Question about using smart phone as primary GPS

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by bmwrider1946, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. bmwrider1946

    bmwrider1946 Young Old Fart

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    When I was out west my smart phone was pretty much useless as a GPS when I was in an area where there was no cell coverage. The GPS knew where I was but since the maps could not refresh there was no map to relate the information to. Did I do something wrong?
    #1
  2. 2 SPOT

    2 SPOT wannabe

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    kinda. you needed to download the maps into your phone so it didnt need the cell coverage to refresh. several apps have that ability.
    #2
  3. Twilight Error

    Twilight Error Going nowhere slowly

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    Generally, you need a data connection to download the maps. Some apps allow you to load the maps for a route ahead of time so you don't run into that problem. The limit in that case is your phone's memory - if you've got it full of music/pictures, there may not be much left over for maps. Getting a phone with expandable memory would be a good idea if this is what you plan to do.
    #3
  4. Spina

    Spina wannabe motorcyclist

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    I use my Galaxy Nexus and a Givi case mounted on an homemade support. I tried the tom tom app for android, no need for data, so it works even with no cell coverage and the app seems pretty good!

    I had only one problem: the phone was plugged into a 12v socket with a usb adapter, and the phone was recharching, at least that wat the battery status was saying.
    However, in 2h I lost 15-20% of the battery. Sure it was less than what I would have lost if the phone wasn't plugged in, but I hoped that the 12v socket would be enough to keep the phone fully charged :\
    I had the tom tom app, gps and the display ( it's a big screen ) at full brightness. I don't know if that's normal, given the big battery consumption, or if I have a problem with battery...
    Maybe with a dedicated gps I would have not this problem?
    #4
  5. Twilight Error

    Twilight Error Going nowhere slowly

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    Most GPS mounts come with a provision for 12v power from the bike, you'd only have a problem if the wiring to the electrical system is bad or the GPS itself has a problem.
    #5
  6. SuzukiScottie

    SuzukiScottie Adventurer

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    Metroview on my iphone. The app is around $15 and has all the roads in Aus and NZ. The app is regularly updated for free to keep it current.

    I use a 12v charger with 2 outputs (ebay HOng Kong for a dollar) A 1amp output to run and charge the phone continuously with the gps running, and the other output is a 2.1amp output for charging anything else with a higher consumption.

    My old half amp charger struggled to keep my old iphone4 charged when using gps continuously. Iphone5 is even worse but that may be because i have more going on in the background with email and suchlike.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk - now Free
    #6
  7. Shirtfaced

    Shirtfaced n00b

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    I've got an app called OSMAND which allows you to download maps per region which are available offline. It's an excellent app.
    #7
  8. Mondo-Hondo

    Mondo-Hondo Delusional

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    I'v been using the Gaia GPS app and love it. I use it on an iphone and on a wifi ipad with the bad elf GPS receiver and it works really well.

    It lets you download from a lot of different map sources, including Google road, terrain, and satellite imagery, as well as open street map and USGS topos. You can select areas to download or it will automatically download maps around a saved track. If you have a data connection it will pull maps in on the fly and even display local weather radar as an overlay.

    It will easily import GPX and KML files. I have my phone and computers setup with dropbox, and Gaia will open track files from dropbox. pretty cool.

    Only downside for me so far has been having to remove my gloves to use the touch screen. I need to get some of that conductive thread :)
    #8
  9. trailbehind

    trailbehind Gaia GPS Dev

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    One of the other Gaia devs uses the app a lot while skiing backcountry. He uses a stylus for screen interaction... might be what you want on a motorcycle too.
    #9
  10. John Smallberries

    John Smallberries Long timer

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    You will find lots of posts about smartphones only working as GPS devices when in a cellular network. I can guarantee that this is not true, at least for iPhones. The iPhone has an excellent GPS chip that works outside cell coverage. It does also use the available cell network to find it's location more quickly. If you have the memory available (~1G), there are several apps that will hold the entire US map database in the phone (I use Magellan Roadmate). So - the phone will work just fine anywhere within this map database, cell signal or not. I have been using an old iPhone 4 with the cell coverage fully discontinued (migrated to my new iPhone 5) for the Magellan nav ap and it works fine. It does seem to take a bit longer to find itself, particularly in an urban area (downtown Detroit).

    Lots of good alternatives out there if you use the site:www.advrider.com Google search.
    #10
  11. bmwrider1946

    bmwrider1946 Young Old Fart

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    Great help. I figured I was doing something wrong. I have lots of memory on my phone and plan on using it as a primary backup.
    #11
  12. Brad-Man

    Brad-Man Adventurer

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    I have avoided SmartPhones for the most part because I don't text and really only use the phone for phone calls.

