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torkel72

Phone vs Garmin

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I use my phone almost exclusively.  I've really tried to make my Garmin more useful, but the interface is just awful, the display is substandard (compared to what I'm used to with my smartphone) and I've found the accuracy to be pretty much equivalent in most circumstances.  The few times I used my etrex, it was on a long hike or in rainy weather or when I was in a location without a reliable 4G signal.  

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1 hour ago, J Grouchy said:

I use my phone almost exclusively.  I've really tried to make my Garmin more useful, but the interface is just awful, the display is substandard (compared to what I'm used to with my smartphone) and I've found the accuracy to be pretty much equivalent in most circumstances.  The few times I used my etrex, it was on a long hike or in rainy weather or when I was in a location without a reliable 4G signal.  

 

You don't need a 4G signal at all to use your phone's GPS, much less a reliable one.  You DO need 4G or WiFi for online maps, but if you preload maps, much like you would on a GPSr, you can get around that problem as well.  $20-$30/yr will get you high quality Gaia maps for a year.  

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And Cachly on iOS has excellent offline maps as an addon for cheap. Worldwide (selecting which region to download of course). Much recommended.

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38 minutes ago, thebruce0 said:

Cachly on iOS

 

Or Locus Map (Pro / Free) on Android.  The leaders in their fields, as best as I can tell.

 

Between the two, fully offline caching is definitely available on phones, just like it is on classic GPS units ... with the advantage of being able to go online for quick updates if you feel the urge.

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7 hours ago, J Grouchy said:

I use my phone almost exclusively.  I've really tried to make my Garmin more useful, but the interface is just awful, the display is substandard (compared to what I'm used to with my smartphone) and I've found the accuracy to be pretty much equivalent in most circumstances.  The few times I used my etrex, it was on a long hike or in rainy weather or when I was in a location without a reliable 4G signal.  

 

Recently relocated to Silicon Valley and there are some amazing parks and trails in the hills around here. The problem no cell service. So I have two lists of caches in different parks that I have saved for off line use. I update the list before I leave or along the way in case there are issues with the caches or get the latest hints. As others have said the gps function still works fine and the listings can be read. The one downside is that I miss new cache placements but one park appears to be pretty saturated already. 

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On 2/27/2020 at 7:15 PM, NYPaddleCacher said:

 

If you want to do boat accessible caches, and use a smart phone, a waterproof bag like this is essential.   

 

 

 

Depends on the smart phone. There are many unboxing underwater videos on youtube for different brands and types of smartphones.

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On 2/28/2020 at 10:59 PM, MNTA said:

 

Recently relocated to Silicon Valley and there are some amazing parks and trails in the hills around here. The problem no cell service. So I have two lists of caches in different parks that I have saved for off line use. I update the list before I leave or along the way in case there are issues with the caches or get the latest hints. As others have said the gps function still works fine and the listings can be read. The one downside is that I miss new cache placements but one park appears to be pretty saturated already. 

 

I can save my maps in the app I use, but it takes planning...something I'm not always great at doing.

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J Grouchy mentioned that the GPSr they use is sub-standard compared to their smartphone. For me, it's the exact opposite. The trans-reflective screens on my GPSr's are readable in direct sunlight. I cannot see my smartphone display without turning my back to the sun, and creating a shadow.

 

As for accuracy, each device has their own little quirks. Generally, my Montana is OK, but the Oregon does better in trees. They both have multi-pathing issues downtown in large cities. The smartphone is usually better downtown, because of its ability to use WiFI and Bluetooth enhancements, however that backfires in large downtown parks.

 

My take-away, smartphone versus GPSr, it depends on a lot of different factors. YMMV.

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13 minutes ago, Wet Pancake Touring Club said:

My take-away, smartphone versus GPSr, it depends on a lot of different factors. YMMV.

This.

 

There isn't an objective generic "better" or "worse" - the comparison needs qualification. And when that happens, the one that's better for you will only be determined by you. Because "you" is one of the biggest factors :)

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On 2/28/2020 at 10:59 PM, MNTA said:

Recently relocated to Silicon Valley and there are some amazing parks and trails in the hills around here. The problem no cell service. 

 

Wow.  Thanks for that.  :)

All this talk about "5G" with every carrier, and the area I'd think would be most up on this would be silicon valley.

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25 minutes ago, Wet Pancake Touring Club said:

My take-away, smartphone versus GPSr, it depends on a lot of different factors. YMMV.

