are your phone sensors working OK?  You can check the level sensor with the bubble level in the compass App, or the level in the "Measure" App (My iPhone 8 has both, but I'm not sure about iPhone XR).  You might as well post your iOS version.

 

Do you have a magnetic latch on your iPhone case, or a magnetized item on yourself somewhere?  Based on your tests so far, it doesn't seem like much of a possibility, just asking.

 

[For anyone reading this thread, this is about a specific issue.  There are other threads about caches being "30-40 feet off".  This is about the compass being kinda "sticky" or "jumpy" in The Official Geocaching App, where it seems to be pointing correctly in other Apps]

Edited by kunarion

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9 hours ago, actualsize said:

The North indication will drift  (or swing suddenly) any number of degrees up to 180 from where north really is while I'm still tenths of miles or hundreds of feet away from the cache. It's like the app loses track of where north is a few seconds after I start compass navigation.

 

I hope you don't mind trying a few things, even if some may not apply. :)

 

Are you holding the iPhone absolutely flat, parallel with the ground?  I'm seeing an effect when I lift my iPhone 8 toward vertical, where the compass jumps as much as 180 degrees, and flicks around, when I'm not even changing direction, and then becomes sticky after that.  It seems a lot less jumpy on my iPhone 5s, maybe jumping only a degree or two.

 

And here's the good part B):  I get a very similar thing on my Android HTC U11 phone!  On my phones, other compass Apps are fine with the phone held in any way.  I use star chart Apps, and they follow the compass heading regardless of phone orientation.  The Official Geocaching App may be having trouble with this. I'm getting a vertical mount for my car, and then it will become a problem if the App can't function with the phone placed vertically.

 

On my Droid in the Geocaching App, the pointer flips fluidly as if it thinks I've inverted the phone, and then tends to catch up.  On the iPhone, it seems to become jumpy and sticky, and remains unusable.  On both, the other “compass” Apps shift ever so slightly as the phone is lifted from horizontal, but then seem to work OK once held steady in the new position.

 

It was a surprise, I just now noticed it, so I haven't done much testing.  But at least the iPhone 8 seemed to improve over time.  Or maybe the effect comes and goes.  Or maybe I'm not doing it right/wrong, whatever.  I would usually notice these things, but I rarely use "phone Apps" for compass Geocaching, and even then, I don't hold the phone vertically (except for Spyglass, which being not The Official Geocaching App, works fine).

 

It's likely that some iPhones have a hardware problem with their level sensor.  In that case, you may see the effect regardless of how you hold the phone. 

 

My iPhone 5s:
App version 6.6.0
iOS 10.3.3

 

My iPhone 8:
App version 7.3.0
iOS 12.1.3

 

My HTC U11:
App version 7.3.0
Android 8.0.0

 

 

Edited by kunarion
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Thanks for the reports on compass problems. We've included some improvements to compass initialization in our 7.4.0 release - available in the app store today - that we're hoping should reduce the problems described here. After you've updated to 7.4.0, we'd appreciate any follow up feedback you have on the compass and whether its performance has improved.

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9 hours ago, Ben H said:

Thanks for the reports on compass problems. We've included some improvements to compass initialization in our 7.4.0 release - available in the app store today - that we're hoping should reduce the problems described here. After you've updated to 7.4.0, we'd appreciate any follow up feedback you have on the compass and whether its performance has improved.

 

The weird effect I described above is gone now with version 7.4.0 (at least for iPhone).  Thank you!  Now my iPhone 8 behaves a lot like my iPhone 5s.  The leaping pointer while still a long way from a cache seemed like kind of a new problem anyway.  Maybe it's calmed down for others in these threads.

Edited by kunarion

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On 1/29/2019 at 11:19 AM, Ben H said:

Thanks for the reports on compass problems. We've included some improvements to compass initialization in our 7.4.0 release - available in the app store today - that we're hoping should reduce the problems described here. After you've updated to 7.4.0, we'd appreciate any follow up feedback you have on the compass and whether its performance has improved.

Hi Ben -  I've been a stauch iPhone app user since I started in 2010. I have appreciated all the work you and others have put in (I met Arne up at HQ a few years back), and I stayed with the "new" app and have eargerly followed its many improvements through countless updates. To me it was almost perfect until this issue came out. The timing may have appeared to be linked towhen I moved from a 6s to an Xr, but upon further reflection it may have coincided with the new-ish "Navigate" feature, perhaps the second or third follow-up bug fix that got pushed out after its initial introduction, the one that introduced auto zoom, maybe.  Not sure. I noticed it when I started caching with my new Xr, but that may have been coincidental with an update your team released.

