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ElmoClarity

Phone GPS vs Standalone GPS

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I have been out of Geocaching for over 10 years, but getting ready to retire and planning on moving to Arkansas and was thinking of getting back into the hobby.  Got bored of all the lamp post caches here in the Los Angeles area.  I started with a Garmin etrex legend gps and still have it.  When I last used it, the GPS systems in smart phones where not good enough to be used as the main GPS.  I was wondering if the GPS systems in new phones are up to the job, try to revive my old Garmin, or get a new standalone GPS.  I saw mention of a GC App.  There was one when I was last on here, but because of the limits of the GPS, it really wasn't a viable option.

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There are people who use only smartphone apps for geocaching. There are people who use only handheld GPS receivers for geocaching. There are people who use both.

 

Groundspeak's Geocaching app limits what basic members can do, but it's a free download, and you should be able to use it enough to decide whether your smartphone will do the job for you. Give it a try.

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Modern phone GPS is equal to a handheld GPSr these days.  

If you don't need a GPSr for other things,  a modern phone works fine with this hobby.   :)

 

I feel the only difference would be how either is affected by your basic membership.

With a GPSr, you can access all caches not rated Premium Member Only by using the website.  Probably what you did before.

Using the app, you're limited to 2D/2T caches and below.

   - But you can add all caches not rated Premium Member Only in the app too, by adding caches as waypoints , using the website.

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54 minutes ago, cerberus1 said:

Modern phone GPS is equal to a handheld GPSr these days.  

 

Yes... especially if the cache is not hidden in woods which seems to be no go for many phones.

 

Last FTF-cache I found was hidden by using a smartphone. It was 58 meters off. :D

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1 hour ago, arisoft said:

Yes... especially if the cache is not hidden in woods which seems to be no go for many phones.

 

Last FTF-cache I found was hidden by using a smartphone. It was 58 meters off. :D

 

There's no reason why coordinates for a cache in the woods can't be taken accurately with a modern smartphone. It's all about the amount of effort and care the hider uses, which applies regardless of the type of device. In your example, the hider clearly didn't take the time to try to get an accurate reading.

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3 minutes ago, The A-Team said:

There's no reason why coordinates for a cache in the woods can't be taken accurately with a modern smartphone.

 

If there is no reason then why my mobile phone GPS is not working in the woods very well compared to betters receivers?

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14 minutes ago, arisoft said:

If there is no reason then why my mobile phone GPS is not working in the woods very well compared to betters receivers?

 

I don't know the details of the devices, so I can't answer your question.

 

I'd also like to revise my earlier statement:

Coordinates for a cache in the woods can generally be taken as accurately with a modern smartphone as with a handheld GPSr.

 

There may be cases where one might not get very good accuracy with one style of device compared to another (e.g. smartphone vs. handheld), but that will often be due to misconfiguration or lack of care, not an inherent shortcoming of the technology. In the end, both are using the same GPS system.

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1 hour ago, The A-Team said:

I don't know the details of the devices, so I can't answer your question.

 

I'd also like to revise my earlier statement:

Coordinates for a cache in the woods can generally be taken as accurately with a modern smartphone as with a handheld GPSr.

 

There may be cases where one might not get very good accuracy with one style of device compared to another (e.g. smartphone vs. handheld), but that will often be due to misconfiguration or lack of care, not an inherent shortcoming of the technology. In the end, both are using the same GPS system.

I think that may still be overstating it. My experience is that smartphone GPS receivers are comparable to the old yellow eTrex receivers that were common when I started geocaching. In a deep ravine in a redwood forest, neither my phone nor a basic GPS receiver like the old yellow eTrex will get a signal. Better handheld GPS receivers will get a signal. But in more open areas with better GPS reception, they'll all get signal, and they'll all come up with essentially the same coordinates.

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Phone GPS has always been fine on Android. I have over 10,000 fines over the last decade using the Geooh app exclusively. Don't let anyone tell you the dedicated GPSr are better than phones when it comes to locating caches.

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I began caching in March 2017.  I've only used my smartphone - and the official Geocaching App, both to find and place caches.  Same goes for hubby.  We have not had issues with coordinates in placing or finding caches.

 

I've occasionally used other apps, but I do come back to the official app - it works for us.  We are Premium, have been from the start, with no intentions of not being premium.  I've considered buying a GPSr device, but we seem to be doing OK with our phones, PQ's, working offline when no cell reception is available, and even caching in Mexico worked on our smartphones.  

 

Everyone is different; I've never used a dedicated GPSr, just my phone, and it seems to do the job FOR ME.  YMMV.