 

I prefer both.  I use "Waze" to route me to a cache area (or to hunt for a parking place for individual caches), and it cannot be pre-loaded, so it works only in an online phone and fails miserably at times.  So my toughest challenge is mitigating the problems when the phone Apps fail... preparing in case they fail... in case there's a bug this month that has broken some App function.  I have an old Garmin Nuvi ready to route me home, just in case.  So it's more like both, plus a backup.  :)

 

But I have a Garmin Oregon 750.  The phone can talk to it.  So that setup is fluid.  It's one or the other or a combination of phone and GPS.  The deciding factor is just how solid, or how borderline, or how gone, the data signal is.  Which you don't always know in advance.

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21 minutes ago, cerberus1 said:

All this talk about "5G" with every carrier, and the area I'd think would be most up on this would be silicon valley.

 

I'm caught off-guard frequently by "no service", like in the middle of town where I've been caching online all day (OK, it's not in Silicon Valley, but still ^_^).  Now I have to change settings on my phone (probably find an emergency Hotspot), switch my brain to "OK, I'm totally offline now, so remember there's that "drafts" glitch, and don't use that button or that one or that one"  ...when I was fully prepared only to work online like 99.9% of "phone cachers" expect to do.

 

So then my problem is "you're using Verizon, right?".  Nope.  "Because that's your problem, you're not using Verizon".  So I need just the right current model of phone and Verizon.  Got it.  I wonder why that wasn't mentioned before.  People could go ahead and tell me up-front what exactly all the "phone" requirements are, not wait til it fails and then mention another thing I need. B)

 

On balance, the handheld GPS has the advantage "offline", so I close the Apps and use the Garmin.

 

Edited by kunarion

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5 hours ago, kunarion said:

I'm caught off-guard frequently by "no service", like in the middle of town where I've been caching online all day (OK, it's not in Silicon Valley, but still ^_^).

There are neighborhoods in the middle of Palo Alto with terrible cell service. They've been trying to get more cell towers or cell antennas or whatever built for years, but the NIMBY vote keeps blocking them. So they continue to have terrible cell service in neighborhoods in the middle of Palo Alto.

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35 minutes ago, niraD said:

There are neighborhoods in the middle of Palo Alto with terrible cell service. They've been trying to get more cell towers or cell antennas or whatever built for years, but the NIMBY vote keeps blocking them. So they continue to have terrible cell service in neighborhoods in the middle of Palo Alto.


So they have to decide, do they want No Cell Tower, or great phone service?  It’s one or the other.  And maybe on your property. :cute:

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16 hours ago, niraD said:

There are neighborhoods in the middle of Palo Alto with terrible cell service. They've been trying to get more cell towers or cell antennas or whatever built for years, but the NIMBY vote keeps blocking them. So they continue to have terrible cell service in neighborhoods in the middle of Palo Alto.

 

There are lots of areas in Manhattan where GPS signals are terrible.  

 

To me using a smartphone when cellular service isn't available basically boils down you your habits.   A dedicated GPS user is in the habit of always making sure that caches and maps are loaded before leaving home.  A smart phone user typically is in the habit of using the device with the expectation that cache data and maps will be available in real time.  Getting in the habit of making sure cache data and maps are loaded on the smartphone will ensure there are not surprises when getting into a dead zone.

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16 hours ago, kunarion said:

So they have to decide, do they want No Cell Tower, or great phone service?  It’s one or the other.  And maybe on your property. :cute:

 

Yep.   :D    A perfect example is the tree-huggers suing every time someone wants to cut a fire-break, or control-burn brush.

 - But then they wonder why they have forest fires destroying the same area they thought they were protecting.

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OK, we've established that "availability of cell service vs. needing to plan ahead by saving cache data" is a relevant consideration when deciding between a smartphone and a handheld GPS.  Let's keep on topic, thanks.

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On 2/25/2020 at 6:30 AM, NYPaddleCacher said:

That, however, may change soon.   There is a company that is producing a new mass market GPS chip that can be put into a phone that alledgedly will be accurate to within one foot.

 

https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/9/25/16362296/gps-accuracy-improving-one-foot-broadcom

That's an old article whose prediction didn't come true.  However, it is worth noting what technology is actually in the works, and when...