    Since getting my K100 back on the road however, I have been thiking that I should get a SmartPhone that does it all.

    Since I am w/AT&T, I believe I'll get an unlocked Nokie Lumia 1020 that will serve as camera, GPS and music source as well as phone source.

    It has 32 B=GB of RAM and the maps for the USA are only 9 GB.

    My music only takes up ~ 6GB (160kbps .WMA files), so I should be good.

    This way I don't need to have a data connection (keep my current plan) and not be tied into them on a contract...I'll just use WIFI for the downloads and trip planning.
    #12
  13. bmwrider1946

    bmwrider1946 Young Old Fart

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    I have to admit that I am addicted to my smart phone. Work and personal email, texting, listening to books or music while driving long distances or mileage crunching on the bike, checking weather, replacing my bicycle computer, and in general bolstering my ever worsening memory. The GPS is just another addition to the arsenal.
    #13
  14. Robert_W

    Robert_W Been here awhile

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    I have 2 Zumo 665's. One on each bike. Also have a Delorme PN-40. Have used them all extensively. The Zumo's have pretty much been relegated to XM/mp3 players. Good for basic nav and find fuel stuff.

    A week ago I bought a Samsung S4. Love it. Just starting to use all of it's functionality. With a bigger battery and memory card...which are on the way... I can easily see it replacing the above. Great for backpacking too. Lose weight. Not only GPS but replace my camera, extra batteries, etc.

    Been using the ViewRanger App and it is real good. The Gaia GPS also looks real cool. I'm going to try it too.
    #14
  15. EmmEff

    EmmEff Long timer

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    I believe the problem is the USB adapter isn't passing enough current. It'd depend on the phone but perhaps the nominal 1A that a typical 12V USB adapter passes isn't enough.

    I know the popular 12V waterproof USB adapter available here wont keep an iPhone 4S charged when the GPS is in use with the screen always on.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
    #15
  16. EmmEff

    EmmEff Long timer

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    Just FYI, you'll be seriously limited by your navigation app choices if you opt for a Windows Phone vs Android or iOS.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
    #16
  17. vanseagal

    vanseagal Adventurer

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    Buy some Nokia Lumia and you are ready to go. I have the 620 model. Works perfectly and map coverage is huge.
    #17
  18. worwig

    worwig Long timer

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    The problem is that the USB charger isn't wired right.

    For Android devices, with the micro USB connector, the data lines, D+ and D-, must be shorted out. If the data lines are not shorted out, it assumes that it is simply plugged into the USB port on a PC. It will only charge at a max rate of around 300ma. Running GPS software at high brightness easily takes over 300ma.
    If you short D+ and D- in the charger, cable or connector, then the device knows that it is on a high output charger, and charges at a higher rate. Depending on what it is, it will charger closer to, or over, 1 amp.
    If you can take the charger apart, short the two center USB pins. Or you can buy charge only cords that have it shorted in the cord. Or you can cut and modify the cable. Or you can simply, carefully, cut a small piece of foil that will short the two center pins in the large USB connector and plug it in.
    Load the app called 'battery monitor widget' and it will show you what is going on.

    I use my phone on the handlebars with moving maps all of the time. I was in 'banjo playing country' this past Saturday and Sunday, with sparse cell coverage. I used Osmand+ and occasionally CoPilot for offline maps. The Galaxy S4 has a super bright screen, even in direct sunlight. The battery stays at 100% charge. And I have an aLokSak in my pocket in case of rain.
    #18
  19. Spina

    Spina wannabe motorcyclist

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    Thanks for the answer, now i think I know where the problem is.
    The circuit seems well made ( good cables with fuse that goes to the 12v socket ) so the problem must be in the cable. I use a cigar lighter to usb adpter in the 12v socket, I don't think that this adapter have data pins, it wouldn't be logic given that I don't plug in a 12v socket in the pc...
    I should look for a charge only cable, or modify another one if I find it in the house...

    Edit: also, could I mod the cigar to usb adapter instead of the cable? Given that I can't take that apart without broking it, I would have to use the foil...
    Is there a risk doing it? Is there the possibility of a short in the phone, if something goes bad? ( stupid question maybe, but I don't know nothing about these things...)
    #19
  20. worwig

    worwig Long timer

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    I normally disassemble the cig lighter to USB adapter and put a blob of solder on the two center USB pins to short them out.
    Make 100% sure that you still only have 5 volts at the USB before plugging in the phone.
    #20