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I found three caches today with my phone but I still prefer to use my trusty GPSr. Personal preference. I just feel happier using the dedicated GPS unit.

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12 hours ago, arisoft said:

 

Yes... especially if the cache is not hidden in woods which seems to be no go for many phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 I had was really bad in woods but I don't have any issues with the S7.

 

I also bought a GPSr that I now mostly use when I am biking.

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8 hours ago, niraD said:

I think that may still be overstating it. My experience is that smartphone GPS receivers are comparable to the old yellow eTrex receivers that were common when I started geocaching. In a deep ravine in a redwood forest, neither my phone nor a basic GPS receiver like the old yellow eTrex will get a signal. Better handheld GPS receivers will get a signal. But in more open areas with better GPS reception, they'll all get signal, and they'll all come up with essentially the same coordinates.

 

I remember when I bought my first GPS device years before I started geocaching or smartphones were invented. The first receiver could get a fix only when there was practically no cover at any direction. I never used that device, it was so bad.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Lynx Humble said:

The Samsung Galaxy S4 I had was really bad in woods but I don't have any issues with the S7.

 

 

My S5 mini had terrible accuracy, at least when using the geocaching app.  It got confused at times doing road navigation in Google Maps as well.

 

So far I've been very pleased with the accuracy of my Samsung A6+, I've not retired the Montana GPSr but have certainly been using the phone more.

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Sorry for the late response here, but for some reason I didn't get notification of replies and had forgotten about it until today.

 

So, for everyone commenting about basic membership restrictions, that won't be an issue because when I start, I will be getting the premium membership.

 

So it sounds like I can easily start up again using my phone.  After I left the message, I broke out my old eTrex and started playing with it.  Turns out my phone could get a good gps location sitting in my room, but the eTrex could never lock onto enough satellites to get a fix.  So figure I will start with my phone and might get a handheld later if I feel it would help.

 

Thanks everyone.

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3 minutes ago, ElmoClarity said:

Turns out my phone could get a good gps location sitting in my room, but the eTrex could never lock onto enough satellites to get a fix.

Just because your phone reports a location doesn't mean that it has a GPS location (especially indoors). Unlike your eTrex, phones can also use cell tower triangulation and local WiFi networks to identify your location. These systems aren't as accurate as GPS, but they're good enough for most of the purposes phones use location services.

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That's under Settings, at least on Android.  You can tell it to use GPS only.  Bingo, accurate location.

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8 hours ago, niraD said:

Just because your phone reports a location doesn't mean that it has a GPS location (especially indoors). Unlike your eTrex, phones can also use cell tower triangulation and local WiFi networks to identify your location. These systems aren't as accurate as GPS, but they're good enough for most of the purposes phones use location services.

 

That's not completely true. The app developer can specify the accuracy needed for a location reading. They can say a low accuracy using cell and WiFi is sufficient or that a high accuracy using GPS is needed. So phones can be and are just as accurate as a GPSr.

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7 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

So phones can be and are just as accurate as a GPSr.

 

Really?

Here is the accuracy of a GPSr, 0.02m or 0.78 inch

 

GPS.jpg.3d5acd0116cdad42fbf8c4911c4b03a6.jpg

 

Which phone do you you think can be as accurate as this?

 

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14 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

That's not completely true. The app developer can specify the accuracy needed for a location reading. They can say a low accuracy using cell and WiFi is sufficient or that a high accuracy using GPS is needed. So phones can be and are just as accurate as a GPSr.

And if GPS isn't available (as in the situation I was referring to) and the app won't use cell tower triangulation or local WiFi networks, then the app won't have any location.

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15 hours ago, Mausebiber said:

 

Really?

Here is the accuracy of a GPSr, 0.02m or 0.78 inch

 

GPS.jpg.3d5acd0116cdad42fbf8c4911c4b03a6.jpg

 

Which phone do you you think can be as accurate as this?

 

 

With all due respect you don't know what you're looking. Looks more like some internal signal measurement not the accuracy of a location. Only professional engineering GPS units can obtain resolutions lower than 3 to 10 meters that consumer (with the same chips in phones) units can.

 

Hey, I don't care what you believe. Even if that was a legit location reading accuracy, it would only be useful to other cachers using the same device. You are hunting caches recorded with no telling what device and what accuracy they had at the time the CO took a reading... that has no bearing on you finding it with a "superior" GPS because you would be focused on coordinates they gave you (from inferior devices) not necessarily where the cache is spatially hidden.

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9 hours ago, niraD said:

And if GPS isn't available (as in the situation I was referring to) and the app won't use cell tower triangulation or local WiFi networks, then the app won't have any location.