 

Anyway, on to this 7.4.0 update and how it has been working for me.

 

I did not respond right away because I really wanted to figure this out. I've cached in a couple of different environments now. I think I have a handle on it. The problem is not solved, but now it behaves differently - and in a slightly less random way that makes it easier to work around the difficluties that remain.

 

1) I still do not get an initial compass lock when I bring up the compass rose. North isn't north until I open the iPhone's own compass app, which snaps to north right away. Once I do that I can go back to the geocaching compass rose, and it's fine.

 

This whole compass lock thing is distressing. In the past, it just worked, and worked reliably. I didn't have to consciously do anything to establish or maintain a lock on North. The app did that in the background. 

 

2) The compass no longer randomly drifts as I walk. It will maintain lock IF I HOLD IT FLAT, horizontally. This is an improvement with 7.4.0. It used to drift no matter how I held it.

 

3) If I drop my phone to my side (or put it in a pocket) and bring it back up to horizontal, it will have lost North. This was not the case before this entire issue started. I used to do this all the time with my 4, 5 and 6S with no ill effects. Anyway, I can now recover north by holding it vertically (as if suction-cupped to a car windshield, at which point I can bring it back to norizontal and it will remember north and stay locked. I can't say this works 100% of the time, though, because I only happened to discover it partway through the day. For my last six cache finds of 2/9/19, yes.

 

4) When I open a cache and go straight to the compass rose (as in (1) above), the hold-it-vertical trick will NOT establish an initial compass lock on North. I always have to open the iPhone's compass to establish that initial lock.

 

5) The iPhone compass lock trick has to be repeated for each and every cache I go after. The app does not maintain any sort of synch as I move from one cache to another. It doesn't maintain for an entire session.

 

6) I am noticing more buggy behavior where the distance doesn't change at all as I walk around GZ, but this is not always the case and I cannot predict this behavior. It's the kind of thing you might see in heavy tree cover, but I'm in the open desert with nothing but blue sky above. This may be unrelated to all of the above.

 

A THOUGHT - Now, if there is ANYTHING about the new Xr or the latest iOS update that may be involved (and can be solved by using different iPhone settings than before) please tell me. But I'm not inclined to think my Xr has a bad compass, because the compass always snaps to North right away as soon as I open it. Hmm, now that I think about it, it does seem to operate differently than my old 6S. My new Xr never asks me to do that weird spin move with my wrist to calibrate the compass. You remember that odd circular display with all the hash marks - the Xr (or the new iOs that came out about the same time as the Xr) never brings up such a screen. It seems to be premanently calibrated in a way that differs from the past. Could that be why your app isn't getting the proper North handshake? When I do open the iPhone compass, it does "Snap" to north; which is another way of saying it wasn't pointing there already when I initially opened the compass app. The SNAP only took milliseconds, so it knew where North was without a gyro calibration move, but it was pointing somewhere else in the moment between my button-press and the SNAP. Perhaps your sync handshake is locking on to that pre-SNAP "somewhere else" heading when your app opens. 

 

Thanks

 

Dan

Edited by actualsize

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1 hour ago, actualsize said:

I still do not get an initial compass lock when I bring up the compass rose. North isn't north until I open the iPhone's own compass app, which snaps to north right away. Once I do that I can go back to the geocaching compass rose, and it's fine.

 

I have an iPhone 8, and I saw some issues before the recent update, but I'm not sure if the problem you mention is limited to "iPhone X".

 

What if you do a "figure of eight" calibration?  Does that work instead of opening the compass App?

 

The ball game in a circle, compass calibration, disappeared a few iOS versions ago. Basically, Apple just says to wave the phone around, but I usually just move the phone in a "figure 8" pattern while slightly tilting the phone.  When any compass App seems to be misbehaving, I do that without even thinking about it (having much practice with 'droids).   My iPhone seemed slightly off at times this weekend, but I never open the "compass App", I do the figure 8.  I haven't done any particular tests since App version 7.4.0, when I did see some definite effects.

 

If you shut off the phone screen, and put it in your pocket, is that a consistent way to start the compass problem?

 

Do you have a magnet on you?  My belt-held iPhone case has a magnet clasp.  I don't expect that it affects the phone, but unless I'm able to duplicate it, I can't test how the magnet affects the issue.  I can of course stow the phone in one of 4 orientations, which may be affected in different ways by a magnet.

 

Edited by kunarion
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