 

I believe that article refers to access to the L5 band, a topic we've already covered elsewhere, and for which some phones are already fully prepared.  Don't expect 1 foot accuracy, however.  The addition of L5 will certainly improve things (think of worldwide WAAS and EGNOS, but better), but not to that degree.  It will be a bit until the full constellation of current generation satellites is up in the sky and the requisite messaging to get turned on to get the best benefit.

 

See this post for a list of phone manufacturers already lined up for it >>

 

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21 hours ago, NYPaddleCacher said:

 

There are lots of areas in Manhattan where GPS signals are terrible.  

 

To me using a smartphone when cellular service isn't available basically boils down you your habits.   A dedicated GPS user is in the habit of always making sure that caches and maps are loaded before leaving home.  A smart phone user typically is in the habit of using the device with the expectation that cache data and maps will be available in real time.  Getting in the habit of making sure cache data and maps are loaded on the smartphone will ensure there are not surprises when getting into a dead zone.

 

Not quite true. I don't need cell service on my smartphone to go out geocaching. Plus that I have gpx-files and maps downloaded on my smartphone before I go out. Because here in the Netherlands there are several large areas without cell service.

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On 3/3/2020 at 10:56 AM, NYPaddleCacher said:

To me using a smartphone when cellular service isn't available basically boils down you your habits.   A dedicated GPS user is in the habit of always making sure that caches and maps are loaded before leaving home.  A smart phone user typically is in the habit of using the device with the expectation that cache data and maps will be available in real time.  Getting in the habit of making sure cache data and maps are loaded on the smartphone will ensure there are not surprises when getting into a dead zone.

 

 

Yes and no. I see many Forum Threads about online and offline bugs by people who in fact pre-load the data, so not only is “pre-loading” not the entire answer, but, yes many people are using phones with the expectation of being online. So it is how you use it, but also that there are a ton of gotchas in any case.

 

But if you work entirely offline, what exactly is a “phone” for? If it's simply the convenience of one device (a phone), you already have a phone. You don't need to ask “GPS or phone”, you have a phone already. Why not then enjoy the phone? Maybe because a phone is... not so great for Geocaching? Hold that thought.  :ph34r:

 

And if the question is “I have neither, so do I run out and buy a top-of-the-line phone that costs (in addition to a monthly data fee... or are you using it without data?) twice as much as a top-of-the-line handheld GPS?”, I'm not gonna recommend a phone to you in that case.

 

Anyway, the OP owns newish phones, and now a Garmin Oregon 700.  So it's still maybe about ""Phone vs. Garmin", but more a matter of putting it all together.

 

 

Edited by kunarion
An atom bomb went off, so I hid in a refrigerator.
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10 hours ago, kunarion said:

But if you work entirely offline, what exactly is a “phone” for?

For years, I have had both a handheld GPS receiver and a smartphone. In low signal areas, I often use the phone in airplane mode (to conserve its battery), which means I'm using it entirely offline.

 

Why?

 

With a decent app, it is easier to download cache and map data to my smartphone because I can do it over wifi, or even over a cellular data connection if I can't find free wifi. I don't have to connect my receiver to my laptop with a USB cable, or download GPX file(s) to my laptop, or copy GPX file(s) to my receiver.

 

With a decent app, it is easier to upload field notes drafts from my smartphone because I can do it over wifi, or even over a cellular data connection if I can't find free wifi. I don't have to connect my receiver to my laptop with a USB cable, or download GPX file(s) to my laptop, or copy GPX file(s) to my receiver.

 

So when do I use the handheld GPS receiver? When the increased durability, battery life, and/or GPS reception (in poor conditions) of the receiver outweigh the increased convenience of the smartphone.

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46 minutes ago, niraD said:

For years, I have had both a handheld GPS receiver and a smartphone. In low signal areas, I often use the phone in airplane mode (to conserve its battery), which means I'm using it entirely offline.

 

Why?

 

With a decent app, it is easier to download cache and map data to my smartphone because I can do it over wifi, or even over a cellular data connection if I can't find free wifi. I don't have to connect my receiver to my laptop with a USB cable, or download GPX file(s) to my laptop, or copy GPX file(s) to my receiver.

 

With a decent app, it is easier to upload field notes drafts from my smartphone because I can do it over wifi, or even over a cellular data connection if I can't find free wifi. I don't have to connect my receiver to my laptop with a USB cable, or download GPX file(s) to my laptop, or copy GPX file(s) to my receiver.

 

So when do I use the handheld GPS receiver? When the increased durability, battery life, and/or GPS reception (in poor conditions) of the receiver outweigh the increased convenience of the smartphone.