No, the GPS in a phone is always available in the same environment as a GPSr... it's the cell network or wifi that may not be available. Again, the developer chooses the resolution accuracy to use in their app. If the app tells the phone to get a GPS location from the same chips used in a GPSr, that's what it gives.

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17 hours ago, Mausebiber said:

 

Really?

Here is the accuracy of a GPSr, 0.02m or 0.78 inch

 

GPS.jpg.3d5acd0116cdad42fbf8c4911c4b03a6.jpg

 

Which phone do you you think can be as accurate as this?

 

What device is this?

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2 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

No, the GPS in a phone is always available in the same environment as a GPSr... it's the cell network or wifi that may not be available. Again, the developer chooses the resolution accuracy to use in their app. If the app tells the phone to get a GPS location from the same chips used in a GPSr, that's what it gives.

So what happens if the phone is somewhere (e.g., indoors, in a cave, in a tunnel) with no GPS reception?

 

The situation I was discussing with ElmoClarity was a phone that was indoors, where a handheld receiver got no GPS reception. In that situation, I think it's more likely that the phone is getting location from some other system, than the phone is getting GPS reception where the handheld receiver can't get it.

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1 hour ago, niraD said:

So what happens if the phone is somewhere (e.g., indoors, in a cave, in a tunnel) with no GPS reception?

Then no device gets a gps signal.

 

Different devices can have different results; sensitivity of the signal reception would be the biggest factor.  Smartphones' strength is speed of location because it uses AGPS to gain a lower-accuracy but faster general location from cell tower triangulation. This is GPS satellite signal reception though.  All devices takes some amount of time to triangulate from listening to GPS satellite signals.  The quality of that reception (and speed of calculations) may vary from device to device.

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

With all due respect you don't know what you're looking. Looks more like some internal signal measurement not the accuracy of a location

I know exactly what I`m looking at, because I was using it.

I'm not discussing GPSr versus Phone, I'm questioning following statement: " So phones can be and are just as accurate as a GPSr. "

 

Quote

Even if that was a legit location reading accuracy, it would only be useful to other cachers using the same device.

 

There is much more than Geocaching where GPSr are used.

 

Leica GPS 07.jpg

Edited by Mausebiber

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5 hours ago, Mausebiber said:

I know exactly what I`m looking at, because I was using it.

I'm not discussing GPSr versus Phone, I'm questioning following statement: " So phones can be and are just as accurate as a GPSr. "

 

 

There is much more than Geocaching where GPSr are used.

 

Leica GPS 07.jpg

 

Seriously!? You are looking at a high end professional GPS unit not really available to consumer geocachers and using that as an argument that GPSr is better than phones? Seriously? How about pointing out the new Broadcom chips coming to phones that have the same or better resolution than even that unit? 

 

https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/09/21/1125892/0/en/Broadcom-Introduces-World-s-First-Dual-Frequency-GNSS-Receiver-with-Centimeter-Accuracy-for-Consumer-LBS-Applications.html

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6 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

Seriously!? You are looking at a high end professional GPS unit not really available to consumer geocachers and using that as an argument that GPSr is better than phones? Seriously? How about pointing out the new Broadcom chips coming to phones that have the same or better resolution than even that unit? 

 

These better GPS receivers are available to consumers.

 

The problem with phones is mostly related to the antenna, not the chip. Without a proper antenna even the best chips can not give precise measurements in poor conditions.

 

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6 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

You are looking at a high end professional GPS unit not really available to consumer geocachers and using that as an argument that GPSr is better than phones?

 

Do you understand what I'm talking about?  Read above, I'm not arguing against phones.  The statement was "Phones are as good as GPSr"  No word about "consumer", no word about "geocaching".  Why do have plane pilotes not just a Phone to navigate, why do have scientists GPSr instead of phones?  There is a good reason.

6 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

How about pointing out the new Broadcom chips coming to phones

.. and this chip is build into which phone?

 

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18 hours ago, Mausebiber said:

 

Do you understand what I'm talking about?  Read above, I'm not arguing against phones.  The statement was "Phones are as good as GPSr"  No word about "consumer", no word about "geocaching".  Why do have plane pilotes not just a Phone to navigate, why do have scientists GPSr instead of phones?  There is a good reason.

.. and this chip is build into which phone?

 

I'm tiring of this nonsense and will not play any more after this.

 

If you are going to quote me, at least do it in the context of the original poster on whether they should use a GPSr or phone getting back into the game and I truthfully said phones can be as accurate... for them finding geocaches... which was the core of their question. Now tell me what expensive GPSr you are showing off that can actually FIND a cache hidden with an iPhone 4 years ago any better than someone with a smartphone?

