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external antenna to boost GPS Signal?


TreasureBee46
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I am wondering if I could get a GPS antenna to connect by Bluetooth (or maybe by a cord) to my mobile phone so I can have a little more accuracy on my phone.  It is frustrating when the gps jumps me from getting closer to the cache to a half mile away when I walk by water, down a hill, or between some rocks on the trail.  I know I could purchase a GPSr, but I'm new and trying to find a less expensive way to get me a little closer to my target.  My husband calls me obsessed, but I enjoy walking with a purpose more than just walking.  Thanks!

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15 minutes ago, TreasureBee46 said:

I am wondering if I could get a GPS antenna to connect by Bluetooth (or maybe by a cord) to my mobile phone so I can have a little more accuracy on my phone.  It is frustrating when the gps jumps me from getting closer to the cache to a half mile away when I walk by water, down a hill, or between some rocks on the trail.  I know I could purchase a GPSr, but I'm new and trying to find a less expensive way to get me a little closer to my target.  My husband calls me obsessed, but I enjoy walking with a purpose more than just walking.  Thanks!

 

Yes, there are external receivers, bluetooth and direct connect.  I have one of each for my ipad, and the specialized Apps for them.  It takes some reasearch to shop for just the right kind.

 

Accuracy is a whole other matter.  B)

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I have been using an external Bluetooth GPS receiver for almost 10 years now. I didn't want to have a dedicated GPSr because it is not always updated and the only problem with a mobile phone seems to be the accuracy in difficult conditions - basically in the woods. Using this kind of setup is somehow technically challenging but it is worth it.

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Phones are generally terrible for geocaching and hiking, IMHO. I would never recommend them to anyone for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is flaky accuracy.

 

Take a look at the pre-owned GPS market if price is an issue. You can find very good, capable receivers for surprisingly little money. You will also enjoy geocaching and hiking more having a dedicated device. :)

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10 hours ago, TreasureBee46 said:

I am wondering if I could get a GPS antenna to connect by Bluetooth (or maybe by a cord) to my mobile phone so I can have a little more accuracy on my phone. 

It is frustrating when the gps jumps me from getting closer to the cache to a half mile away when I walk by water, down a hill, or between some rocks on the trail.  I know I could purchase a GPSr, but I'm new and trying to find a less expensive way to get me a little closer to my target.  My husband calls me obsessed, but I enjoy walking with a purpose more than just walking.  Thanks!

 

Civilian GPS is still only "accurate" to around ten feet.  That could extend some when the hiders "around 10' " is different than yours.  :)

Signal bounce is something that affects GPS as well. River gorges/canyons, city buildings, and "rocks", may all contribute to bounce.

GPS signal may be direct from a satellite,  but it refracts off objects all around you.

Unless your "antenna" is taller that the area surrounding, you could have some sorta signal interference.  

When we went to a GPSr with an external antenna (and not just a patch), it was better for signal in general.

Our first older GPSrs, it was a real pain-in-the-can to find an open area to restart, just because you went under a tree.    :D

 

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3 hours ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

not the least of which is flaky accuracy.

In general, phones are no less accurate than a GPSr. There may be some specific low-end models or old obsolete models that don't have great location hardware, but any phone purchased in the last 3-5 years is going to compete just fine with a handheld GPSr, recent models with multi-band notwithstanding. The key is understanding your phone's location settings. Android phones, for example, have 3 options - one that uses GPS receiver only, one that uses cell towers only, and one that combines both. If you don't take the time to choose your method of location finding, you may be on the wrong one for geocaching. Many phones today will connect to multiple satellite systems - GPS, GLONASS, Gallileo, etc. 

How apps use location services can also impact usage. The geocaching app has been pretty good, and admittedly, it's better and more responsive on my newer phone than on my old Galaxy S6 (I use a Pixel 4a), but even then it was useable.

I reject the premise that phones are terrible for geocaching and hiking on the grounds of flaky accuracy. While I do prefer a GPS for hiking due to better durability, screen readability, and battery life, a phone will get the job done just as well.

 

I also reject the premise that an external antenna is the solution to the OP's problems. First go through and check your location settings and make sure it's set for either "most accurate" or "GPS Only." Then you may want to consider the apps that you are using. Also, you may want to give us an idea of what phone you are using because if it is 6 or 7 years old, you might actually just benefit from a new phone, and not just for the GPS capabilities, but to receive OS and security updates.

Edited by Mineral2
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OMG - Here we go again.

