I've had it with my Garmin, let's talk Chinese rugged phones- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    I've had it with my Garmin, let's talk Chinese rugged phones

    Used to love my Etrex 20. Then the batteries destroyed the thing after a couple years of not using and tried to switch to Etrex 30, but after several hours could not get the topo maps I previously had loaded. Additionally, the use of an antiquated mini USB made it a PITA to actually download routes and upload rides. The only benefits I can see now are physical buttons, battery life, and signal quality, but I'm ready to take the plunge.

    I'm going to list some of the phones I'm looking at with brief comments on MTB specific features I'm seeing since I can't find much discussion on the subject. Would be interested to hear from people who made the switch from Garmin to dedicated 2nd phone (w/ or w/out 2nd cell line). I don't know how much a bigger battery will help, but I'm also ready to get a separate powerbank to charge if needed for longer or multi-day excursions. I'll also be using this for cross country hiking in the Sierras.

    Ulefone Armor 3/3T $280

    Massive 10,300 mah battery (heavy, 373.7 g device)
    1080P screen
    Global bands, including 12, which I definitely want for T-Mobile
    IP69K certified is better than IP68 (includes hitting it with pressurized stream of water
    GPS+GLONASS, but no barometer
    Includes a 1-2W 400-470MHz walkie talkie function with detachable antenna... would I ever actually use this?
    Good non-dual rear camera
    No aux audio port
    350 cd/m^2
    Ulefone Armor 3T - Walkie talkie rugged phone with 10300 mAh battery and SONY 21MP Camera

    Doogee S80 $430
    Nearly identical to Ulefone Armor 3T, but more expensive. Also, slightly bigger and heavier, which is a dealbreaker since the battery already makes these huge. Biggest differentiator is probably dual camera
    https://www.doogee.cc/detail/ip68-ru...tphone_s80/139

    Blackview BV9500 $280

    Similar to above, without walkie talkie (pro version includes it), but with AGPS+BDS. Includes barometer.
    500 cd/m^2
    BV9500

    AGM X2 $430
    AMOLED screen (not sure what's best for sunlight)
    6,000 mah battery (only 250 grams)
    Global bands, including 12
    Snapdragon (many Chinese phones use Mediatek, which is subpar)
    Dual camera will take better photos
    GPS+AGPS+GLONASS+BDS, and a barometer
    460 cd/m^2
    https://www.agmmobile.com/en/product/x2-6-128

    Ulefone Armor 2S $160
    cheaper than above
    No mil-std-810g
    IP68 rated Ulefone Armor 2S - powerful quad-core chipset, 13MP rear +8MP front cameras, huge 4700mAh battery with 9V/2A fast charge, front fingerprint scanner and Android 7.0 Nougat

    Doogee S60
    Seems pretty similar to Ulefone Armor 2S, but at double the price
    https://www.doogee.cc/detail/ip68-rugged-smartphone/112
    450 cd/m^2

    Aermoo M1
    Similar to Doogee S60
    https://www.aermoo.com/products/aermoo_smartphone_m1

    Is it worth having a larger device battery, or is it a downside since I will end up needing an external battery anyway? What else should I be considering?

    EDIT: It seems people in general are lamenting the lack of phones that are actually rugged. This popped up on reddit very recently and is probably useful. https://www.reddit.com/r/Android/com..._and_the_lack/

    A few more recent flagship level phones without massive batteries are Ulefone Armor 6, Blackview BV9600, and AGM X3. Also, Crosscall Trekker x4 seems interesting, but can't find a price or anywhere to buy it online.

    Update: found an option that includes band 71 (for T-Mobile), getnord lynx. Rest of specs are kind of trash, but the screen is so trash it might substantially boost battery life so could be worthwhile. https://lynx.getnord.com/#
    Last edited by michael1; 12-25-2018 at 04:18 PM.

  2. #2
    since 4/10/2009
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    For one, I'd be looking at devices that are smaller. I simply don't want a device that's overhanging my bars/stem a lot. I want something reasonably compact.

    Which brings up battery life. How much juice does the device require to run? I'm not talking about running stuff in the background with the screen off. How fast is it going to burn through battery when it's actually being USED? Big touchscreens are simply power hungry. Some more than others, but I'm not a huge fan for bike computer use.

