December 31, 2016

GPS Receivers versus Smart Phones

Don't expect a cell phone signal here.
Is your smartphone as accurate as a dedicated GPS unit? Some researchers at Skidmore College tried to answer that a few years ago (note reference to iPhone 4). Their conclustion: "The short analysis is that iPhones are still worse than a dedicated GPS, but not that much worse."

I am using an iPhone 5s, so not the newest, but I have noted that its GPS unit is about as good as my Garmin's . . . except that for geocaching, it is not so good, because geocaches are marked in hours/minutes/decimal minutes, and the built-in GPS reads hours/minutes/seconds.

Now there are decided geocaching apps that work fine, but they require a good cellular data feed, and when you are in a place like the Purgatory River canyon, you end up thinking, "What possesed me to leave the Garmin in the truck and bring just the phone?"

Bottom line: a dedicated GPS receiver does more stuff than a smartphone does. Using GPS sucks batteries dead, but it's a lot easier to swap in two more AA's than to carry a cell phone backup power source (although I have one of those too, solar-powered).


Galen Geer said...

Are you turning into a Geek in your retirement?

Chas S. Clifton said...


It all comes down to that question of "How many gadgets to carry?" The iPhone camera is about as good as my Pentax point-and-shoot, except that it lacks a true optical zoon. But I am thinking that if I want a GPS receiver, I should still carry a dedicated one, even my old Garmin Gecko, which is about like a flip phone in size.