 

The OP did not ask if phones or dedicated GPSr were better, they asked about boosting GPS signal strength on their phone with an external antenna.

 

Yet, here we are, arguing about which is better, Phone or GPSr. Again. Still.

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12 hours ago, TreasureBee46 said:

I am wondering if I could get a GPS antenna to connect by Bluetooth (or maybe by a cord) to my mobile phone so I can have a little more accuracy on my phone.

 

Short answer: Yes.

 

Long Answer: While you could connect an external GPS receiver to your existing phone via cable or wirelessly, and perhaps mount that antenna in a better location, possibly at the end of a very long pole that you might hold over your head to get the antenna 'higher up', the quantifiable result will likely be no better than what you are already seeing >95% of the time. And that is only if you can get the software on your phone to use the signal from the external antenna successfully and reliably. This solution will require more patience and provide more frustration than other options that are available to you, should you decide to pursue this course of action.

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38 minutes ago, Atlas Cached said:

OMG - Here we go again.

 

The OP did not ask if phones or dedicated GPSr were better, they asked about boosting GPS signal strength on their phone with an external antenna.

 

Yet, here we are, arguing about which is better, Phone or GPSr. Again. Still.

 

In a perfect world there's no difference.  At least, "a PARTICULAR phone is better".  But if it's an iPhone (like my iPhone 8s) there are unaddressed issues, gremlins that have existed for at least a year, where "2 miles off" happens within the Official App (and the AL App).  Frequently.  Phone is best as phone, a GPSr is designed to NOT be 2 miles off, and if an update causes this, the GPS software gets fixed for sure (aside from older models that don't get updated).  When people insist there's no real difference, I cringe.  What if people believe that, and now they're 2 miles off?  Will they ask?  Or will they be frustrated enough to quit Geocaching? 

 

Still, you can Geocache even with an iPhone.  It's telling you where the cache is, just like a GPS does.  But it's different, of course. You already know "2 miles away" isn't right, rule that out and look at the other bearing/distance data being presented.  Read and use all the Cache info, not just the compass.  Plus the phone has an overhead map showing a photo of the likely Lamp Post.  It's just a tool, no device finds the cache for you.  

 

Anyway, if The App is 2 miles off, what if it again is 2 miles off using the theoretical way-cool new External GPS Antenna?  You've got quite a hike to do.  B)

 

 

Edited by kunarion
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13 hours ago, TreasureBee46 said:

It is frustrating when the gps jumps me from getting closer to the cache to a half mile away when I walk by water, down a hill, or between some rocks on the trail.

 

Before buying new hardware, try another App.  You might start with a factory App, just to see if it is less jumpy.  I don't mind seeing the position updated frequently, even if some points aren't ideal -- I don't need to wait for the next computation to show.  I LIKE jumpy. :P  

 

If you're in a bad spot for GPS precision, the Cache Owner's device also was in a bad spot.  So if your GPS points to only one place perfectly, beware that for the CO, the coordinates might have been very loose.  "Accuracy" in a place where it's hard to get a good signal can be still just a rough estimate.

 

Without knowing which phone or software you have, it's tough to recommend something, but Geocaching Apps can be bought with a one-time purchase.  And I've easily gotten a refund from the app store if some new GPS App wasn't acceptable, at least from Google Play.  I think the trick is to request a refund within only a few minutes, if possible.

 

Some Apps have ongoing subscriptions, and with funds flowing, therefore are regularly updated.  Apps such as The Official App.  Some of the coolest Geocaching Apps that I paid for have vanished (or stopped working), so fingers crossed.  If it hasn't been updated in a couple of years, it may or may not work fine for a while.  But keep The Official App anyway.  It's handy to have more than one.

 

Edited by kunarion
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5 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

the quantifiable result will likely be no better than what you are already seeing >95% of the time

 

The main advance is when your mobile phone navigation is freezing in the woods, an external and more sensitive receiver is still updating the position.

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40 minutes ago, arisoft said:

 

The main advance is when your mobile phone navigation is freezing in the woods, an external and more sensitive receiver is still updating the position.

 

That's an interesting point.  The device is still computing and sending the best possible location fix, although the phone itself may have lag.  There are many factors in play, but it seems like the external device has an advantage. 

 

The only issues I have with the two I own is, they are cheaply made (they are in no way obviously an upgrade in antenna fanciness), and the Apps that interface the GPS dongles are incredibly poor.  But mine were for a non-GPS iPad, my goal was to at least have GPS, plus the direct-connect device included info on specific satellites.  Even the best built-in GPS iPhone doesn't show SAT status.  iPhones by design don't tell you the source of their location fix at any given time.

