Android with the best GPS locator?


Last Updated: 2012-10-02 22:21:02
  1. heycatman

    heycatman New Member

    Hello all,
    Wanted to get a dedicated GPS only to consider an android simply cause it has way more options. In looking I couldn't find that many good answers so I figured I'd ask a few questions:

    Is there an android that has comparable quality GPS system to a Garmin eTrek 20?

    What android has the best GPS abilities and how good are they?

    Are there advantages to a dedicated GPS?

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  2. Doit2it

    Doit2it Well-Known Member Contributor

    What do you want to use a GPS for?
    Hiking, Geo caching, marking way points, and car navigation are just a few uses.
    Most of these are best served by a dedicated GPS unit. While a phone with GPS capabilities is great, there are pros and cons for both.
    I'm sure I'm omitting numerous points for both, but here is a short list:

    Dedicated GPS Pros:
    Longer battery life
    Simpler interface
    Built in maps (not network dependent)
    More rugged than a phone

    Dedicated GPS Cons:
    Only does one thing, GPS
    Map updates (some cost, some not available)
    No satellite view as with phone GPS

    Phone GPS Pros:
    Does so much more that a GPS unit (phone, internet, apps, etc)
    Google Maps is updated continually, for free
    Satellite view in Google Maps
    Various GPS apps with many different abilities
    MUCH easier to enter coordinates than on a dedicated GSP

    Phone GPS Cons:
    Short battery life (GPS + constant display wears out most cell batteries quickly)
    Google Maps is dependent on a good cell signal (caching map area is still beta, IMHO)
    Phone not as rugged as a GPS unit for outdoor use

    Most cell phone GPS units are the same. I'm sure people can tell you which ones don't work rather that which are the best. I can't make a recommendation for a specific phone either way.

    I will say I do own an old Magellan Explorist 210 that I used mainly for Geo caching. I set it down when I got my Droid X, and I haven't picked it up since. But I'm a novice Geo cacher with only 242 finds, so I only cache on a whim and not every weekend like some do.
  3. scootertx

    scootertx New Member

    I have a LG G2X and understand that Android GPS is frocked with problems, at least mine certainly is and is basically unusable. Make sure you research the phone you are interested in as I am very disappointed. When working, phone GPS saves you another gadget and you just give up a few features. I wish mine worked,:rolleyes:
  4. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor Guide

    A dedicated GPS app will get fixes faster and more accurate initially than a phone. Basically because of the smaller antenna. Then a phone requires A-GPS and data to get fixes as fast as and as accurate an initial fix as a dedicated GPS. If you're somewhere with low data coverage, using your phone is a bust in most cases.
  5. MaxBuck

    MaxBuck Well-Known Member

    I've been extremely disappointed with the GPS function of my Samsung Droid Charge when using the camera feature. Geotagging has been incredibly unreliable; photos have been very hit-or-miss when it comes to geolocation accuracy. One photo will be dead on, while the next will be miles away from the actual shot location. I'd love to find a phone with a more accurate and reliable geotagging feature associated with its camera function.
  6. Harry2

    Harry2 Well-Known Member

    Run a GPS app in the background for a proper GPS fix while using the camera.

    The app GPSTest (by Mike Lockwood) would do this.

    Harry
  7. pdirt

    pdirt New Member

    HeyCatMan & others -

    I'm on a similar mission. My first (and only so far) android phone is a Mytouch 4g (HTC Glacier). My interest is getting a 2nd phone to root (so I can underclock the CPU to save battery) and also with one of the AMOLED screens. I don't want to root my current phone because it is my only phone and I can't afford to futz with it (I've never rooted or flashed a ROM to a phone before) and end up with a brick and lost data.

    My intention is to use the phone with stored maps for hiking purposes, places w/o data access. I do have a dedicated GPS unit, a Magellan SportTrak, that does have topographic maps on it, but I've found that the maps are not very good, nor does the unit seem all that accurate and the battery life is not great. Using the MT4G phone for the same purposes (w/ all things possible turned down (on an unrooted phone) to extend battery life), is more accurate, the maps are awesome in comparison and free for download. The biggest drawback is the battery life, about 13 hours on a recent trip.

    In my research, it looks like the AMOLED screens, with their up to 7x battery savings compared to the LCD type screen on my phone are a step in the right direction. Apparently the 1st gen AMOLED is very difficult to see in direct sun and the successors such as Super AMOLED are much improved. I haven't yet seen any of these newer (new since 2010?) in person but if you google for "compare amoled to super amoled" there is a video about the 6th result down called "AMOLED vs Super AMOLED vs LCD" that seems to show the difference.

    On my Super LCD screen of the MT4G, I have gotten away with having the brightness at 50% (or whatever the middle setting is on the Power Widget), and can see the screen if I shade it in bright sunlight. Sometimes the sun would be so bright, I would have to temporarily turn it up to 100% (the high setting) but would then turn it back down to the middle setting to save battery life.

    Another question is, am I going to save more battery juice by going with some sort of AMOLED screen or by underclocking? If I underclock a 1Ghz processor to 400-500Mhz, generally how much more life am I going to see and is that going to be so slow it will drive me nuts? Mind you, this would be using a GPS topo map program (Gaia) that would be used in it's offline mode using the downloaded maps. If the savings is really great with underclocking, I might just go with a much cheaper LCD screened phone.

    All in all I want to buy a used phone, ideally, one that is under $100, has a Super AMOLED screen (or better), good GPS abilities and is fairly easy to root and flash ROMs. So far, I haven't found such a phone as the ones of Super AMOLED screens seem to be $150+, even used. I want a cheap phone that I can futz with and take outdoors and not be too upset if it gets beat up a bit. I am currently with T-Mobile but might consider an AT&T (or unlocked) one since it seems they have some cheap pay-as-you-go plans.

    If anyone has any suggestions, ideas, please share. If I come up with a phone and give this a whirl, I'll post my experiences with it here.

    Re Harry2's suggestion to run a dedicated GPS program to fix GPS locking issues works for me as well. I use "GPS Essentials" which will get a lock in a few seconds to a few minutes when other programs are stuck in a loop trying to lock GPS.

    pd
  8. Harry2

    Harry2 Well-Known Member

    Running GPS app on a smart phone needs a lot of power.
    So I think, power-saving stategies aren't enough are to be able to use the phone for a whole hiking day.

    For hiking I've a mobile charger (battery pack) in my back pack :)
    ANKER 5600mAh, 130 grams weight, charges my phone two times.

    Harry
  9. pdirt

    pdirt New Member

    Harry - Thanks, I hadn't thought about the power usage of GPS on a smartphone. I was under the impression the GPS used much less power because when I did my first hike with it (in Airplane Mode, with GPS on), the battery did last quite a while compared to city use with mobile data or wifi let alone the cell network. Maybe underclocking a phone would interfere with the GPS quality/accuracy?

    Thanks also for reminding me about external battery chargers. I did purchase one similar to the ANKER 5600maH, the ReVIVE Series (only 1500maH charges USB, AC and integrated Solar panel). I wish I had done more research at the time, because my 1500maH external battery will only charge my smartphone's 1400maH battery about 75% (must be to do with that attrition thing), however the price is the same between the ANKER and ReVIVE. By the way the solar charging thing is a joke at least for my phone. There are good solar chargers out there but last I checked they started around $80 and are much heavier and bulkier than these compact external batteries.

    I wonder though if it might just be lighter and cheaper to simply purchase 2-3 extra batteries for the phone. I just got one for mine for about $6 on Amazon.

    pd

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