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  1. #1
    FM
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    Just how good is an iPhone as a GPS?

    Just curious?
    A few friends have them and have used them to flag new lines. reception seems to be very good- certainly much better than my 2002 garmin eTrex!

    Like a lot of people, I'm attracted to the fact that it can do so many things, maybe not the worlds best GPS, but good enough?

    The one thing I have not seen it be able to do, is to upload& downoad trails or waypoints. Can it do this? If a friend has waypoints or a track uploaded in Garmin or delorme software, would I be able to somehow upload that info to the iPhone? Can I save my own waypoints and tracks? What I have seen seems to be mostly reatime, read-only.

  2. #2
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    Does the iphone have a gps receiver or does it position off of cell towers? I had always assumed that it was the latter.

  3. #3
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    My buddy tried using his second generation iPhone as a GPS on a bike ride once. He installed some kind of app that tracks his progress like my Garmin does. His battery died before we were halfway finished with the ride. I don't know if he has tried using that again, since, but he was pretty disappointed with its performance that one time.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by FM
    Just curious?
    A few friends have them and have used them to flag new lines. reception seems to be very good- certainly much better than my 2002 garmin eTrex!

    Like a lot of people, I'm attracted to the fact that it can do so many things, maybe not the worlds best GPS, but good enough?

    The one thing I have not seen it be able to do, is to upload& downoad trails or waypoints. Can it do this? If a friend has waypoints or a track uploaded in Garmin or delorme software, would I be able to somehow upload that info to the iPhone? Can I save my own waypoints and tracks? What I have seen seems to be mostly reatime, read-only.
    Try the app "Trail Guru". It has to be on top but it will do everything a GPS should do and do it very well

  5. #5
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    http://news.motionx.com/category/motionx-gps/

    I think it is really great!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by taterbug
    Try the app "Trail Guru". It has to be on top but it will do everything a GPS should do and do it very well
    I've been playing with TrailGuru - it works when its on top, but all it takes is one call or text durring your ride to stop it. I tried running it in airplane mode to solve this, but the app won't run in airplane mode because it shuts off the GPS too.
    When it works, it works well and has cool data/graphs on the website when you upload your ride.
    It does suck battery life pretty heavy.
    “Me fail english? Thats unpossible.” - Matt Groening

  7. #7
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    I've been using an application called Trails and it works great. For my battery not to run down, I ususally turn the 3G network 'Off'.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resist
    I changed from Trail guru to motionx and have to say it works much better. Thanks for the tip

  9. #9
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    I don't suggest using the iphone or any other phone as your gps on the trail. Since gps is not the primary function of the thing, certain things you'd want in a gps are absent. Waterproofness is not up to par with other purpose-built devices. You can get around it, but you need to buy a special case. I have my doubts about the device's ability to handle constant vibration and the occasional crash. I don't think a lot of people use it on the mountain bike (seems to be a vocal few here mostly), so it may take a lot of time before we get our first crash reports. I agree battery life can be an issue. Anyone been on an all-day ride with one yet? I know my Garmin will last quite a long time (posted at 14hrs), but I can squeak out a little more, especially with Lithium AA's.

    Then there's the whole connectivity issue. Like mentioned before, airplane mode turns off the GPS, making a lot of apps for GPS nonfunctional. Well, to use it otherwise, you have to deal with the potential for calls. I'm not so worried about texts, but receiving calls is a PITA. I often turn my phone off or leave it in another room so I don't feel obligated to answer calls. A lot of people expect if you have a cell, you'll give an immediate response. I'm not answering any damn phone on the trail when I'm rocking a sweet singletrack and my mojo is flowing. No way. I turn my phone off when I hit the trail. I usually don't turn it back on till I get home, either. I refuse to accept a job where I can be called about work at any time that I'm not getting paid. People who have on-call time (like my wife) are another story...but we don't go biking together when she's on call. She has a job where she can't afford to be in the middle of BFE where it takes an hour to be back at the car, plus cleanup time, plus get-to-work time. She's a veterinarian.