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Thank you all.  My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, so it is a recent one.  I have read all the "which is better: GPS or phone", but no one had addressed the idea of adding an antenna to a phone, so I asked.  I'm thinking about a GPSr, but not sure which one.   Thanks!

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26 minutes ago, TreasureBee46 said:

Thank you all.  My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, so it is a recent one.  I have read all the "which is better: GPS or phone", but no one had addressed the idea of adding an antenna to a phone, so I asked.  I'm thinking about a GPSr, but not sure which one.   Thanks!

 

As mentioned, it's more a matter of getting familiar with the device, phone or handheld GPS, or a combination of both.  And if you switch from one to the other, it's pretty much a whole new ballgame.  There are advantages, quirks, and trade-offs.

 

I've been upgrading "Garmin Oregon" for years.  But when I cache with someone who has a Garmin GPSMAP (such as the good ol' "cx"), I'm still wandering around when they've found the cache.  GPSMAP, even the flagship 66s, has a "quad helix" antenna.  Many other devices have a flat antenna soldered to a circuit board.  It makes no difference, for Geocaching.  You know, except that the guy with the GPSMAP finds it first.  :huh:

 

Edited by kunarion
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22 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

Yet, here we are, arguing about which is better, Phone or GPSr. Again. Still.

 

The OP is still experimenting to find an optimal solution, and is even open to the idea of getting a dedicated GPSr, so this is all relevant discussion.

 

22 hours ago, Mineral2 said:

In general, phones are no less accurate than a GPSr. There may be some specific low-end models or old obsolete models that don't have great location hardware, but any phone purchased in the last 3-5 years is going to compete just fine with a handheld GPSr, recent models with multi-band notwithstanding. The key is understanding your phone's location settings. Android phones, for example, have 3 options - one that uses GPS receiver only, one that uses cell towers only, and one that combines both. If you don't take the time to choose your method of location finding, you may be on the wrong one for geocaching. Many phones today will connect to multiple satellite systems - GPS, GLONASS, Gallileo, etc. 
 

 

You may be correct on the accuracy part. I am only judging from the limited experience I have using smartphones to hike/cache and I in every instance I was unimpressed. I always ended up going back to the handheld. I suppose position accuracy wasn't really the problem, but there were a number of times the compass arrow would point in the wrong direction, and then go away after an app restart. App lock ups, and all the annoying hiking/map apps that require you to register for an account, log in, have a subscription, blah blah... no thanks, too much of a hassle.

 

Another issue with phones -- and maybe this is at the core of what I don't like about them -- is that you feel like you are renting a service to use. The apps can change tomorrow with an update, or the app developers can go out of business and leave you hanging, raise their costs, etc. It's sort of an unreliable ecosystem, and makes you feel like you are at the mercy of whoever is making these apps. A dedicated GPSr, on the other hand, gives you more control over your device and provides a more stable and predictable ownership experience. They are also built from the ground up to be extremely reliable and well suited for outdoor use.

 

I could go on... :D

 

Edited by Tahoe Skier5000
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16 hours ago, kunarion said:

 

I've been upgrading "Garmin Oregon" for years.  But when I cache with someone who has a Garmin GPSMAP (such as the good ol' "cx"), I'm still wandering around when they've found the cache.  GPSMAP, even the flagship 66s, has a "quad helix" antenna.  Many other devices have a flat antenna soldered to a circuit board.  It makes no difference, for Geocaching.  You know, except that the guy with the GPSMAP finds it first.  :huh:

 

Just a couple weeks ago purchased a GPSMAP 66s and wow!  Now I haven't had a new GPS since my Magellan Triton 400 years ago and I am beyond impressed with the 66s and I don't know half of what it does yet but I can tell you the accuracy and the picking up signals even under heavy canopies is amazing!  No more walking out of the woods and back in trying to stay on the heading.  My wife uses her phone and she is typically about 20ft off.  Just got my youngest a Garmin Etrex 10 and it is very accurate as well, haven't noticed any problems or differences between the two in accuracy but we have only used the Etrex on 2 cache trips.  