That’s a lot like what I did for a few years.  I had “phones” (also an iPad) with no phone subscription, loaded with caches, which I might use to find a cache, but more as a database backup.  And an easy way to load a new cache on a trip.  It’s not too different now that I have data service.

 

But deciding “GPS or phone” really depends on the particular GPS and Phone.  And the cacher’s situation.

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Just thought I'd add something interesting about "1 foot accuracy"
I've recently done some caches involving Celestial Navigation and was curious about how far a degree/minute/second is.
1 minute of latitude is equal to 1 mile
1 mile is 5280 feet
Geocache coordinates are listed out to the 1/1000 place of a minute.
1/1000 * 5280 = 5.3 feet.
So it's really only possible to have accuracy within 5 or 6 feet, unless you have geocache coordinates out to more decimal places.

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True enough, which is why when I see coordinates for consumer use posted out to 6 or more decimal places (dd.dddddd...) in any venue, I can only chuckle at the waste of bits.

Here, 0.001 in decimal minutes is roughly 4' 'wide' and 6' 'tall' on the map.  The width (longitude) depends upon your latitude, of course.

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3 hours ago, ecanderson said:

True enough, which is why when I see coordinates for consumer use posted out to 6 or more decimal places (dd.dddddd...) in any venue, I can only chuckle at the waste of bits.

Here, 0.001 in decimal minutes is roughly 4' 'wide' and 6' 'tall' on the map.  The width (longitude) depends upon your latitude, of course.

 

It's typical for coordinates expressed as Degrees Decimal Minutes that the minutes portion only use 3 decimal places.   However dd.dddddd is the representation of a coordinate in Decimal Degrees notation, which if only used 3 digits to the right of the decimal point, would not be precise enough.  

 

 

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On 3/13/2020 at 12:55 AM, HoochDog said:

1 minute of latitude is equal to 1 mile
1 mile is 5280 feet
Geocache coordinates are listed out to the 1/1000 place of a minute.
1/1000 * 5280 = 5.3 feet.
So it's really only possible to have accuracy within 5 or 6 feet, unless you have geocache coordinates out to more decimal places.

 

To be precise, 1 minute of latitude is equal to 1 nautical mile, which is 1.1508 of your statute miles. But the GPS technology is only accurate to a few metres (about 10 feet) under ideal conditions so increasing the number of decimal places in the minutes beyond 3 won't make it any more accurate.

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3 hours ago, NYPaddleCacher said:

 

It's typical for coordinates expressed as Degrees Decimal Minutes that the minutes portion only use 3 decimal places.   However dd.dddddd is the representation of a coordinate in Decimal Degrees notation, which if only used 3 digits to the right of the decimal point, would not be precise enough.  

 

 

Agreed.  As I noted, in decimal degrees, 6+ is where it gets a little silly.  Note that for decimal minutes, I used 0.001 as the reasonable limit.  The new Garmin units that display to 0.0001 decimal minutes are a little overkill, but that has been covered in another thread.

 

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On 3/13/2020 at 4:40 PM, barefootjeff said:

To be precise, 1 minute of latitude is equal to 1 nautical mile, which is 1.1508 of your statute miles. But the GPS technology is only accurate to a few metres (about 10 feet) under ideal conditions so increasing the number of decimal places in the minutes beyond 3 won't make it any more accurate.

 

However, we can map to a much higher degree of precision, so having coordinates to more than 3 decimals can aid in visually locating more precise locations, even if a gps device can't pinpoint a location physically to that precision.  The GPS data can be extra precise, while the GPS device is limited along with our standard GPS coordinate format (in geocaching) of 3 decimal minutes.   Someone with a much higher precision device could provide a more accurate location - though it would be reduced once made into a listing. The CO could provide more accurate coordinates in the description for anyone who has a device with higher accuracy than the 3 decimal digits provides.

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On 3/16/2020 at 7:17 AM, thebruce0 said:

However, we can map to a much higher degree of precision, so having coordinates to more than 3 decimals can aid in visually locating more precise locations, even if a gps device can't pinpoint a location physically to that precision.

Are the maps (and satellite imagery) we have generally aligned accurately enough for this to be useful?

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21 minutes ago, mustakorppi said:

Are the maps (and satellite imagery) we have generally aligned accurately enough for this to be useful?

Some are. Some aren't. The trick is knowing which maps and satellite imagery are calibrated with the accuracy of professional surveying GPS equipment.

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