    Anyway, I can see the usefulness of the GPS on the iphone for navigating the urban environment. But, putting it on the bike for a GPS-enabled cyclecomputer goes beyond its intended functions (and really exposes some limitations), and generally using it (hiking, biking, or whatever) in the Great Outdoors is an especially bad idea, especially if it's not packed away for emergency use only.

    FWIW, I understand the iphone uses GPS sats AND cell towers for a position fix. So when you can receive both, signal acquisition is quick. I have no idea how well it works in more remote settings, when it can only receive a GPS signal, no cell towers in sight. I imagine it is lacking at least either in GPS chip or GPS antenna, if not both. To see what the antenna alone can do, look at a 1st generation SPOT. There were many documented signal reception issues. The company seems to have come up with a fix for the 2nd gen SPOT, so we'll see when the reports on this device start coming in.

  10. #10
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    I love using my iPhone when riding my bike. The bigger screen makes using a GPS much more enjoyable. I haven't had any signal issues. Granted I would not use it if there was a chance of rain. But it is great that I can use my phone hands free while I am riding, should I need to. I have never had an issue with the phone falling out of the mount but then again I probably wouldn't use it for high jumps where I could crash.

    So I think the iPhone and MotionX GPS is perfect for road and light trail riding.

  11. #11
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    I have been using Motion-X on my iPhone for a few months now. Here is my view of pros and cons:

    Pros:

    - Part of the iPhone, which I always have with me - and the inherent benefit of it being on an iPhone (all the other apps and functionality)

    - Accuracy is pretty good - my first test of this app was doing a geocache with a friend who has a Garmin unit (unsure which) - he kept exclaiming "This is a $3 app? It does everything my GPS does!!!" We found the cache easily with Motion-X.

    - Ability to save tracks in a "logbook", and upload them to facebook/twitter/email which overlays them onto Google Maps - complete with track and data in line with it. (Here is my first test of this feature, but disregard the data, I forgot to stop the tracking when I finished my ride, and walked around for awhile with my 2 year old!) Google Maps Motion-X GPS test You can also send GPS Waypoints and other data via FB, Twitter and Email.

    - Ease of use, with just about 5-10 minutes of fiddling, I had all of the functions pretty much nailed down, and I am not a super experienced GPS user.

    - Integrated Google Map and Satellite imagery support - makes it nice to be able to see satellite imagery within the map view (main map screen allows you to choose from 'Open Road', 'Open Terrain', 'Google Roadmap', 'Google Satellite', and 'Google Hybrid.'

    - Integrated iPod support, this is a new feature in the app, but it is pretty handy to be able to utilize the full iPod functionality straight out of the GPS app.

    - Ability to Geotag pictures, and link them to tracks and waypoints (and share them.)

    - Use of Open Street Map (http://www.openstreetmap.org/) - which I have only looked at briefly, but it appears to be an "open source" mapping application that allows user submissions (trails, etc.)


    Cons:

    - Battery life. For sure, as people mentioned - this is not the iPhone's strong suit. This hasn't been a huge issue for me, but then I haven't tried to use it for something all day long either. In my opinion, this is the biggest issue.

    - Compass is difficult to use if you are not moving - gives bad readings if you are standing still or not moving along at a given pace.

    - Inability to upload trails or other GPS data (who knows, maybe they will add this in the future.)

    Just my $.02, YMMV, I am not employed or paid by Motion-X, blah blah blah :-)

  12. #12
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    I use Path Tracks on my iPhone and it's pretty good. It's no replacement for a rugged GPS tool, but it does the job. The app gives you tips for better life. The developer has gotten 5 hours worth of mapping, personally, I have never logged more than 3 hours, but still had battery life.

    Battery Life Tips (I easily get 3 hours ride time and still have life left):
    Turn Off Wifi
    Turn Screen Brightness way down
    Auto-Lock set to never (will interrupt)
    Turn Real-time map off (I don't need to see my trailin real-time, I want it for later)

    I use it for most of my rides - especially when I want to map a new trail, it's usually in my camelbak. I can even pause the tracking to take pics, rest, send email, etc and it picks up where I left off.

