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Best cell phone/app for Geocaching

#1 User is offline   ruralseeker 

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 03:06 PM

Before I get into this, I already own and am happy with a legit GPSr. However, you would be kidding yourself if you think that even the best Geocachers with the best technology don't use their cell phone to go caching now and then. I do it and I think we all do.

That being said, this is not where I want to be arguing the fact that a standalone GPSr is better than a cell phone. It clearly is. I am asking for information only about cell phones.

I own and cache with an LG Viper Android phone (along with my Magellan GPSr). However, I have noticed that sometimes my connection can be up to 20 feet off. I use Geobeagle and C:Geo. Especially when doing puzzles, if I do not go back to the car and yank out my Magellan, I am often stuck with Geobeagle.

I used to use a Windows phone before I started caching. I broke it out, inactivated, and downloaded Geocaching Live. I stored all the caches I planned to get the other day and compared the results to my Android and my Magellan. The Windows phone was awful.

I will be up for a phone upgrade soon, and I want to get one with Geocaching in mind. I miss my Windows phone terribly and want a new one when Sprint comes out with their new line of Windows phones, but not at the cost of Geocaching with it.

If a phone is not activated on a carrier, does that impact the accuracy, or lack thereof, of the GPS signal?

Lastly, for those who have tried Geocaching on multiple phones/apps, what have you found to be the most accurate? Any tips before I make the upgrade this fall?

#2 User is offline   Walts Hunting 

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 06:06 AM

First I am the exception to your broad assumption that everyone uses a phone. I may have used it once or twice over the years but not for the last couple. Most of my caching trips are on a bike or hiking and last way longer than the battery life plus the screens in daylight are nowhere as good as my Montana and lastly since I am always either hiking or biking I don't want to risk damaging the phone.

Up to 20 feet off is well within acceptable range. GPSs area affected by a myriad of things, trees, being in a canyon, multi signal from rocks or buildings and maybe yours is perfect that day but the placers coords are off.

Both the apps you mention work fine but of course there will be users who find issues with either one. I have tried both just to check them out but always go back.

I did use my phone and Garmin Fit to track a bike ride the other day as an experiment and after a three hour ride the battery was down to 10%. Not much use since my expeditions are mostly twice that long.

You will be fine with an android.

#3 User is offline   Lieblweb 

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 09:48 AM

First off...

Don't buy a cell phone strictly for geocaching purposes. Get a smartphone because it does everything else that you need a smart phone to do for work, play, business, and what-not. Smart phones are expensive and you want to get the most out of them.... If you already use an Android - chances are, you'll be happier with an Android because you are familiar with it. Aside from that - You don't have to re-purchase the apps, accessories, etc.

As for Geocaching..... I don't think there's any cell phone that'll get you the accuracy of a handheld. People will often argue that the cell phones are just as good.... but I'm willing to bet, most of those folks have never owned a handheld GPS and can't compare. I've had iphone4 and currently run iphone 5 along with Oregon 450 and GPSmap62s. Aside from FTF's - our phones stay in our pockets until its time to log them. They just take forever to lock in, settled down, and adjust. And not to mention - lack of cell service, and battery life.

#4 User is offline   ruralseeker 

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 11:24 AM

My apologies, Walts. You do seem to be the exception and I applaud you for your resistance to the cell phone geocaching frenzy. At least around here, most geocachers I know have a dedicated GPSr and also use their cell phones, especially for the early morning FTF race after receiving the alert from the reviewer of a newly published cache nearby. (i.e. There isn't time for a PQ to the GPSr when you know someone else has already received the e-mail and left the house.) In any case, I think we can establish that most do use their phones for caching. Again, congratulations though for being able to resist it.

I did, however, mention that to turn away the trolls that would come in going, "Does Garmin make a phone?" or something like that, not to offend.

I primarily use my phone for the urban caches (think LPC, guard rail, numbers runs, etc), not for caches out in the woods, although I do much more hiking than biking. I primarily want my phone to be accurate for urban caches.

20 feet off is within the acceptable range. I'm not saying it's bad in any way. I just want to increase accuracy even further if possible.