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1 hour ago, BOTO14 said:

Just a couple weeks ago purchased a GPSMAP 66s and wow!  Now I haven't had a new GPS since my Magellan Triton 400 years ago and I am beyond impressed with the 66s and I don't know half of what it does yet but I can tell you the accuracy and the picking up signals even under heavy canopies is amazing!  No more walking out of the woods and back in trying to stay on the heading.  My wife uses her phone and she is typically about 20ft off.  Just got my youngest a Garmin Etrex 10 and it is very accurate as well, haven't noticed any problems or differences between the two in accuracy but we have only used the Etrex on 2 cache trips.  


I’m envious when someone pulls an Etrex out of a pants pocket. :P

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13 hours ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

 

What price range are you looking at?

 

I want to figure out what I would use in the GPSr, then see where that starts in the price department.  My hubby wants to make sure this is not a "passing fancy" of mine.  SInce I'm still new...my first find was 3/28/2021...I still need some more experience before investing in a "toy" for my new hobby.

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1 hour ago, TreasureBee46 said:

 

I want to figure out what I would use in the GPSr, then see where that starts in the price department.  My hubby wants to make sure this is not a "passing fancy" of mine.  SInce I'm still new...my first find was 3/28/2021...I still need some more experience before investing in a "toy" for my new hobby.

The GPS's use is not only for geocaching. It's great when out for a walk in the bush, where there is no phone reception. You can make WPs to find your way out, so as not to get lost. Particularly great on dull days, when you can't use the sun. Although these were taken when in search of caches - in there, somewhere - it's the same idea. It helps us not to get lost, with no phone reception. Plus, my GPS will fit in my pocket, while my phone won't. And I can carry spare batteries for the GPS. My GPS is in my right hand in the first photograph.

 

Pushing through the bush.jpg

Bush bashing.jpg

Bush walk 1.jpg

View from the boulder top.jpg

Edited by Goldenwattle
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43 minutes ago, Goldenwattle said:

The GPS's use is not only for geocaching. It's great when out for a walk in the bush, where there is no phone reception. You can make WPs to find your way out, so as not to get lost. Particularly great on dull days, when you can't use the sun. Although these were taken when in search of caches - in there, somewhere - it's the same idea. It helps us not to get lost, with no phone reception. Plus, my GPS will fit in my pocket, while my phone won't. And I can carry spare batteries for the GPS. My GPS is in my right hand in the first photograph.

 

Cool photos!  One feature I like on my Garmin Oregon, but that I underutilize is "tracks".  I have tracks recorded at all times when the GPS is on, to see where I've been, or where I need to be if I bushwack far off trail.  I could even "backtrack", a mode built into the software.  I tried that once when I lost my camera in (one possibility) heavy sticker bushes.  It's not so great to walk back through the sticker bushes, but I followed my path.  And someone had already found the camera on the trail and brought it to lost & found.  But the point is, "tracks"!  :P

 

Yes, and it's super easy to take a waypoint snapshot.  Mine's set up to do that with one button.  The handheld GPS is the only way I know to take and save a whole lot of waypoint snapshots one after another quick & easy, which is the usual way I get the location of a spot I'm placing a cache.  I choose the waypoint that seems most consistently closest to GZ and use it.

Edited by kunarion
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20 hours ago, TreasureBee46 said:

 

I want to figure out what I would use in the GPSr, then see where that starts in the price department.  My hubby wants to make sure this is not a "passing fancy" of mine.  SInce I'm still new...my first find was 3/28/2021...I still need some more experience before investing in a "toy" for my new hobby.

 

A simple, low cost way to experiment is to buy an older, used GPSr off Ebay. You can find ones like the Etrex Legend Cx/HCx or Vista Cx/Hcx for under $50. These will support geocaching. Make sure it comes with a PC transfer cable. The mapping software is free, and free maps are available to download.

 

It won't be a luxury experience at that price point, but you will at least get to find out what features are important to you.

Edited by Tahoe Skier5000
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4 minutes ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

A simple, low cost way to experiment is to buy an older, used GPSr off Ebay. You can find ones like the Etrex Legend/Vista, or even newer Etrex Legend/Vista Cx/Hcx for under $50. Make sure it comes with a PC transfer cable. The mapping software is free, and free maps are available to download.

No! 

No! No! No! No!

Those devices are ancient. They require special cables. They aren't inherently geocaching compatible. And they don't really give you a taste of how modern GPS units function. If you are going to take the legacy route, go no farther back than the oldest models that support USB mass storage mode, gpx file support, and paperless geocaching. The eTrex 20/30, the Oregon 200/300, the (defunct) Colorado series, or the gpsMap62. Those are the oldest models we should be recommending to new users looking to save on a GPS. Anything else is like recommending your grandparents buy an Apple IIe as their first computer in 2021.

