Smart Phone GPS

Discussion in 'GPS 101 - Which GPS For Me' started by acesandeights, May 17, 2012.

  1. acesandeights

    acesandeights Asperger

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    Yes, I did a search :1drink

    My wife has been telling me I need a new phone, hell probably for a couple of years. Then I see a "ruggedized" smart phone for cheap and think...hmmm, maybe.

    She has some sort of "Map" thing on her smart phone (free thing) that not only tells her exactly where she is but has maps and shows some trails. They aren't the best, but they are much better than some dumb ass (me) in the middle of nowhere with no signal wondering where I am just riding downhill thinking it'll get me to a town somewhere.

    So, I have to ask. What can a basic "smart" phone do? Should I just get a Garmin Oregon 450 and use my "dumb" phone for phone calls, or can a smart phone do it all?

    I don't understand smart phones (yeah, I said it...I don't understand). Can you put gpx files in them? Can you use them to route (looked like my wifes phone would)? Why buy a GPS if you had a smart phone?
    #1
  2. sailah

    sailah Lampin' it

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    It depends a little on what you are expecting and also where you are.

    I have always had Garmins from way back in my sailing days where you didn't even have a map screen, just LAT/LON and a chart, hell I even remember using LORAN, but anyways...

    I got frustrated with Garmin and their software not allowing me to make routes the way I wanted esp when downloading to the GPS, it would decide it knew better than I. It was also very cumbersome to use VS Google Maps which I find excellent. I like Googel because you can simply drag the route where you want to go and voila.

    Back to your question, I just sold off my Garmin 60CSX which I thought was an excellent basic GPS in anticipation of getting a Zumo.

    Then I thought to myself, I have a smartphone (droid 4G Samsung Charge) which has Google maps on it. I drive around for work all day and I have a GPS in my car. Most of the time when I use the phone for GPS instead, it picks a better route and is more accurate and up to date.

    I have no experience with Apple, although my wife has an Iphone.

    I bought an app from an Inmate here last night called EMFB (Easy Maps For Bikers) and played around with it. It basically allows voice activation of google maps ( I tried this last night when I was grilling and it found my parents address first time) also has real time NEXRAD radar which is cool.

    Here's why i really like it. When I create a route in Google and save it to my maps, Google Maps on my phone already has it:clap (under layers). Bam, route done. I'm so over Garmin.

    Now I also believe the program will download maps for your route so if you fall out of cell reception it still has them in the phone.

    All I need to find now is a waterproof case that allows charging and fit it to my RAM mount.

    I like the idea of using the smartphone for GPS, but there are limitations. I don't think the phones are built as rugged, which is why I have the insurance on it. They aren't waterproof as GPS (although I think there are rugged phones out now), you need to work up a charging solution for long term and most phones use a mini USB which isn't the strongest connection when the phone is bouncing around on the bars.

    Eventually if I get the mounting system worked out with an otterbox or similar, I like that the phone can bluetooth to a SENA headset or similar for turn by turn directions.

    The Zumo can do that too of course and doesn't have any of the limitations of the phone but they are pricey.

    You'll need a data plan for the phone, which is typically $35/month so figure that in it can quickly add up to more than the GPS costs in a year. I already am paying and need the data plan for work so why not use it right?

    Since you don't already have a smartphone, personally I would just buy a GPS. I saw an ad for Cabelas that had the Oregon for $270 I think, $170 in savings for memorial day
    #2
  3. OKlr

    OKlr 25mph gate inpector

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    when using my phone i like to use gps kit lite, or motion x gps is good. I have (on droid) used a google map that i created to follow a route and it worked out really well. On the iphone its not quite as easy.
    #3
  4. acesandeights

    acesandeights Asperger

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    #4
  5. Flashback

    Flashback Mommys Lil Monster

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    You all are forgetting one very important limitation of cell phone GPS units...you need to be in a location that has cell coverage to keep updating your base maps. I use my blackberry gps from time to time while traveling and the app only caches about 10 miles of maps.

    So, unless you are going to ***always*** be in an area where your phone is going to ping off a tower that allows data per your plan, you actually do need a real GPS unit.

    I'm in Raleigh NC and I can go 40 miles from home and still find places where there is no cell reception period. Nationwide coverage isn't as good as you'd think once out of the urban meccas and for adventuring, relying on a smart phone GPS is a recipe for disaster (again caveated that you are getting off of main street and taking the road less traveled).

    Not trying to be a downer here, just a realist.

    But...you can still run tracks and waypoints on your smart phone regardless of where you are going because they typically do have a built in GPS receiver.