Well, see, I use my Android to cache with because I had it when I started caching. Had I been caching two years ago or earlier when I had my Windows Phone, I might have started on my Windows Phone. I like that better. Unfortunately, Sprint didn't have a comparable Windows Phone when I switched to their service, or I wouldn't have ever gotten an Android.

I want to switch back to Windows Phone when they come out with that new line Sprint keeps promising. I just want to know if anyone has tried caching on a Windows Phone and if the GPS is accurate at all.

Lieblweb, you are absolutely right. No cell phone has the accuracy of a GPSr. Before I bought one, I tried placing my first cache. The coordinates the phone pulled, as they don't settle well on such a short effort, were around 38 feet off, and my local "mentor", so to speak, nicely and sweetly ripped me a new one for that, as he rightly should have. I didn't place a cache again until I had purchased a GPSr.

That being said, I don't plan to buy my new phone strictly for geocaching purposes. I want to keep it in mind and make the purchase with that as a factor.

See, I like Windows Phone BETTER, but I currently have an Android because that is all Sprint was offering that I could use. (I don't do iPhone. It's a personal preference. I would choose Android over iPhone any day.) I desperately want to go back to Windows Phone, but if that means being 50 feet off of every cache I do with my phone, that might alter my decision. That's all I mean by that. I like and am familiar with Android and Windows Phone, and overall, I like Windows Phone better and want another when the new ones come out. I just want to know if anyone has a comment on their accuracy geocaching.

Thanks for the comments though! Walts, I hope I didn't offend. I might have stated my "assumption" a little better.

#5 User is offline   BlackRose67 

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 03:07 PM

I use a smartphone as a support device WHILE Geocaching, but not for finding the caches. I might use it for a park and grab out in the open, but as soon as any tree cover is involved the GPS in the phone is useless.

I will be getting a new Android smartphone (I'm allergic to Apples as well :lol: ) this fall and one of the things I look for was that the phone has a GPS and GLONASS GPS chipset in it.
I'm considering the Google Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, and LG Optimus G Pro.

#6 User is offline   ngrrfan 

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 03:42 PM

View Postruralseeker, on 14 April 2013 - 11:24 AM, said:

My apologies, Walts. You do seem to be the exception and I applaud you for your resistance to the cell phone geocaching frenzy.

He isn't the only one. There are more "exceptions" than you probably know.

Quote

At least around here, most geocachers I know have a dedicated GPSr and also use their cell phones, especially for the early morning FTF race after receiving the alert from the reviewer of a newly published cache nearby.

I would say that this comment is probably true. I know that I get notifications on my phone, look at the cache info, and if it is close enough to go after I'll put the coords in my GPSr as a waypoint.

I also use my phone, when I have service/connectivity, when I'm wanting to know if there is a cache near where I am, or wanting more back logs to see if there may be any hints in them. Like Walts, I do not use my phone as the prime device. I consider it a tool to be used in addition to my GPSr.

#7 User is offline   aaronb3040 

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 09:24 PM

I have an HTC Titan running Windows Phone 7.8 and the GPS accuracy is just about as good as a standalone GPS. I find it to be within 10 to 15 feet of what my standalone GPS says. My brother has an HTC 8X running Windows phone 8 and he has about the same results. Both are AT&T phones. The app was Geocaching live. I know what you mean about missing your Windows phone too. I have used both an Android and iPhone and I think the Windows Phone is way better. Its really nice to be able to obtain more info and log caches and trackables in real time.

#8 User is offline   qtips 

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 05:07 AM

[quote name='ruralseeker' timestamp='1365894370' post='5235604']
Before I get into this, I already own and am happy with a legit GPSr. However, you would be kidding yourself if you think that even the best Geocachers with the best technology don't use their cell phone to go caching now and then. I do it and I think we all do.

I'm amazed at how people are saying that they are an exception and then go and state how they do in fact use a cell phone now and then for caching. I think you are absolutely correct.

#9 User is offline   Semper Questio 

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 06:20 AM

I use the geocaching app for adhoc caching in areas where I don't normally have caches loaded on my GPSr, which is not often. For normal caching I use my GPSr and on my phone I use GDAK for the paperless side of caching. I like the user interface and how it works very well with GSAK.