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6 minutes ago, Mineral2 said:

If you are going to take the legacy route, go no farther back than the oldest models that support USB mass storage mode, gpx file support, and paperless geocaching.


My eTrex Legend HCx has all of this. ?‍♂️

Edited by IceColdUK
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1 hour ago, Mineral2 said:

No! 

No! No! No! No!

Those devices are ancient. They require special cables. They aren't inherently geocaching compatible. And they don't really give you a taste of how modern GPS units function. If you are going to take the legacy route, go no farther back than the oldest models that support USB mass storage mode, gpx file support, and paperless geocaching. The eTrex 20/30, the Oregon 200/300, the (defunct) Colorado series, or the gpsMap62. Those are the oldest models we should be recommending to new users looking to save on a GPS. Anything else is like recommending your grandparents buy an Apple IIe as their first computer in 2021.


I’m too chicken to go back further than one generation - the model just before the one most recently released.  But I don’t throw out the oldest GPSr I own, either.  I donated a car GPS to Goodwill, the kind that weighs 5 pounds and attaches to the windshield with a 3 suction cup bracket.

 

An advantage of even the earlier  used models over a brand new one is, you know it’s not a factory dud.  Except you likely don’t know that if you buy it used off eBay.  But a brand new one is covered by a warrantee.
 

 

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4 hours ago, Mineral2 said:

No! 

No! No! No! No!

Those devices are ancient. They require special cables. They aren't inherently geocaching compatible. And they don't really give you a taste of how modern GPS units function. If you are going to take the legacy route, go no farther back than the oldest models that support USB mass storage mode, gpx file support, and paperless geocaching. The eTrex 20/30, the Oregon 200/300, the (defunct) Colorado series, or the gpsMap62. Those are the oldest models we should be recommending to new users looking to save on a GPS. Anything else is like recommending your grandparents buy an Apple IIe as their first computer in 2021.

 

I think you and I are only about one generation off on our threshold of acceptable entry level gps.

 

The Etrex Legend/Vista HC or HCx is still perfectly functional even in 2021. It supports geocaching, has USB transfer cable, mapping, high performance antenna, color display, and the PC software still works on Windows 10. What more do you need when you are starting out, and want to spend very little money? 

 

I mean if this were a Magellan 315 or Garmin 12XL, I would agree with you :lol:

 

 

Edited by Tahoe Skier5000
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21 minutes ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

 

The Etrex Legend/Vista HC or HCx is still perfectly functional even in 2021. It supports geocaching

 

It will show you your coordinates, yes, but it does not support geocaching in any modern form. It treats all geocaches as simple waypoints with a custom symbol, and does not support paperless geocaching, which means you have to bring all geocache info with you some other way. 

 

It can navigate to a given set of coordinates, but not much more.

 

 

23 minutes ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

has USB transfer cable

 

Yes, but still only supports Garmin proprietary data protocols. No mass storage mode.

 

 

24 minutes ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

mapping

 

And a very painful tiny amount of low detail mapping.

 

Modern models can supply entire continent's full of detailed topographical and routable street mapping as well a satellite imagery that require dozens of gigabytes to store.

 

These units top out at 24 megabytes internal memory and can use up to 3 GB of microSD card memory.

 

 

29 minutes ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

high performance antenna

 

For its day, yes, but not compared to modern device antennas.

 

 

30 minutes ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

color display

 

All 256 glorious colors. Compared to millions of colors on modern devices.

 

 

32 minutes ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

What more do you need when you are starting out, and want to spend very little money? 

 

For a little more money, you can get so much more capability. Features that anyone living in the modern world would expect to be standard equipment.

 

I would never suggest someone use such old crippled tech to determine if a modern hobby might be fun for them.

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8 hours ago, IceColdUK said:
8 hours ago, Mineral2 said:

If you are going to take the legacy route, go no farther back than the oldest models that support USB mass storage mode, gpx file support, and paperless geocaching.


My eTrex Legend HCx has all of this. ?‍♂️

 

7 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

 

No. It does not.


I haven’t actually used my old eTrex for Geocaching for years - I load it up as a backup before going on holiday, and still use it for navigation and as a ‘trip computer’ on my bike - but my memory is playing tricks on me. ☹️

 

It does have a USB Storage Mode (I load it from GSAK); it can distinguish between cache types (though that might be thanks to GSAK settings); but you’re right, not exactly paperless caching!

 

3 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

I would never suggest someone use such old crippled tech to determine if a modern hobby might be fun for them.


