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Android/App Vs. handheld GPS.....I'm re-entering the world of geocaching and technology has changed......please recommend

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Hello geocachers! I started geocaching back in 2005!!! Back then cell phones were not very smart :) I have not geocached in many many years and have since lost my Garmin that I used nearly 20 years ago! So my question is with cell phone technology having grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years, is it necessary to still use a Garmin or other handheld GPS or will my Galaxy smartphone get the job done??? I mean let's face it, sometimes calls drop so I don't see a phone being as beneficial as handheld but why spend the money if I don't have to. I'll probably ease my way back into it, so it's not like I'm going to be looking for extremely difficult or remote caches. What advice do ya'll have?

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Just now, cactus_bound said:

is it necessary to still use a Garmin or other handheld GPS


Not really, no. I still have a Garmin GPSr, but I only seem to use it when hiding a cache, for its ability to average a location.


Just now, cactus_bound said:

will my Galaxy smartphone get the job done?


Mine does. But the best way to find out if it works for you is for you to download the free app and give it a go.

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41 minutes ago, cactus_bound said:

is it necessary to still use a Garmin or other handheld GPS or will my Galaxy smartphone get the job done?

I would argue that it wasn't necessary to use a handheld GPS receiver back then either, but early in my geocaching career, I found hundreds of geocaches using only the satellite images from Google Maps and compass/navigation skills. ;)


But now I do almost all of my geocaching with my Android phone, and use my old handheld GPS receiver only when I need better durability, battery life, and/or GPS reception than my phone provides. And modern smartphones have much better durability, battery life, and GPS reception than smartphones a few years ago, which makes a handheld GPS receiver even less necessary. The last time I took coordinates for a new cache listing, I used an Android app that averaged coordinates, and my handheld GPS receiver (which also averages coordinates); the results for multiple waypoints were virtually identical.

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I feel it depends on whether you want to remain a basic member first...

Old school I guess...I feel a GPSr that does one thing well might be just a bit better than a phone that has numerous functions within.

To be fair, along with a 60csx, the other 2/3rds used a Blackberry and Trimble Outdoors to cache in 2005...

As for "accuracy", a modern phone isn't much different than a GPSr.  It's battery, fragilely, and water resistance I feel sets the two apart.

I can load batteries in my long-discontinued GPSr forever.  Even with a powerbank, a phone's just not the same.

Maybe it's just me, but a grand for a phone means it stays in a pocket or case (I like Nutshell's cases...).

Like your "old" GPSr, up NE of you you'd need to load caches offline.  Not sure that's possible with app as a basic member. 

As a basic member using the website, you can access all caches, all D/T, but Premium Member Only (I don't feel no PMO is a big loss).

With the phone app alone and a basic member, you're restricted to Traditionals and Events and those traditionals are set at 2 D/T tops.


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I do most of my caching with an Android with a dual frequency gps because I really like Locus Maps.  I don’t think there is that much difference for caching, particularly with a rugged device and large battery.  I stopped using a handheld GPSr a few years ago and have not looked back.  I trust my devices more than I did using an Oregon.  And I occasionally do Wherigo caches that Garmin does not support. 


If the Galaxy is accurate enough for you, get a good case and check out Locus.  If you find there is a need to change you can consider the alternatives and make a decision from here.

However, in the coming year I expect to buy a Garmin for reasons that have nothing to do with this game.  We just returned from a trip to the Yukon and Southern Alaska.   There were large areas without a cellular connection.  We ended up with two flat tires - on both our Jeep Renegade and a 13 foot  travel trailer.  We also had to drive a very long way before we could get the tires replaced.  Never have a flat in rural Canada on Canada Day.

Although we had good spares some faith and hope was involved.  Next year we want to return to Alaska and perhaps get up onto the NW territories.   It seems more prudent to have an in reach device and I might as well get a Garmin that can also be used for caching.  But other than that I cannot think of a reason to switch back to a dedicated handheld.


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I still mainly use a GPS, because it's the right size for my hand. I can also load more batteries in the field as needed. With a phone I accidently touch something and I have to re-bring up the cache and its image. Jigging a phone while climbing over rocks and other rough country, the image goes and I have to again bring up the image. I can shove the Garmin in a pocket as I scramble through a fence or pull myself up an embankment. Do that with the phone, well it's as I said. I find a phone unstable. That doesn't happen with my Garmin. The map, etc is still there. There's also the problem of stupidly small pockets of female jeans. The side pockets don't fit a phone, but my Garmin can fit in some; just, if I search for jeans with pockets that fit more than finger tips. (LOL, don't get me going on sexist, useless pockets of female jeans. Naturally women have no need to put things in pockets, nope, absolutely no need at all :mad::rolleyes:. As this is an international site and not all might get that last comment; that was satire.)

I have also had many occasions where the phone is slow to settle on GZ, while the GPS has already settled.


Where the phone is better, is among tall buildings in a city, such as in the CBD. I mostly don't cache there though.

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I'll chime in that I haven't used my GPS much for geocaching lately either. This is coming from a heavy GPS user in the past. That said, I've moved back to a mountainous area with lots of geocaches hidden outside of service, so I'll be revising that statement as I figure out using the phone with offline data or go back to using the GPS when in the mountains.

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As a newbe (only 2 months now), ive struggled with this same question. Up to now ive been doing it on the chep.  printing my own logs going to dollar type stores for TOTTs and swag.  Thats a diffent topic, so... For now im happy with my smart phone mainly because of the available other apps i have fast access to, to help solve puzzles on the go.  Most (for now) of my caching has been in urban and some rural areas.  I always keep a battery pack with me, but still always looking for a deal on a good but inexpensive device such a garmins etrak22 or 32.

With only 168 finds to date and havent placed any yet.  I wanted to make sure my placements are well marked, so for now ill continune using my phone and save my money till a real deal comes along...

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