#10 User is offline   northernpenguin 

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 08:27 AM

View Postruralseeker, on 13 April 2013 - 03:06 PM, said:


If a phone is not activated on a carrier, does that impact the accuracy, or lack thereof, of the GPS signal?


This depends on the phone itself. Some models have a discreet GPS chip that works with or without a carrier. Most models will "cheat" and use the cell towers to approximate location (needs activation), some will use WiFi databases (needs data) and some will grab the GPS almanac over the cellular signal to reduce time waiting for a cold start signal lock.

--

Coming from Windows Phone (hey, I had that too!) you'll most likely be happier with a modern Android powered device. I was lucky when I bought my HTC devices (before my iPhone) I was able to walk outside with the carrier and the phone in "airplane" mode to test GPS effectiveness without carrier present. I did that mainly for checking US travel with my device at the time.



#11 User is offline   kwcahart 

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:59 PM

Me too. I use my Garmin 450 99.9% of the time geocaching. But I do use my Motorola Atrix Android when I'm out and either don't want to power up the GPS or I just get a good quick opportunity to cache. My Android phone is very accurate, and works very well for caching. I have three apps I use. The one I use most is the geocacheing.com app that is $10.00, and I use neongeo which is about $4.00. With either of these apps you will really want to download the app "GPS Status", it is really good and will give you a radar screen to find the cache. I would hardly ever go geocaching with just my phone, but it does work very well and in some circumstances is a good choice. I always worry about getting it wet and ruin a $400++ dollar phone, but I don't worry about the weather with the Garmin 450. $10 is really not much for a good app that works, and $4.00 for neongeo is a bargain. "GPS Status" is free but they have a pro version ($3.99)that I'm going to try this weekend.

#12 User is offline   ruralseeker 

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 08:14 AM

Thanks everyone! Lots of great information here! I appreciate that so far nobody has gotten significantly butt hurt over the GPS/Smartphone debate, except to inform me that there are more exceptions to the "everyone caches with phones now and then" statement, which I recognize and withdraw in response. I'd be willing to say most cachers do, for at least two or three of every fifty or so caches, especially the park and grabs, but unless we made a poll of every cacher on GC, I guess the numbers are impossible to know.

It sounds to me as though three things are evident and agreed upon:

- Never rely solely on a smartphone. Always bring your GPSr anyway.
- Most phones are accurate enough to get you within 20 feet of the cache. Once there, use your geosense anyway. That part never changes.
- Purchase the phone that is right for you regardless of Geocaching, download the app that is right for you, and just go at it.

One thing I think I've figured out: My old Windows Phone cheats and requires data connection for the best GPS navigation. I might go with an HTC Windows Phone next time or whichever phone I can be sure has a dedicated GPS chip.

I think I will go with another Windows Phone as I miss it terribly. I will keep my still-properly-working Android in case I have trouble with Geocaching Live on Windows Phone, but I think I've figured it out.

Again, thanks everyone for such great feedback!

I will still be using my GPSr for most caches, especially in the woods, so it probably isn't a big deal overall.

#13 User is offline   Lieblweb 

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 01:04 PM

View Postruralseeker, on 17 April 2013 - 08:14 AM, said:

One thing I think I've figured out: My old Windows Phone cheats and requires data connection for the best GPS navigation. I might go with an HTC Windows Phone next time or whichever phone I can be sure has a dedicated GPS chip.


Most all phones utilize cell signal and GPS reception for accuracy. I think its called Triangulation (or something to that affect).

#14 User is offline   ruralseeker 

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 01:15 PM

View PostLieblweb, on 17 April 2013 - 01:04 PM, said:

Most all phones utilize cell signal and GPS reception for accuracy. I think its called Triangulation (or something to that affect).


Meaning without cell service in that particular phone, you are doomed to poor accuracy no matter what?

#15 User is offline   mPetreciya 

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 11:08 PM

Once i remember that i had my phone and Forerunner Fit to monitor a drive a bicycle the other day as an research and after a three time drive power supply was down to 10%. Not much use since my trips are mostly twice that long.. . . .

#16 User is offline   northernpenguin 

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 11:03 AM

View Postruralseeker, on 17 April 2013 - 01:15 PM, said:

View PostLieblweb, on 17 April 2013 - 01:04 PM, said:

Most all phones utilize cell signal and GPS reception for accuracy. I think its called Triangulation (or something to that affect).


