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Thread: Phone as GPS

  1. #1
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    Phone as GPS

    I do not advocate using a phone over a dedicated GPS. However, since the topic comes up quite a bit here I recently did a nine hour ride with a guy who used a Nexus 4 as a GPS, while also taking photos, and he still had 25% battery left!

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    This is why I keep my old phones. Just set up google tracks, throw it in my backpack, and when I get home, I conect it to wifi and it sycs the ride to my account. This way, I always have my normal phone available with plenty of battery life, but I'm still tracking my ride.

  3. #3
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    I use my Nokia 920 all the time. Its GPS/Apps track at second intervals, and it will go for 4+ hours....

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    I have come to the conclusion after a year of using my iPhone 5 with map my ride, Strava and wahoo fitness that the iPhone sucks as a gps cyclo computer. I have lost segments on at least half the rides, drained the battery dead more times than I care to remember, even when the starting charge was high and the ride wasn't more than a couple of hours.

    In theory it's the perfect solution to measure your effort on your personal pocket computer, but the reality falls far short of the demand. iPhone GPS works great when you are just pinging for a location to get something like the weather or local eatery, but when you are asking it to pull gps location continuously and then combine that with Bluetooth or ANT+ accessories the load seems to be way more than it can handle.

    I just ordered a garmin 510 I hope it's up to the task.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by shreddr View Post
    I have come to the conclusion after a year of using my iPhone 5 with map my ride, Strava and wahoo fitness that the iPhone sucks as a gps cyclo computer. I have lost segments on at least half the rides, drained the battery dead more times than I care to remember, even when the starting charge was high and the ride wasn't more than a couple of hours....
    I've had the opposite experience. I've been using the Cyclemeter app since iPhone 3gs days (just before the 4 came out). I've drained the battery once in that time (iPhone 5 on an 87 mile ride). The 5s battery life is a big improvement over the 5 with the low power M7 motion coprocessor (i use a Wahoo BT HRM with it too). I've ridden a lot of places around the US- CO, MT, UT to name a few (in addition to home base in the Mid Atlantic region) with no lost segments.

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    I'm more concerned with accuracy than with the battery life. A GPS enabled phone may be decent as a backup, but I have yet to see them show any consistency with accuracy when it comes to ride information. Consider a race just this last weekend. 43 miles over 3 to 3.5 hours of riding. 4 of the 5 people who loaded up their files to one program showed elevation gains within about 50 feet of each other (around 1,600 feet). Those 4 were using Garmin GPS units. The 5th used the phone app for his and registered almost 600 extra feet of climbing. If it is going to be that far off, I really don't have much use for it.

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    I've used a Droid-X and an iPhone 4S as a cycle computer and pretty much hated it. Terrible battery life was the biggest complaint. I use the phone to listen to podcasts while I ride and I also like having the ability to make calls. When I use the phone to track my rides, battery life prohibited anything more than 4-5 hour rides in warm temps.
    The GPS accuracy sucked as well, but that wasn't as much of an annoyance.
    On the Droid, the apps (I used several) would also crash regularly, making me lose the ride altogether.
    I bought a Garmin 510 to solve all of that and it has worked out great - solved all the issues described above.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by anchskier View Post
    I'm more concerned with accuracy than with the battery life. A GPS enabled phone may be decent as a backup, but I have yet to see them show any consistency with accuracy when it comes to ride information. Consider a race just this last weekend. 43 miles over 3 to 3.5 hours of riding. 4 of the 5 people who loaded up their files to one program showed elevation gains within about 50 feet of each other (around 1,600 feet). Those 4 were using Garmin GPS units. The 5th used the phone app for his and registered almost 600 extra feet of climbing. If it is going to be that far off, I really don't have much use for it.
    Distance tracking is accurate enough for me- that and route maps are what I care most about. I do a weekly 20 - 35 mile ride with 3+ people who have Garmin 800's or 810's. We compare ride distance at the end of each ride and all are within a few percent of each other (including my Cyclemeter stats).