    2 things make the etrexes worth considering for bike use. 1, as you've mentioned, battery life (and user replaceable batteries). 2, which you missed is storage (at least as compared to fitness models). These are definitely better for long bikepacking trips from a storage standpoint. Auto archiving your track as you go and you're golden. Fitness models have a time limit these days, and you're not going to squeeze more out of it no matter what.

    I find handhelds rather clunky for bike use (especially the thickness), though I've used my Oregon 450 on the bike. It works. Not my favorite, though.

    Function wise, I don't like touchscreens for my bike computer. I've used the Oregon 450 a decent bit on the bike (exclusively for a couple years, actually). I've used my phone fairly extensively (camera, mtb project, trailforks) and I find phone touchscreens to be significantly worse from a useability standpoint, especially in humid/sweaty conditions.

    As such, I've settled on devices with physical buttons exclusively for bike computer use. I've moved away from digital mapping solutions most of the time. I'll use trailforks or mtb project on my phone if I really need it, but I will seek paper maps first. Digital mapping only comes out if decent trail maps don't exist.

    Wahoo has some computers that integrate a bit more seamlessly with phones, though. You might investigate something like that, so you can maintain a small head unit on the bike and just pull out the phone in more limited use scenarios when you need the extra.

    If you're looking at dropping this much money on a device, I think it's worthwhile to identify what you want the new device to do that your old one couldn't do, or didn't do satisfactorily. So you've already listed why you've been unhappy with the two etrexes. Specifically, what do you want your new device to do, or how do you want it to address the problems you had with the etrexes? A rugged phone as you mention may be an option, but may not necessarily be your only option, or even your best option, depending on what you want out of it.

  3. #3
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    Some of the benefits I see in the phone are:

    1) Convenience of loading new routes onto device, and transferring ride data online. I have previously used RideWithGPS, and I would also evaluate other apps. I want it to be seamless enough that I log every ride, which I didn't do with the Etrex.

    2) Convenience of having a single device -- wouldn't need to take the primary phone with me, and I could also use this device if I want to listen to music, check internet, take calls, etc.

    3) Having a 2nd phone would be convenient when travelling internationally since this reduces security risk of taking primary phone across borders. Many of the ultra-rugged phones are global phones with many bands. I'm looking at getting 2 lines of T-Mobile through 55+ plan, and that also conveniently gets me 100 gb of 4g data before deprioritization, which I want since I live out of a van.

    4) Larger screen should make it easier to see terrain. I recall zooming in and out on etrex many times, especially for hiking where I need to follow terrain rather than just knowing whether to go left or right.

  4. #4
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael1 View Post
    Some of the benefits I see in the phone are:

    1) Convenience of loading new routes onto device, and transferring ride data online. I have previously used RideWithGPS, and I would also evaluate other apps. I want it to be seamless enough that I log every ride, which I didn't do with the Etrex.

    2) Convenience of having a single device -- wouldn't need to take the primary phone with me, and I could also use this device if I want to listen to music, check internet, take calls, etc.

    3) Having a 2nd phone would be convenient when travelling internationally since this reduces security risk of taking primary phone across borders. Many of the ultra-rugged phones are global phones with many bands. I'm looking at getting 2 lines of T-Mobile through 55+ plan, and that also conveniently gets me 100 gb of 4g data before deprioritization, which I want since I live out of a van.

    4) Larger screen should make it easier to see terrain. I recall zooming in and out on etrex many times, especially for hiking where I need to follow terrain rather than just knowing whether to go left or right.
    1. Marginal, at best. It's becoming a "thing" for dedicated GPS receivers to do this sort of functionality. First was "starred" strava segments. While not whole rides, it started the functionality of "mark this as a favorite on the web/phone and it'll sync over to your GPS device so it pops up there when you ride" sort of thing. Garmin does a similar thing with Trailforks now (which gives you whole trails and rides) on most Edge devices. It's getting easier/more seamless to transfer rides onto dedicated fitness GPSes. No, the etrex will probably never get this functionality. At least not for a very long while.