Meaning without cell service in that particular phone, you are doomed to poor accuracy no matter what?


It depends on the phone. Phones with a discreet GPS chip do not *require* cellular for triangulation/accuracy. They use those to get a quicker fix.
For example, I have used an iPhone 4 in the backcountry where I was a day's travel to be in range of the nearest cell tower.... and you're not going to triangulate with just one tower.

#17 User is offline   yourpad2mn 

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 12:58 AM

I like to ask if any of you tried the Garmin Mobile 20? It's a GPS/WAAS receiver for a smartphone. It is attached to the phone and they say it turns the phone into a Garmin type GPS like a Nuvi I guess. Below is the link, If anyone is using this please let us know if this is a valid upgrade or junk. If so how long will it last on battery? Is it portable enough to Cache with? Thanks for looking

https://buy.garmin.c...20/prod421.html

#18 User is offline   Lieblweb 

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 03:57 PM

View Postruralseeker, on 17 April 2013 - 01:15 PM, said:


Meaning without cell service in that particular phone, you are doomed to poor accuracy no matter what?


Not necessarily....

I tried utilizing my phone without the cell data (turned off) to search for geocaches and it wasn't necessarily an accuracy issue but the dadgum thing was slow as molasses. It would hang up, and sometimes lock up.

Sure, it might be accurate but how long will it take?

Unless I was doing something wrong... The phone was not happy.

#19 User is offline   eccentric_ 

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 09:43 AM

View PostLieblweb, on 17 April 2013 - 01:04 PM, said:

Most all phones utilize cell signal and GPS reception for accuracy. I think its called Triangulation (or something to that affect).

How your phone estimates your location depends on the phone and app being used.

Location can be set using 3 main ways;
Network; Very fast to get location (almost instant), power is negligible, but isn't very accurate ~30m in good conditions
WiFi; Not really good for geocaching (even skirt-lifters are probably out of range for wifi) depends on the areas wifi database, in some cities it might work better than GPS if your are in an "urban canyon" for example
GPS; Takes a few seconds from a cold start (aGPS can help), accuracy approaching a GPSr, higher power requirements

There is also hybrid mode mixing them, and a few other less used methods.

If an app wants your locations it will look at old data first (where it was the last time an app asked) An app for weather it might only refresh the Network location because it's instant, low power and good enough. Even mapping apps will use Network location while it waits for GPS.

It's true some phones can't orientate themselves off network. It's because they rely on the aGPS data obtained from the network. It depends on the phone and the carriers might also have a "customized" OS that could cause problems (example might be a built in power-saving mode)

View Postyourpad2mn, on 12 May 2013 - 12:58 AM, said:

I like to ask if any of you tried the Garmin Mobile 20? It's a GPS/WAAS receiver for a smartphone. It is attached to the phone and they say it turns the phone into a Garmin type GPS like a Nuvi I guess. Below is the link, If anyone is using this please let us know if this is a valid upgrade or junk. If so how long will it last on battery? Is it portable enough to Cache with? Thanks for looking

https://buy.garmin.c...20/prod421.html

I have not used that model but and it seems to be discontinued.

The Garmin GLO is what some of use phone based cachers use.

#20 User is offline   carolzcache 

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 09:37 AM

My friend has a new Garmin handheld and I have a new Optimus LG9 w/4g and use the c:geo app. We compare all the time; and MOST of the time our devices are equally accurate. Day before yesterday, however, my phone lost its mind; thankfully she had her Garmin! Neither of us is very device-savvy!

#21 User is offline   Walts Hunting 

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 01:29 PM

Thre is also a problem by assuming the coords are correct. If a placer has a 20' error and yours is perfect then it will be 20' off. You have no way of knowing why you are 20' off.

#22 User is offline   J Grouchy 

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 11:16 AM

My Galaxy S3 is about as accurate as I could hope for, really. I'm so spoiled by the real-time updating, I'm now actually hesitant to buy a dedicated GPSr because of the need to hook into a computer and download and log it seperately and all that. I do all my caching in urban or suburban areas, so signal is rarely an issue...and my device will - 9 times out of 10 - get me to within ten feet or so of the cache. The biggest problem I have with it is the lack of electronic compass, which is frustrating when you are dealing with areas amongst trees and buildings and you can't really move around much to get a fix.

