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  1. #1
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    Smart phone as GPS

    How is the best way to use a smart phone? Are there any good GPS aps? Can you download tracks or topos?

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    Quote Originally Posted by fiveo View Post
    How is the best way to use a smart phone? Are there any good GPS aps? Can you download tracks or topos?
    A little browsing on this page will give you quite a lot of answers to your questions.

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    I use RunKeeper app. It's cheap, effective, allows you to upload to database on internet to keep track of maps/routes/calories/miles/activities/share data. They have Iphone and droid applications. Made originally for running, but has option to set as Mountain bike/cycling/running/elliptical/etc..

  4. #4
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    Just got iMapMyRide app in the iTunes store and strongly recommend against it. Not sure about tracks or topos though. The GPS function on smartphones eats battery like you wouldn't believe. This crappy app eats 100% battery in a little over an hour. If you're going to do a lot of trail riding where cell service could be an issue get a GPS watch. Might give a look at Cycle Watch app; it's been a little hit/miss for me but it has worked better with the WiFi off.

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    Glad I found this post, I've been using "Accu terra unlimited" for hiking and was thinking of using it for biking too, but I find the same problems mentioned above about battery life and being able to upload or download data.

    From what I've heard the gps unit in the iphone (mine is the older 3g) is actually a very one and rivals dedicated units. My problem is it just died on my iphone and before that as I said you can't load other people's data (kmz files?).

    Would anyone recommend a good gps unit, and how they use it?
    Do you mount it on your bars or set it and let it run in your pack?

  6. #6
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    I just started using the Nike + app on my iphone. Its mainly for running but it seems to work pretty good for biking and doesn't kill the battery too fast. It used about 1/4 of the battery for a 2 hour ride. The in app info is alright, just shows your route and pace. If you upload it to the Nike + site on the internet you can get more detailed info like elevation ascend/descend, time splits and it maps it out in google maps. Also if you have your head phones on while using the app a nice little voice will speak up every mile and tell you your current pace and stuff. Its also free, which is nice.
    Whiskey

  7. #7
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    I was thinking about using my phone to track my riding, but I don't like the idea of riding for a few hours and losing my phone to a dead battery, if you ride alone and something happens, a dead cell phone can be a bad thing!

  8. #8
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    I don't have a problem with battery life but jeez the resolution is terrible. here's a pic of iPhone "trails" app. and compared with something I found on the interwebs. same trail. so are all dedicated GPS units as good?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Smart phone as GPS-imageuploadedbytapatalk1314137302.642369.jpg  

    Smart phone as GPS-imageuploadedbytapatalk1314137349.611379.jpg  


  9. #9
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    haha, that phone track is garbage. a dedicated GPS lets you set the recording interval. shoot, I think even some phone apps let you do that.

  10. #10
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    I use B.Icycle, works really well and doesn't kill the battery at all. It already has most bike trials which is nice to. It has all the functions you would ever want to keep track of too. The downside is that it cost $10 but well worth it IMO.

    I use GPS Trails Pro for hiking, it has a mountain feature but haven't used it. This app works really well to.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    haha, that phone track is garbage. a dedicated GPS lets you set the recording interval. shoot, I think even some phone apps let you do that.
    ah!

    ok so the first default setting was way to the left "accurate, fewer waypoints". I slid the slider all the way to the right. the second was in the middle. I slid all the way to the left (less interval distance). should this fix my issue?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Smart phone as GPS-imageuploadedbytapatalk1314146076.456874.jpg  

    Smart phone as GPS-imageuploadedbytapatalk1314146087.601932.jpg  


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    I suspect with a required accuracy of over 2000yds, you will find some ugly outliers in your data. Play around with the settings to see if any of them produce acceptable results. I am doubtful you'll produce one that looks quite as good as the dedicated GPS track you posted, but see what you wind up with. At least you know the settings now and can make adjustments.

  13. #13
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    I have been using My Tracks with my android phone. I'm not sure if it's the best app out there but I like it and it works for me. Granted it's not as good as a dedicated GPS but it gets the job done.

    Sample output on Google maps:
    Wilder 8/7 - Google Maps
    Last edited by Forever; 08-23-2011 at 09:23 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lil' Red View Post
    I use B.Icycle, works really well and doesn't kill the battery at all. It already has most bike trials which is nice to. It has all the functions you would ever want to keep track of too. The downside is that it cost $10 but well worth it IMO.

    I use GPS Trails Pro for hiking, it has a mountain feature but haven't used it. This app works really well to.

    I spent $10 on that accuterra app, then a few months later it's selling for a dollar, and now being bought by some other company, so who knows. In addition to that the gps chip in my iphone quit, so it's useless. It was an ok app for hiking and biking too I guess but it would chew the battery and as stated earlier I'd rather leave the phone off in case of an emergency.