I think that’s a bit harsh, but I agree with the sentiment. ?

 

E54F454E-B3C3-4DDD-AB59-CB35FB10259A.jpeg.106464461d3cfdfebf24889a5aea54fb.jpeg22F216DF-3413-4FFB-8606-CD398B388ABA.jpeg.feef6c36b6910dec3f5278bb346894d2.jpeg

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On 4/17/2021 at 3:15 AM, TreasureBee46 said:

I want to figure out what I would use in the GPSr, then see where that starts in the price department. 

Hi, the best advice I would give you in "normal" times, is to go to a Geocaching Event. In my experience there are  usually cachers there with a range of devices, and most are more than happy to show off their shiny toys to newbies and will be able to give you some good advice, there may even be someone who could lend/sell you something. There will also be a range of apps that people are using,  you might see an app which suits you better, and there may be someone who can show you how to setup your phone better to make it more "accurate".

 

Of course these are not "normal" times, so events may not be available to you (we haven't had an event in the UK since March 2020, and still don't know when they will be allowed), and even if events are allowed in your area many people may not be keen to go along.

 

For all practical purposes a modern phone GPS is as accurate as a consumer GPS. If your phone is less than a few years old then the jumping half a mile isn't down to accuracy, it's because something isn't working properly, or some setting (e.g. maybe it's falling back to cell phone triangulation over GPS, which is probably just a matter of changing the setting.

 

You will often see anecdotal reports that "My GPS was spot on, but my mate's phone was x feet out", which is really meaningless unless you know how accurate the co-ords on the listing are - and you never  know that. Twice over the last 5-6 years I have done my own experiment by taking 2 GPSs and a couple of phones to  Ordnance Survey trig points and taking the recorded co-ords to compare with the co-ords of the trig point, the first time I did it my old yellow Etrex and the phone were within 5m, and my Etrex30 was within about 3m, the second time I did it with a newer phone both it and the Etrex30  were within 3m - which tells me that there's no practical difference between them.

 

Anyway,  I haven't read the whole thread but it seems to have diverted into a phone vs GPS thread somewhat so as I'm here I'll let you have my view:

  1. I was a die hard GPS only user for many years and I shunned phones because of phone accuracy and the app fuctionality, but I shifted as the phones improved.
  2. Nowadays I very rarely use my GPS, I'm more or less phone only (in fact I'm not even sure where my GPS is at the moment), it's just too much effort to decide where I'm going to go, get myself a GPX of the area, plug in the GPS and upload the GPX file.
  3. Some GPSs may be able to get  better reception than a phone  in difficult conditions (in buildings/canyons/under trees etc), but they are probably edge cases.
  4. One advantage of a GPS is ruggedness, I've dropped mine off a bike at ~30mph a few times with no damage - that would have cost me 2 phones if I was using a phone.
  5. GPSs are also waterproof - phones probably not.
  6. A GPS has much better battery life, and simply being able to replace batteries on the go, or even buy a new set from a corner shop. I overcome this on the phone by taking a battery bank if I'm going for a full day out.

The last 3 points mean that if I need something to navigate in a life threatening environment  (mountains, desert, jungle, etc.) then I would take the GPS (but also paper maps and a magnetic compass), but for most terrain a phone is perfectly adequate and IMO better for caching.

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2 hours ago, IceColdUK said:

 

It does have a USB Storage Mode

 

An important distinction here would be that the USB Mass Storage Mode available on those devices is limited to reading and writing to the installed microSD card only,  never internal memory, like all modern devices. And then, the microSD card can only be used for additional maps, as the 'x' models had no internal memory accessible to the user.

 

 

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3 hours ago, IceColdUK said:

it can distinguish between cache types (though that might be thanks to GSAK settings); but you’re right, not exactly paperless caching!

 

The GPSr does not distinguish between any cache types. What your photo shows is a waypoint with a couple lines of shorthand notes that a GSAK macro have created based on an actual geocache file. This information is very limited on your GPSr, and the device can not filter geocaches based on type, difficulty, terrain, size, status, (etc.) like all modern devices. Your GPSr does not display the description, hints or logs from other users, and you can not enter your own log after finding a geocache. All you are seeing there is a waypoint disguised as a geocache, and it is mostly a hollow shell. Of course, for many years this was how we all geocached and millions of geocaches were found in this manner, so it can be done, but it simply does not compare to what a modern GPSr is capable of today.