    Elevation data is not accurate because there is no barometric altimeter in the iPhone- the same holds true for the Garmin Edge 200. On an 87-mile ride, an Edge 200 came in at 5,740 ft elevation whereas the more expensive Garmin's came in at 7,400.

    Wahoo now offers a bike computer with RFLKT+ with ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart Bridge, including a barometric altimeter. The concept is awesome - mount a remote display on the handlebars and keep the phone stowed away. I just haven't felt compelled to go there since I can get elevation data from others whenever I want (rare occasion).

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    ^^I am not sure about barometric elevation data. That is the default elevation data source for the Garmin 510. However, it can also be changed to source it from GPS location data and let me tell you, there can be HUGE differences between the two.

    About the smart bridge you mention: Sounds nice, but the concern is that Bluetooth really sucks down the battery life for a lot of phones. As an example, I can link my iPhone (4S) to my Garmin 510 and transmit live-tracking. Sounds really useful and my wife loves being able to keep track of me.
    In practice, however, it's a battery destroyer. I do not use it only for that reason.

  10. #10
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    My phone (HTC One) will work fine as a GPS tracker as long as I leave it in my pocket. I've done 7+ hour rides and hikes and made it through with some battery to spare. But it is inconsistent, too. I've drained the battery on a 4 hour ride one time, and other times had 50% left at the end. But using the screen constantly (ie, wanting to track my speed and mileage as I'm riding) really kills the batter. For example, when I've ridden with Pandora on and forgot to set it to turn the screen off, I got about 2 hours and I was getting battery warning beeps. I imagine I'd have the same result with the phone mounted on the bars displaying my current speed/mileage like I do with my dedicated bike GPS. Very annoying to "lose" a ride b/c the phone battery dies before you are done.

    I'm curious to see the effect of bluetooth on my battery life when using the 510 and live tracking -- I haven't done this much yet. I know my phone can run a bluetooth speaker on Pandora for hours, so it doesn't seem to be using much battery in that capacity. We'll see if the 510 uses more power.
    '11 Specialized Enduro Expert for the trails
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tystevens View Post
    I'm curious to see the effect of bluetooth on my battery life when using the 510 and live tracking -- I haven't done this much yet. I know my phone can run a bluetooth speaker on Pandora for hours, so it doesn't seem to be using much battery in that capacity. We'll see if the 510 uses more power.
    When live-tracking, it is not just the Bluetooth sucking down the battery. The phone is also constantly transmitting the live-track information to a Garmin server.
    This also means that when you are in areas with little or no cell coverage (canyons, for example) the live-tracking will seem to freeze for whomever is watching it.
    However, it is a very convenient feature for a spouse worried about your whereabouts and safety.

  12. #12
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    LocaToWeb is worth a try

    LocaToWeb is a live tracking app that does very well in terms of battery usage. I have seen it track for 11 hours during Frazee Crazy Challenge before dying. Available for ios, android and wp8.

  13. #13
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    I use a Motorola Droid Bionic.
    I have no issues with battery life as long as stick it in airplane mode during the ride which I do anyways. I also carry an old battery with me though just in case that emergency comes up and I did run my battery dead but I haven't needed it yet. I have used it on extended 10+ hour rides. Accuracy of my GPS is spot on. I have tested it in multiple vehicles and up against the Garmin car GPS.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  14. #14
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    My droid razr maxx has worked great for the last couple seasons. Distance accuracy is acceptable compared to other riders garmins. Mine usually measures just a fraction of a mile less. I live in illinois (flat) so elevation change doesn't mean that much to me on a normal ride.
    I've used strava, endomondo, map my ride. I've also run two simultaneously. Even on a six hour ride the battery has been fantastic.
    Yes, I would like to have a dedicated gps unit, but it's down on my priority list. My phone does an adequate job at keeping track of mileage and that's my only real goal.

    Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk

  15. #15
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    Phone as GPS

    Something to consider for those with battery life issues. If you go into the settings and turn off Cellular Data the battery will last MUCH longer. If I'm going to be out for more than four hours I do this and it helps tremendously.

    I am very satisfied with the adequacy of my iPhone 5 for Strava and GPS/HR monitoring. No it's not perfect but for my purposes it works just fine!

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