    Accurate? Click hybrid and zoom in and see for yourself. I did this on streets and trails that I could clearly see on maps so I could compare how well it tracks:
    http://pathtracks.com/users/7654/pat...d-brushy-creek

    Granted when things get real tight and twistie it might not be 100%, but I don't know that a true GPS tool is either (never used one).

    More:
    http://pathtracks.com/users/7654/pat...8-kens-july-26
    http://pathtracks.com/users/7654/paths/83717
    http://pathtracks.com/users/7654/pat...long-1hr-5-min

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunrugger
    Granted when things get real tight and twistie it might not be 100%, but I don't know that a true GPS tool is either (never used one).

    More:
    http://pathtracks.com/users/7654/pat...8-kens-july-26
    http://pathtracks.com/users/7654/paths/83717
    http://pathtracks.com/users/7654/pat...long-1hr-5-min
    Mapping a trail at bike-riding speed will lose you detail in the twisty stuff regardless of which GPS you use. If you're only interested in mapping, at least walk the twisty stuff, if not the whole trail (typically takes longer than the best battery life you claim). Going at a slower speed and holding the receiver antenna pointed in the optimal direction gives the GPS receiver time to settle on the location. If you're moving too fast, the receiver is never as accurate. When I map a trail system...I walk it multiple times. Where the tracks line up, I know the GPS was accurate. In places where the tracks spread out, I get a rough average as my best guess. It may not help get you trail volunteers since it's more labor intensive than riding (I try to accommodate others by accepting trail data from folks who rode the trail, but it's never as accurate as a track done by walking), but you get better data most of the time, unless you walked it on a day with bad reception.

  14. #14
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    Does the trail need to be that accurate? If it is within +/- 5ft, personally I would be happy. That is enough resolution to show me I am on the correct trail.

    I guess others may need it to be more specific. Would my Garmin Edge 705 provide better resolution?
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  15. #15
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    You mention the compass is not so great, are you using the original 3g, or the 3gs? The original 3g would require the application to "guess" the direction based on where you were a second ago and where you are now. The 3gs has a chip in it that actually can read magnetic north... not sure if motionx takes advantage of it (will check next ride), but the potential for accurate compass is very different between 3g and 3gs.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Datalogger
    Does the trail need to be that accurate? If it is within +/- 5ft, personally I would be happy. That is enough resolution to show me I am on the correct trail.

    I guess others may need it to be more specific. Would my Garmin Edge 705 provide better resolution?
    When I map trails, I'm mapping them for others, possibly for sharing through the web, a LBS, or something else. As accurate as possible is what I need for that. If you're only mapping for yourself, then do whatever you like, and be comfortable with whatever level of accuracy you want.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by kroe
    You mention the compass is not so great, are you using the original 3g, or the 3gs? The original 3g would require the application to "guess" the direction based on where you were a second ago and where you are now. The 3gs has a chip in it that actually can read magnetic north... not sure if motionx takes advantage of it (will check next ride), but the potential for accurate compass is very different between 3g and 3gs.

    I am on 3G...great point, that is a nice update for the 3GS.

  18. #18
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    I have been using MotionX Lite lately. I find it extremely accurate. I went for a walk yesterday, and I can see where I went from one side of the street to another, I can even see one spot where I had to walk around a car that was in my way.

    As for the battery life, I think the iPhone gets more crap than it deserves. When you leave WiFi and Bluetooth on all the time, the screen brightness all the way up, have it fetching new data every 15 minutes, etc, the battery will die quickly. When you keep the stuff turned off that you don't need, it's great. There were a couple times when I went 5+ days without charging mine when I only used it for talking. People need to keep in mind that with a screen this big and as many features as it has, it takes more power. It's like complaining that a 500hp sports get only gets 20mpg and not 35mpg like a 130hp economy car. The battery is as good if not better than a lot of other phones, it's just that the iPhone has so many features, people are using it 5x more, therefore the screen and many features are always in use.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Straz85
    I have been using MotionX Lite lately. I find it extremely accurate. I went for a walk yesterday, and I can see where I went from one side of the street to another, I can even see one spot where I had to walk around a car that was in my way.
    Agreed - however yesterday for my commute, it had me riding my bike through my next door neighbors inground pool, and I am pretty sure I didn't...