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2 hours ago, MartyBartfast said:

 

For all practical purposes a modern phone GPS is as accurate as a consumer GPS

 

* So long as the phone has access to cell towers and Wi-Fi signals. Most inexpensive modern cell phones have very poor GPS performance when these signals are not available. More expensive phones tend to have better hardware and can provide positional accuracy similar to a dedicated GPSr.

 

 

2 hours ago, MartyBartfast said:

Nowadays I very rarely use my GPS, I'm more or less phone only (in fact I'm not even sure where my GPS is at the moment), it's just too much effort to decide where I'm going to go, get myself a GPX of the area, plug in the GPS and upload the GPX file.

 

Since the release of the Oregon 7x0 in June 2016, all but the cheapest Garmin GPSr have been able to download all geocache information directly to the device while in the field, which means no prior planning is ever required like with older devices. You can be just as spontaneous as you want, and still have all current geocache data at your fingertips, any where, any time.

 

 

2 hours ago, MartyBartfast said:

Some GPSs may be able to get  better reception than a phone  in difficult conditions (in buildings/canyons/under trees etc), but they are probably edge cases

 

* Some = Most. 

 

For those who only cache in wide open areas where the sky is always fully visible with no obstructions, natural or man made, with cell towers and Wi-Fi signals plentiful, you may not experience much difference between the two. For those who find themselves caching outside the prefect urban environment, a dedicated GPSr will likely serve you better for many purposes.

 

 

2 hours ago, MartyBartfast said:
  • One advantage of a GPS is ruggedness, I've dropped mine off a bike at ~30mph a few times with no damage - that would have cost me 2 phones if I was using a phone.
  • GPSs are also waterproof - phones probably not.
  • A GPS has much better battery life, and simply being able to replace batteries on the go

 

Yes, Yes, and Yes!

 

And should you have any mishap that potentially leaves you hurt and/or stranded while out geocaching that results in damage to your GPSr, or it falls somewhere you can not retreive it, your phone will serve as the redundant safety net that may save your life. If the GPSr you were using in these scenarios was your phone..... 

 

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2 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

 

The GPSr does not distinguish between any cache types. What your photo shows is a waypoint with a couple lines of shorthand notes that a GSAK macro have created based on an actual geocache file. This information is very limited on your GPSr, and the device can not filter geocaches based on type, difficulty, terrain, size, status, (etc.) like all modern devices. Your GPSr does not display the description, hints or logs from other users, and you can not enter your own log after finding a geocache. All you are seeing there is a waypoint disguised as a geocache, and it is mostly a hollow shell. Of course, for many years this was how we all geocached and millions of geocaches were found in this manner, so it can be done, but it simply does not compare to what a modern GPSr is capable of today.

 

Did they add Geocaching in a later firmware update?

 

This photo shows a geocaching icon....

 

Garmin GPS - ETREX VISTA HCx - w/box, accessories - camping/hike  [0921170076] - $60.00 : EdsGoodStuff.com Online Shop, it's all good...

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1 hour ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

Did they add Geocaching in a later firmware update?

 

If you look at the first photos you can see the 'geocache' is actually a 'waypoint'.

 

These legacy units never had paperless geocaching or any other geocaching capabilities. They simply added the 'geocache hidden' and 'geocache found' icons to distinguish only between those two statuses, nothing more.

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On 4/15/2021 at 7:18 PM, TreasureBee46 said:

Thank you all.  My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, so it is a recent one.  I have read all the "which is better: GPS or phone", but no one had addressed the idea of adding an antenna to a phone, so I asked.  I'm thinking about a GPSr, but not sure which one.   Thanks!

Good to know which phone you have.  Knowing this might have taken the discussion in a better direction from the get-go.

Your S21 has quite reasonable GPS performance, and is fully capable of taking advantage of satellite constellations other than just the U.S. GPS system.  With a decent app, you should be able to do quite well with it.  As others have noted, though, it's a pricey bit of gear, and not particularly robust.  You'll want to use care in the field that you don't damage it while caching.

 

My only gripe with Samsung (and I've had several, from the S8Active forward) is the frequent need to recalibrate the 3 axis compass.

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3 minutes ago, ecanderson said:

 

My only gripe with Samsung (and I've had several, from the S8Active forward) is the frequent need to recalibrate the 3 axis compass

 

Ha! I still use an S8 Active, and likely will not buy another Samsung when I replace it. This POS has been fraught with issues since day 1 that they refuse to correct. Why reward them with my $$$ when I replace it?