    2. I don't feel like this is quite such an advantage. Fiddling around with other functions on the device reduces the battery life available for basic tracking and nav functions. Doesn't matter what the device is. The more features you enable/use, the shorter the battery life. To a degree, I prefer separating at least some functionality. Yes, I use my phone camera most frequently. But I also have a small P&S, a DSLR, and a GoPro that I pull out from time to time, too. There are times where the phone simply doesn't cut it. And for nav purposes, I feel like that's one of them. I use my phone a TON for urban navigation and driving. Not in the woods.

    3. I got nothing for that. I travel internationally so infrequently that this just isn't an issue for me. I also have a house with a wifi hotspot, and that's where the bulk of my data is used. I don't use nearly as much mobile data. You got me there. I have some friends who either live out of a van more or less full time, or spend a ton of time traveling in an RV, and mobile internet is definitely an issue. However, volume of data is rarely their problem. Rather, their problem is simply access. It's very easy to go somewhere with no access (especially if you seek out wild places), and combined with working while being mobile, that's been a challenge for them.

    4. It's not quite as advantageous as you might think. Most of the extra screen real estate goes towards improving fine details (more, smaller pixels), which definitely helps with distinguishing features on the map, but only gives you a little bit more area to see vs. a handheld gps. Yes, it's quite significant compared to the Edge 520, but quite a bit less so for handhelds.

  5. #5
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    I remember looking at the Edge vs the Etrex and finding it to be a far worse deal for the money. Plus, it is not something that I would like using while backpacking.

    It might be that 50 gb per month is plenty, especially since it just gets deprioritized rather than throttled after that. I'm still transitioning to being fully nomadic so I don't actually know how much data I'd need.

    Based on this though, I'm leaning toward the Ulefone Armor 2S since it's the cheapest option at $160, and then if I like it, I can upgrade in a year once all the other phones have versions supporting band 71, or maybe even wait a bit longer for 5g. I could also get an AGM A8 for around the same price -- no barometer, but it has a Snapdragon processor instead of Mediatek.

    https://www.agmmobile.com/en/product...?a=description

    IP68 rated Ulefone Armor 2S - powerful quad-core chipset, 13MP rear +8MP front cameras, huge 4700mAh battery with 9V/2A fast charge, front fingerprint scanner and Android 7.0 Nougat

    Edit: Looks like Ulefone is 430 nits and AGM only 330 nits, so probably will be Ulefone.

  6. #6
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael1 View Post
    I remember looking at the Edge vs the Etrex and finding it to be a far worse deal for the money. Plus, it is not something that I would like using while backpacking.
    I suppose that depends on why you're buying a GPS. Honestly, there's only one circumstance where I'd use an etrex and it would be if I was bikepacking long distance trips. I hate the etrex user interface (that damn little joystick) so much that I'd choose almost anything else over it except for the one thing it does clearly better than anything else on the market: long distance tracking. I use an Oregon 450 for backpacking, and it stays off and tucked away the vast majority of the time. It only comes on when I need it. I don't bother with active tracking for backpacking. I've tried it, and it's just too battery intensive for what I get out of it. So for that use, I don't care quite as much about the absolute battery life. It takes AA batteries, and I carry a spare set of rechargeables when I bring that GPS.

    For day-to-day riding, I find the Edge 520 to be pretty outstanding, though I'd wish for a bit more battery life and a bit more storage. The fancier mapping models (820, 1020, etc) seem to have a lot more features that are more advantageous for extensive road riding and fitness training. I don't ride road enough for those things to be worth it for me. The only times I rely on a device to tell me where to go are when I'm road riding, though. On the mtb, I free navigate more often. There's just something I love about pulling out a paper map of a trail network and going over my options.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    ... I hate the etrex user interface (that damn little joystick) so much that I'd choose almost anything else over it ....
    Among the different Edge devices I've owned, 705, 500, 520, 520+ and 820 I liked the button and joystick combination on the 705 the best, by far.
    What, me worry?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    Among the different Edge devices I've owned, 705, 500, 520, 520+ and 820 I liked the button and joystick combination on the 705 the best, by far.
    The 705 was slightly better than the etrex version, but not by a ton, imo.

    Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk

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