 

For a new cacher, their phone can be as "accurate" in locating caches as a GPSr because in the end the coordinates listed for a cache are not the absolute real-world location of the cache, but the CO's calculated location using a possible inferior unit. In the game of geocaching, phones can be and are just as accurate as GPSrs. For you to pull out some high end professional surveying GPS device (how much is it?) to argue that GPSr is more accurate to sway a cacher away from a phone is doing them a huge and potential costly disservice. Seriously, do you actually cache with that monster? Have fun with that.

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Posted (edited)

The advantage of a GPS for me, was that it saved me the need to pay for phone data for five years. Over that time the cost of my GPS would have been less than $5 a month, plus the cost of rechargeable batteries, which each lasted several years.  No phone data I could have got, especially running it for hours, would have been that cheap. Likely $50 a month minimal.

Edited by Goldenwattle

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Did you know you can phone-cache without using *any* data?  (Have I mentioned this a few times already?)

 

I wish people would lose the notion that phone-caching requires being connected.

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3 hours ago, SpiritGuide said:

For a new cacher, their phone can be as "accurate" in locating caches as a GPSr because in the end the coordinates listed for a cache are not the absolute real-world location of the cache

 

This is a false statement. Many geocaches placed by a phone user are 50 feet off the ground zero. If you are trying to find this kind of cache with equally bad phone, your coordinates are 100 feet off and you get most propably a DNF. If you have accurate professional device with 1 foot accuracy your changes are 4 times better.

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5 hours ago, Viajero Perdido said:

Did you know you can phone-cache without using *any* data?

I know, I'm not making friends this way.

If you have no data in your phone, no waypoints, no cache not *anything* how do you navigate to any point of interest?

 

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1 hour ago, Mausebiber said:

I know, I'm not making friends this way.

If you have no data in your phone, no waypoints, no cache not *anything* how do you navigate to any point of interest?

 

In the same manner as with your mega-money GPS.

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2 hours ago, Mausebiber said:

If you have no data in your phone, no waypoints, no cache not *anything* how do you navigate to any point of interest?

Connect to WiFi.

Download cache data, and possibly map data.

Go geocaching.

 

I know people who use dataless smartphones like this to go geocaching. I sometimes put my phone in airplane mode when I'm using it for geocaching in more remote locations, which is pretty much the same thing.

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OLD cell phones without GPS could mimick gps by triangulation with cell towers. Smartphones, especially modern and definitely recent, have native GPS capability and do not require cell towers to determine a GPS location. They do have the ability to also make use of cell towers to speed up a general location determination, which is not as accurate as GPS reception, but is much faster.   Without cell reception (let alone data), that feature doesn't work. But GPS can work just fine, dependent upon the sensitivity of that particular phone/brand's implemented GPS technology to satellite signal.

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4 hours ago, K13 said:

In the same manner as with your mega-money GPS.

 

4 hours ago, niraD said:

Connect to WiFi.

Download cache data, and possibly map data.

Go geocaching.

 

Yes, I understand this, but again, read above:

 

12 hours ago, Viajero Perdido said:

Did you know you can phone-cache without using *any* data?  (Have I mentioned this a few times already?)

 

K13 and niraD, both using data pre loaded to their GPSr or phone, but again how do you cache without *any* data?

Maybe I don't understand your language.

 

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You asked how to geocache with a data-less phone.

How do you geocache with the GPS device you showed in your posted photo (or any other GPS device)?

 

The method for either would likely be similar: 1. Enter the cache data (by any method). 2. Navigate to selected coordinates.

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3 minutes ago, Mausebiber said:

Maybe I don't understand your language.

 

I guess you understand well enough ;)

 

No data as in "no active internet connection" not as in "no cache data".

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, niraD said:

Connect to WiFi.

Download cache data, and possibly map data.

Go geocaching.

 

I know people who use dataless smartphones like this to go geocaching. I sometimes put my phone in airplane mode when I'm using it for geocaching in more remote locations, which is pretty much the same thing.

 

I do this, I have 1000 local caches (well some are not that local LOL!!) downloaded with the data and details on one List.

 

However, just for a bit of fun today, I did try to go out caching without the List. I did 10 caches over a 10 mile radius and in total my phone says the Geocache app downloaded 47mb and uploaded 4.8mb. I have a 4gb data plan with Three so if I ditched the list I can see that it will fit my plan just fine. But to get the most I will always download the whole area by wifi  before I leave the house on to the phone. So far, I have found the accuracy fine. There have been times when the lock and the compass have been a little slow to settle down. But I have never been more than  5m from the cache when I follow my phone. Of course not every phone has a compass sensor built in but if you have one which does, then Geocaching can be done perfectly well with a Mobile phone. I had an etrex once, don't want to go down that route again.