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What kind of issues are you having?  I never ran into any serious firmware issues, and the GPS performance was quite adequate.

My current S20 seems to do well enough.  I don't often use it for caching unless something spontaneous when traveling, but it works well enough.

Edited by ecanderson
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14 minutes ago, ecanderson said:

What kind of issues are you having?

 

Not going off track too far, nothing to do with GPS per se, but massive trouble with the Bluetooth and camera never resolved. I frequently have to restart my S8 Active several times a day to restore Bluetooth and/or camera functionality. Camera will work again for a few photos, then stops responding (is a built in app, can not unload and reload it aside from a master reset, which has been done multiple times) - and the Bluetooth is just always flakey with all bluetooth devices. (some added salt in the relationship: We recently purchased a top of the line $4500 65" QR90 tv and it had display issues right out of the box (bubbles under the glass) - which Samsung refused to resolve stating they did not have any extra parts or replacements to provide us, then offered a much lower cost/feature/quality QR60 as a replacement. So Samsung has likely lost my business entirely for the foreseeable future)

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2 hours ago, Tahoe Skier5000 said:

This photo shows a geocaching icon....

 

Garmin GPS - ETREX VISTA HCx - w/box, accessories - camping/hike  [0921170076] - $60.00 : EdsGoodStuff.com Online Shop, it's all good...

 

In that setup menu, you can change the desired symbol for 'geocache hidden' and 'geocache found', and you can enable/disable calendar entries when a geocache is marked found. That is the extent of Geocache capabilities on these units.

 

:)

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6 minutes ago, Atlas Cached said:

 

Not going off track too far, nothing to do with GPS per se, but massive trouble with the Bluetooth and camera never resolved. I frequently have to restart my S8 Active several times a day to restore Bluetooth and/or camera functionality. Camera will work again for a few photos, then stops responding (is a built in app, can not unload and reload it aside from a master reset, which has been done multiple times) - and the Bluetooth is just always flakey with all bluetooth devices.

Bummer.  Can't say I ever had any issues with either Bluetooth or camera.  In fact, for the price and era of that phone, I was fairly well impressed with the S8 camera.  BT was connection of choice for the BYOC (Bring Your Own Connection) option for certain TomTom models, and kept paired and functioning throughout the time I had it.  Sounds like they sent you a lemon.

 

 

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19 minutes ago, ecanderson said:

Sounds like they sent you a lemon.

 

Yeah, possibly, and in retrospect, having had the recent issue with a Samsung TV, I find it curious that once we worked through all the diagnostics they wanted me to perform on the S8 Active, and no resolution was found, they no longer had any replacement devices to swap it out with... Seems to be standard operating procedure for SamDung (that's what I call them now).

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Back to geocaching with phones ...

 

The S8 Active was a nice design as cell phones go for a bit more durability.  I was bummed when Samsung decided NOT to continue the Active series.  Having the glass back on the regular S8 was a bonehead move to begin with -- made it extra fragile.  The S21Plus and S21Ultra have the same stupid glass back design.  Hope the OP has the less expensive generic S21 with the plastic back.  The S8 Active model did away with the glass back and provided better bezel area protection as well. 

 

As I say, I only use a phone for finding a cache in a spontaneous pinch when the Garmin isn't at hand, but have done well enough with it when I have. 

 

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22 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

* So long as the phone has access to cell towers and Wi-Fi signals. Most inexpensive modern cell phones have very poor GPS performance when these signals are not available. More expensive phones tend to have better hardware and can provide positional accuracy similar to a dedicated GPSr.

 

 

I don't think that's correct, phones can use cell tower  and wi-fi triangulation to help them get a quicker initial fix on the GPS location, also some phones can fall back to cell tower and wi-fi triangulation if there is no GPS signal available, but  they don't use either once they have an active GPS fix - they're just using the GPS as a GPSr would do.

 

 

22 hours ago, Atlas Cached said:

Since the release of the Oregon 7x0 in June 2016, all but the cheapest Garmin GPSr have been able to download all geocache information directly to the device while in the field, which means no prior planning is ever required like with older devices. You can be just as spontaneous as you want, and still have all current geocache data at your fingertips, any where, any time.

 

AFAIK the Oregon's and other Garmins have wi-fi and Bluetooth, so you can only be spontaneous if you're within a hundred metres or so of a wi-fi hotspot - that's not really any where, any time - certainly not as flexible as a phone, which though limited by cell phone coverage it's still much more available than wi-fi hotspots.

 

 

 

 

 

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