    I'm definitely looking into a real gps for activities.

  15. #15
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    oh yeah!
    first setting 1800. second all the way to the left. only used 10% battery (from full charge).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Smart phone as GPS-imageuploadedbytapatalk1314902740.025405.jpg  


  16. #16
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    I use Runkeeper as well. And if you subscribe for Elite, you get additional features, like live tracking. Great for races and stuff. I tried Strava, which is an app basically for cyclists. I didn't like it much, becuase you had to upload the data manually and there's no live tracking capibilities. Unlike RunKeeper. Once I end my activity and close the app, it will upload the data. I tried iMapMyRide as well and is similar to RunKeeper, but RunKeeper has a little more features, plus allot of my friends use it for other activities, that's it's easy to keep track of what each of us are doing.

    As far as battery, I use an extended battery on my phone, so no problems. I carry an extra, smaller battery just in case, but I've never gone a day of actually having to swap out to use it.
    - Ed

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  17. #17
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    I just switched from iMapMyRide to Strava on my iPhone. Not sure what you mean by manual uploading ecub, Strava uploaded to my strava account just fine on it's own. I like the reports and mapping better on Strava. I'll likely upgrade to a premium account after a while.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiveo View Post
    How is the best way to use a smart phone? Are there any good GPS aps? Can you download tracks or topos?
    ---
    Having killed every cyclometer ever mounted, I will not mount a dedicated GPS unit. Got a new android phone in July and have had mixed results using different free apps. iMapMyRide requires a good 3G signal to save the track, yet can provide much workout detail. Have had better luck using Google's MyTracks, and once app is started, set phone into Airplane Mode (AP) so that battery life is no longer an issue. Track sharing can be done with both apps.

    Am quite surprised by it's ability to track under a heavy canopy, when 4 years ago few GPS units would work well. Perhaps they cannot equal today's best, yet it's free, can track from inside a ziplock, stuffed in a Camelback, and gives one a good idea of location, and just where the heck you went. The navigation feature also works great in the car, and I think it'll replace my Garmin Nuvi.
    The best is the one you want to ride most often..

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalamath View Post
    I just switched from iMapMyRide to Strava on my iPhone. Not sure what you mean by manual uploading ecub, Strava uploaded to my strava account just fine on it's own. I like the reports and mapping better on Strava. I'll likely upgrade to a premium account after a while.
    I used it on an Android phone. I'm used to apps like RunKeeper and RunGPS, where the app will upload or request to upload the activity after you stopped it. I didn't see this in Strava, well, I don't remember at least. It's been awhile since I've tried it. I may give it one more shot.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flyin_W View Post
    ---
    Having killed every cyclometer ever mounted, I will not mount a dedicated GPS unit. Got a new android phone in July and have had mixed results using different free apps. iMapMyRide requires a good 3G signal to save the track, yet can provide much workout detail. Have had better luck using Google's MyTracks, and once app is started, set phone into Airplane Mode (AP) so that battery life is no longer an issue. Track sharing can be done with both apps.

    Am quite surprised by it's ability to track under a heavy canopy, when 4 years ago few GPS units would work well. Perhaps they cannot equal today's best, yet it's free, can track from inside a ziplock, stuffed in a Camelback, and gives one a good idea of location, and just where the heck you went. The navigation feature also works great in the car, and I think it'll replace my Garmin Nuvi.
    Have you tried RunGPS? I've used it several times and actually love it. It's actually a very extensive app. Blows away RunKeeper. Unfortunately, it's so extensive, it's too cumbersome to use for me. This is why I stuck with RunKeeper.
    - Ed

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  20. #20
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    The nice thing is, I can run Strava and RunKeeper at the same time.
    - Ed

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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by ecub View Post
    I used it on an Android phone. I'm used to apps like RunKeeper and RunGPS, where the app will upload or request to upload the activity after you stopped it. I didn't see this in Strava, well, I don't remember at least. It's been awhile since I've tried it. I may give it one more shot.
    Yep, Strava uploads directly. Once you're done an activity, just tap on that activity on the list and it syncs it.

    I've used RunKeeper a lot and really like it, but the segment competition aspect of Strava has convinced me to give it a shot. If not for that one feature I'd stick with RunKeeper.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by helix66 View Post
    Would anyone recommend a good gps unit, and how they use it?
    Do you mount it on your bars or set it and let it run in your pack?
    Any outdoor model from Garmin would be a decent option. (Also, don't forget discontinued models, on which you can find pretty good closeout or secondhand deals.) In terms of ultimate sensitivity and accuracy, you can't do any better than the current Garmin GPSMAP 62 series (though they're pricey) or, their predecessors, the GPSMAP 60 series. These guys not only have built-in "quad-helix" antennas that outperform most if not all other antenna designs for consumer outdoor GPS models out there, they also feature physical buttons (rather than relying much on touchscreen controls), for which you might be thankful if you bike with full-fingered gloves.