Edited by DollyJelly

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"Data" as a colloquial shorthand for "cellular online data connection". Figured that was obvious from the context.

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Maybe I really don't understand your language, maybe there is a big difference between the English and the American language, like in "traffic circle" and "roundabout"

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/data

 

But never mind, this discussion let you collect a lot of thumbs-up, at least it is good for something.

Thanks, and have a nice day,

MB

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I'm happy this topic was brought up. I'm currently using the Geocache.com app and their GPS on my android. It worked great until yesterday when hiding 3 caches.   The coordinates were way off on all 3. This never happened before. Is anyone else having a problem with the Geocache apps GPS?  I sent an email to customer service and my reviewer. Thanks!

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9 minutes ago, HunterSamuel said:

I'm happy this topic was brought up. I'm currently using the Geocache.com app and their GPS on my android. It worked great until yesterday when hiding 3 caches.   The coordinates were way off on all 3. This never happened before. Is anyone else having a problem with the Geocache apps GPS?  I sent an email to customer service and my reviewer. Thanks!

 

This happens almost every time. You must check your coordinates by visiting the site again and trying to find the ground zero with coordinates you have stored before. When you can find your cache yourself with these coordinates, then you are safe.

 

One simple reason why coordinates are usually way off is hurrying. GPS takes long time to "warm up". If you open the app and store the position immediatelly the position may be, for example, 300 feet off. After few minutes of running it will be more accurate. When you are searching a cache the GPS is continuously running and more accurate for that reason.

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A lot depends on how the satellites are in the sky, rain/cloud cover (humidity) and tree cover. Every once in a while I noticed that our location was off. Worst case was years ago when I was walking on a trail while the GPS put me 50-60m to my right (90°). I found the caches along the trail and noticed that my GPS track remained 90° to my right but got closer as I walked on. Almost half an hour later the GPS track was right on the trail as it should have been from the beginning. Even last weekend we were in a valley and found our first caches to be 10-15m off, as we walked further the next caches were almost spot on but there were still a few that were suddenly more than 10m off without any obvious reason.

It probably wouldn't have made any difference what GPS or phone you used as this can happen at random. That's why it's a good idea to get coordinates at different days/times when placing caches.

 

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2 hours ago, HunterSamuel said:

I'm happy this topic was brought up. I'm currently using the Geocache.com app and their GPS on my android. It worked great until yesterday when hiding 3 caches.   The coordinates were way off on all 3. This never happened before. Is anyone else having a problem with the Geocache apps GPS?  I sent an email to customer service and my reviewer. Thanks!

 

GPS "accuracy" is in your phone.   There's a lot of things that may affect "accuracy" in your phone's GPS.  on4bam has a few.

The other 2/3rds had an issue in a rocky area with lots of iron ore once, another inside a gorge.  Signal bounce mostly.

 - When she went back there a couple days later, everything was fine.

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17 hours ago, Mausebiber said:

Maybe I really don't understand your language, maybe there is a big difference between the English and the American language, like in "traffic circle" and "roundabout"

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/data

 

But never mind, this discussion let you collect a lot of thumbs-up, at least it is good for something.

Thanks, and have a nice day,

MB

You understand data in the proper sense of the word, it is being colloquially used here to mean 'connected to the internet by 3G (or whatever)', a usage which has become common , especially as smartphone connectivity bundle adverts often include the phrase 'data plans' when explaining their download/upload  limits per month.

So, in this particular context the meaning is no live data in the field. Not an obvious thing to a non native speaker, even one with a good level of understanding, and something a contributor here really shouldn't be criticized for.

 

Happy to say I need no live data in the field, just data stored in my GPS . Happy because if I choose to cache  I can do so even when the servers stop working , an advantage over the smartphone which hadn't occurred to me until recent events .

 

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Posted (edited)
43 minutes ago, hal-an-tow said:

Happy to say I need no live data in the field, just data stored in my GPS . Happy because if I choose to cache  I can do so even when the servers stop working , an advantage over the smartphone which hadn't occurred to me until recent events .

 

Um. That depends on the app. Obviously if the app doesn't store anything offline, then you can't view essential cache data if there's no live data reception available. But some apps either cache or store data offline once it's been downloaded. Just as if you were loading your gps for offline use. So yes, if your app is designed for offline use, then you can go geocaching just fine where there is no live data reception.

 

Further on that point: I still use Geosphere which is designed to work 100% offline (with GPS reception of course). Other apps are not.

Edited by thebruce0

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