    I'm waiting till someone comes out with a full on GIS application for smart phones before I upgrade again. Until then, my GPSMap 60csx is, and will remain, the ideal GPS unit ---> I can load it with all the tracks, street maps, dirt road and trail maps, custom maps and so on and so forth that I'd need on say a trip through the Grand Canyon (North Rim) and take off. When cell coverage disappears my SPOT takes over for emergency communications, and my Garmin keeps on keeping me going where I need to go.
    #5
  6. Flashback

    Flashback Mommys Lil Monster

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    If you do want to leverage the power of smartphone gps chipsets you might want to try an app from MotionX

    http://gps.motionx.com/

    But again, even these kinds of cutting edge top tier gps apps aren't going to give you the same level of detail and/or capabilities as tracing out a route on a USGS 100K topo map and uploading custom maps generated for your needs to your gps unit. (yet)
    #6
  7. NoMoIke

    NoMoIke Adventurer

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    Google maps lets you download base maps for offline use. Also, Craftycoder created http://www.dualsportmaps.com/ to have some of the same functionality. The price of the app is a bit high, though.
    #7
  8. dieselcruiserhead

    dieselcruiserhead Long timer

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    I an psyched with the motion X on my iphone but it kills the battery and frankly I don't want to subject my phone to it. And then finally it locks so I lose the screen and I'd have to wire it into the bike for it to work for a longer than a 1/2 day. In short, I bought a seperate Garmin unit for only $150 with the maps (slightly older HCx etrex unit. Only $150 and rocks. Get a good Raam mount for $20-$30 and you are good to go. If you want a larger screen then you'll have to spend a little more but that is my recommendation. I used to run both at the same time and now find that the Garmin suffices so I don't bother with the smart phones any more... On a street only bike, it might suffice under the right settings only, in my opinion...
    #8
  9. nathan8315

    nathan8315 Adventurer

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    I really liked motion x. Like said before it kills the battery, but have a charger on my bike. I have used it along the TAT and it worked very well. I downloaded the maps to my iPhone before I left (option in motion x). I was actually planning on getting a Garmin Montana and decided I would make a trip with motion x and see if there was any reason a montana would be better for me. So far I plan to stick with the motion x.
    #9
  10. joeoldbmwrider

    joeoldbmwrider oldjoe

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    Iphone has a gps receiver and does not require cellular service for the gps to function. Purchase an app from Garmin, Tom Tom or Copilot Live and you are good to go !:clap
    #10
  11. squiffynimrod

    squiffynimrod maximum shrinkage

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    So here's a noob question about EMFB (Easy Maps For Bikers) and GPS signals. Will the Nexrad weather feature work when running the smartphone as a GPS receiver only or does it have to connect to data via internet/cellular to work?

    TIA
    #11
  12. squawk77

    squawk77 Dreamer

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    OpenMaps.

    No, you don't need cell coverage to use the GPS sensors. Yes, you can download the map data.

    If you have stock in Garmin, sell now.
    #12
  13. ScootTour

    ScootTour Long timer

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    I had a 7" tablet and a 'dumb phone' and that system worked out really well until I accidently broke both of them at which point I got the new Galaxy Note. I went into the smart phone world thinking I really had little use for such stuff now I see it as a part of my life. Smart phone for GPS is only a smart part of the smart phone universe.

    The apps I use the most is actually Weatherbug, facebook, my cycling app, google maps GPS and sometimes backgammon or battleship while waiting on others. Oh and reading books (Kindle)

    What I havent done yet is figured out a good solution for using it while driving the motorcycle. Both from a charging perspective, weather proof, shock proof etc. The problem mostly is the size for the galaxy note which is a new size so just about anything i get will have to be lucky to fit or customize from the start.
    #13
  14. MadChap

    MadChap Been here awhile

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    Ram now has waterproof mounts for many Android and Iphones:

    http://www.rammount.com/Products/AquaBoxMounts/tabid/125/Default.aspx

    I've been using a Garmin HCX Legend and it's becoming unreliable (crashing all the time). I know I can send it in for a rebuild for $80, but not sure if I want to do that or just completely go the Android route. So I'm doing research to check the viability of going completely Android. So far Google Maps is missing many of the tiny 4X4 roads that are everywhere in Eastern Oregon, so I'm still trying to figure that out. I'm talking the kind of roads that have at times required me to zoom way in the the HCX because even though I was technically "on the road" I couldn't tell it because it was so overgrown.

    Can you tell where this road goes?

    [​IMG]

    I'll be upgrading to the Samsung Galaxy in August and hopefully going for it, maybe keeping the Garmin in my tank bag for the really remote areas.
    #14
  15. SE Steve

    SE Steve Super Noob

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    I just tried out my smart phone in a waterproof ram box and my phone over heated and shut down. So much for that idea.
    Now I'm back to trying to find a gps that will work on the bike.
    #15
  16. levain

    levain STILL Jim Williams

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    What about routing? Is there a "base Camp/Mapsource" type routing program available for smart phones? Does everyone use Google Maps?
    #16