    That said - in other places, I could see where I moved from the right hand side of a lane into the center of the road for turning...I think like most GPSes - it is reliable as long as it has good solid communication with multiple satellites.

  20. #20
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    The best app I have found is GPS Kit. With my Wifi and 3G turned off I've been able to ride for over 3 hours with no problems. I have found GPS Kit to be very accurate (especially when I've crashed or gone off the trail). It's also the only 3rd party GPS app I have found that uses the google topo maps. The coolest part is you can map your ride then upload it to their server and allow others to download and view all from the phone. There is also a secret feature that turns on a radio that if you are riding with someone else who has it shows their trail and location and allows you to send them messages.

  21. #21
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    Runkeeper Pro for iPhone

    I've been using Runkeeper Pro for my iPhone 3G for 3 or 4 months now and have been extremely pleased with it. It's been hands down the most useful app I've had to date. It's so good I actually bought the Pro version ($9.99) but the free version works just as well. Despite its name, its actually used for much more than jogging. You can toggle between several different activities like cycling, hiking, walking, etc.. Once you've finished your ride it will upload your activity to a website that you can log into and view later. It tracks your avg speed, altitude, calories burned, feet climbed, pace and total ride time as well as overlaying your "route" onto a google map. It works pretty frickin' good IMO. I've had it out on the trail with my buddies Magellon and at the end of the ride Runkeeper came up with the same total distance as the Magellon. I get about 3 hours of continuous use with it before I get battery issues. Its not perfect, but it works well enough and is consistently rated among the top iphone apps out there ( out of 65,000+ apps). I can't recommend it enough...

    Here's a "shared activity" that I posted today on my facebook. It's a ride I took at the Frisco Greenway trails in Joplin, Mo today with my kids. http://forums.mtbr.com/****************3gNLAb Don't laugh at our pace, we stopped alot

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk
    When I map trails, I'm mapping them for others, possibly for sharing through the web, a LBS, or something else. As accurate as possible is what I need for that. If you're only mapping for yourself, then do whatever you like, and be comfortable with whatever level of accuracy you want.
    No, it isn't that accurate. Just walking outside my house and checking it (in Motion-X) it's about 56ft. In bad conditions, it's around 100ft. It's usually accurate to about the width of a 2-way street or a 2-way street with a middle turn lane (to give you a visual description).

    Then again, you have the advantage of uploading the stats and map on facebook

    If you need a lot of accuracy, this probably isn't for you. But, if you're just using it for a little fun and you already have an iPhone, I don't see why not. (that would be me )

  23. #23
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    I use a Blackberry 8900 to gps my rides using Trimble allsport. It works very well much better than an Iphone. The gps can also run all day long and only bring the battery down about half, a 1-2 hour ride barely moves the battery level. Txts, phone call and e-mails, loss of cell service do not interrupt the tracking either.

  24. #24
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    I had posted before that I use an application called Trails on the iPhone. After reading a couple of posts about the MotionX GPS application I decided to give it a try. The user interface is intuitive and easy to use, but compared to Trails this application really drains the battery. I've made 3+ hour rides using Trails, and it only used half of the battery. When using MotionX I don't think I would be able to do a 2 hour ride.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by silves1171
    I had posted before that I use an application called Trails on the iPhone. After reading a couple of posts about the MotionX GPS application I decided to give it a try. The user interface is intuitive and easy to use, but compared to Trails this application really drains the battery. I've made 3+ hour rides using Trails, and it only used half of the battery. When using MotionX I don't think I would be able to do a 2 hour ride.
    Just for reference. Im currently using a Nokia 5800 Tube installed with nokia sports tracker. We did a half day ride two days ago and it barely even made the battery indicator move. Took around 25 images and 1 short video, sent around 20 sms during that time time too.

    http://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_5800_x...tures-2537.php

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