    I mount my GPS on the handlebars. Keeping it in the backpack would be a decent option, too, for recording your track (as long as you can place it in such a way that it won't fall underneath some other objects, reducing signal strength), but if part of your intent in carrying a GPS is to navigate your way along a less-than-familiar route by following a pre-plotted route or track on the screen, then keeping the GPS in your backpack may not work very well for obvious reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by sprknranger View Post
    I was thinking about using my phone to track my riding, but I don't like the idea of riding for a few hours and losing my phone to a dead battery, if you ride alone and something happens, a dead cell phone can be a bad thing!
    That's a pretty good reason to use a dedicated unit. On top of that, the better ones among outdoor GPS models use AA or AAA batteries. Not only can you keep going even after your first set of batteries are dead, by replacing them with a second set (which some smartphones like the iPhone do not allow), but you can also buy extra batteries from any old convenience store in an emergency and keep going, which you can't do even with smartphones that do have replaceable batteries.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flyin_W View Post
    Having killed every cyclometer ever mounted, I will not mount a dedicated GPS unit. Got a new android phone in July and have had mixed results using different free apps.
    I assume you're implying that you're not mounting your smartphone where you used to mount your cyclometers. Otherwise, I don't see how killing a smartphone would be better than killing a dedicated GPS. (And for keeping the smartphone with the GPS app in your backpack, my comments above would apply.)

    =====

    As a quick recap on the discussion, using a smartphone as GPS rather than a dedicated unit is good enough for casual use as long as you're okay with these drawbacks:

    • Battery life and replaceability. Well-discussed already. If you only do short rides, it might not be much of a problem.
    • Sensitivity. If you ride frequently in hilly country and/or under serious forest cover, the accuracy of smartphones will be a joke, or they may lose the GPS signal altogether.
    • Ruggedness. You need to keep in mind how your smartphone would survive flying off your handlebar during an endo or getting soaked in your backpack if you fall during a creek crossing (both of which are scenarios that most dedicated outdoor GPS units would shrug off).
    • Touchscreen. If you (would like to) use your GPS for navigation as well, you'll want to mount it where you can see it. You'll know what you're missing on a smartphone after you've tried zooming the map view in or out while coasting down a fire road. And after that, try the same thing with full-fingered biking gloves on.


    On the other hand, the advantages of using a smartphone are also fairly obvious:

    • For most people, it's free. Although, once you start getting into purchasing apps for $10, you might want to start thinking about being penny-wise and pound-foolish, since there are plenty of very usable dedicated GPS units can be had for $50 or less.
    • It's convenient, if you would find it a hassle to connect your GPS unit to a computer via a USB cable and download your GPS track to save as a GPX file. Functionally though, the two are equivalent, even if the dedicated GPS unit may take a few more manual steps to achieve the same result.
    Looking for local rides? You'll find plenty on my website: Bay Area Mountain Bike Rides.

  23. #23
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    One more item for the "pros" list of dedicated GPS units:

    Maps are offline. If you're interested at all in following your position on the GPS screen while you ride, you won't be able to maintain the base map displayed as a background when you're riding outside of cell phone coverage, since most smartphone GPS apps work by downloading map tiles from the Internet in real time. Yes, there are those that can work with offline maps cached in advance, but those are (1) always for a limited area and, unless you're very good at estimating where your ride might take you, you could find yourself riding out of the coverage of the offline map while "exploring" during your ride, and (2) having to use such offline maps will create an additional piece of work every time you'll be riding at a new location (which may not be an issue for people who always ride in the same place or the same handful of places). (This also greatly hurts the "convenience" advantage of smartphone apps, of course, if you happen to be subject to this particular requirement...)

    With a dedicated GPS unit, on the other hand, you can load your entire state's (or a few states' worth of) topographic maps (usually for free, from gpsfiledepot.com) onto your unit once, and not have to worry about base map coverage ever again.

    Of course, this is a non-issue for riders who use a smartphone GPS app only for post-ride analysis.
    Looking for local rides? You'll find plenty on my website: Bay Area Mountain Bike Rides.

  24. #24
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    My preference in carrying only my android phone...The areas I bike at have cell coverage. Also no worries about battery loss, since I carry a spare battery. It's cheaper buying a spare battery than buying another device to carry around.
    - Ed

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  25. #25
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    Sports-tracker is another app that has had some good updates recently

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