Sort of related question: on a GPSr device, does it allow you to mark a geocache found or take it off a list somehow or are you just expected to write that stuff down and input it later?

#23 User is offline   Gitchee-Gummee 

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 01:40 PM

View PostJ Grouchy, on 24 September 2013 - 11:16 AM, said:

Sort of related question: on a GPSr device, does it allow you to mark a geocache found or take it off a list somehow or are you just expected to write that stuff down and input it later?

Can't speak for a GPSr units, but our Delorme shows a smiley after we mark it "Found" in the unit. Uploading the field notes and then deleting same, they do not show up again -- unless you run a PQ to also show your Found caches (but they show up as a Not Found one, instead of with a smiley). It's the marking it Found in the unit that is the key.

#24 User is offline   AbingDanClan 

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 02:15 PM

Hi,

To go back to the last part of your original question...

I am using an HTC One S smartphone.

I am relatively new to the whole World of Geocaching, and am having a great time with it...but I wanted to 'increase my accuracy' too. So, I bought (second hand) a Garmin Geko 201 hand held GPS, to see if it were "any better".

This is where I am now up to....

I have found the Geko fairly awkward to use ( I know it's a bit 'Old Skool' - but wanted to try it out), it is mainly awkward because of the whole having to type the co ordinates in manually situation. This may be a surmountable problem, but only if I invest in a data cable - which will cost me about the same as the second hand Geko! Not worth it when finances are tight.

I found the Geko to be no less, and certainly no more accurate than the GPS in my smartphone.

1 - 0 to the smartphone.

I therefore Googled/and PlayStore searched for "best GPS APPs" and have now been playing with "GPS Status" and "GPS Essentials". Both are great and way beyond what I am prepared to comprehend...but from the little playing I have done, whilst these apps are great for 'looking at satellites' - geeky...but not particularly useful for Geocaching(!), I am not sure what they offer above and beyond what my main geocaching app, c:geo, gives me.

I seem to still have to copy/paste/input manually the co-ordinates in to my GPS dedicated apps. I did this, and as well as c:geo, have literally just got in from walking down to the local shop to get milk...and passed a known cache. I honed in on it using all three apps...

As a comparison, all three apps performed equally. All counted down the metres to the cache, pointing me in the correct direction, all flickering between 3 and 7 metres accuracy.

It's a clear night here in Oxfordshire, UK. A quiet country path with intermittent light tree cover.

Once I was standing 'over the cache', all the apps said - "3metres over there"...so were equally all "out" by some factor...

My understanding is that GPS Essentials is often in the top 10 Android Apps, in general.

What have I learned...?

The biggest thing I have realised, which is specific to me..and how I cache...and perhaps specific to the more urban nature of Blighty - ie NOT trekking off into the wilderness for days on end - we can't, we run out of country pretty quick on this little island! The biggest lesson is that...I don't really need anything more accurate that 3 - 4 metres...and in fact, I don't think my 'game play' utilises a GPS at all. I read the description. if necessary I read any clues, I look at previous logs...and I hunt around. That's how I find caches...NOT by honing in to within a few feet of a location....

So, in summary: for me, the GPS apps and devices are all well and good, but are of no practical use for my game play. c:geo does what I need - it allows easy access to all the relevant details - cache details, description, logs, clues...and, should I want to use a compass to navigate - the co ordinates are all there already. I can also log on the spot, mostly, too.

I hope this goes some way to help. As I too have been looking into this, it seems you guys have a bigger wilderness to deal with, so a dedicated GPS may make more sense, but for me, when it comes down to it, it seems my phone suits me down to the ground(speak)!

Happy caching!

AbingDanClan

#25 User is offline   BlackRose67 

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 08:28 AM

I replaced my Samsung Galaxy S with an LG Optimus G last week.

Night and day difference in accuracy - the Optimus G is so much better.

I only use the phone for quick grabs when I don't have my GPS (eTrex 20) with me.

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