Smartphone gps that you can enter coords with? - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 01-01-2011, 08:36 PM Thread Starter
Scaling New Heights
 
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Default Smartphone gps that you can enter coords with?

Are there any on the market that can do off road coords?
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 12:27 AM
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 01:06 AM
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What are you trying to do?
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 10:23 AM Thread Starter
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I'm trying to avoid buying a stand alone gps if i can get a phone with the same features.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 10:25 AM Thread Starter
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The nokia one is an add on so not what i'm looking for.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 11:27 AM
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Keep in mind in gps mode many phone will use up their battery in a very short period of time, leaving you without a gps when the phone dies.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 12:20 PM
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All top of the line smartphones have a GPS chip now, even the latest Nokia. I'm mostly familiar with the iPhone 'cause that's what I've got. paulyman is right, my iphone discharges completely in about 6 hours with GPS enabled, whereas standalone units last ~20 hours on a set of 2 double As. Another consideration is the fact that these phones aren't rugged or weather proof. I took my iphone on a snowshoe trip a few weeks back and I had to make sure that no moisture would get in, etc. A bit of a hassle. I believe there are some really good protective cases that might help protect the phone, but power is definitely the biggest problem. I've been thinking about getting a proper GPS unit, but if I can get my phone to last a couple of days somehow (solar?) I'm going to keep using it. HTH.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 07:32 PM
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dmitrym's comments are good advice.

Blackberry's etc. typically have gps receivers now. They are intended to be used one specific way. That way is to use the (free) GPS system to establish position. This can be handy if you need to report your location to be rescued, to find your position on a paper map, or find a specific location.

It seems universal that service providers disable the gps receiver on smart phones unless you buy a sufficiently costly plan to support heavy data access (as opposed to just a voice airtime plan). I think this is inexcusable. The phones come with the gps system, so the service providers have no right to disable a feature of the phone if you don't buy a costly data plan. For those who already had the phone (like me), disabling the gps (as Telus did) is like theft. This is like GM disabling the air conditioning on your car if you don't subscribe to OnStar.

And if anyone has a problem being rescued because the gps on their smart phone was disabled by a service provider, then that service provider should have to answer for it.

Ok, moving on...

You may want to use your smartphone's gps system with maps. The default means of doing so is to buy a costly data plan. The phone, either in response to the gps locating itself, or in response to a search by you, will download from, say, a Blackberry server (whatever that is) portions of maps to your phone. This is how a Blackberry etc. can display zoomable maps of cities anywhere in the world, and topographical maps for anywhere I tried locating it. There is no current way devices like these can store such vast quantities of data, so they download areas bit-by-bit as needed.

The problem is that it's costing you for the data downloads; either pay-as-you-go or as part of a data plan.

Here are the components of doing this:

- gps receiver built into the smartphone
- app to operate the gps and display the results
- maps, downloaded on-demand
- app to display the maps and tie in the gps information


There are two BIG problems with this. One is that it's costly. The other is that you can't get maps if you're outside cell phone range, such as most of the places people like us like to visit.

Naturally, some cheap bastards like me want to display maps but not pay for downloading data. Like on any GPS where the maps are loaded into memory. AND use the phone's gps with maps while outside cell phone range. Duh. Fortunately there's a way to do this.

Trekbuddy is a shareware app for your smartphone that uses the phone's gps, and an application called TBMapper for your computer to load maps. Trekbuddy displays maps you store in the camera's memory and ties in the phone's gps system. Trekbuddy is smart enough that even if your service provider has deactivated the phone's gps reciever, it will activate the gps. IF you have all the various phone settings correct.

Trekbuddy does not include maps. For that, you need maps in .img format (and perhaps others) and a converter application on your computer to convert the .img files into .map files. This requires downloading and installing on your computer another shareware application called GPSMapEdit.

Trekbuddy is a fairly simple gps program. You can't do all the fancy stuff typical half-decent gps' can do, such as searches, street guidance and zooming (maybe. Trekbuddy has "atlas" and "layers" which I haven't figured out yet.) Trekbuddy has a compass feature and can record, save and display waypoints and tracks. It shows coordinates, # of satellites, and can do all sorts of navigation things. Including some fancy stuff if you are in cell phone range and have an expensive plan. Such as rendezvousing with someone with a similar setup.

I already had .img files from processing Ibycus maps to use on my Garmin gps. The first step is to determine what area I need a map for, such as Manning Park. I open the correct .img Ibycus file in GPSMapEdit, and outline the area I want to save. I crop the map to the selected area. This makes the resulting file a managable size. I then zoom to the first scale where all data (such as all contour lines or all street names) is visible. If you want all of Greater Vancouver, this will result in a file too large to process. But for backcountry maps you can easily outline more area than you need.

I think you can convert Garmin Maps to use in TrekBuddy, but I find the Ibycus maps have more data and just plain look prettier. I'll post here a screen shot of a sample map on the Blackberry soon.

Somewhere on the pc I have a collection of folders named according to the areas I want maps for. I export the output from GPSMapEdit, in the form of an OziExplorer .map file.

Then, I plug the camera into the computer via the usb cable, and open TBMapper application on the pc. I open the .map file, and Export to Trekbuddy. You have a similar named folder structure on your smartphone memory. Trekbuddy is pretty good at navigating to your map folders, so the exact location is not important. So far I've exported as a single file, jpeg format, 85% or 100% quality, and the default 400x400 tiles. Larger tiles will vastly slow the phone when it has to scroll across tile boundaries. This will load the map, now in .jpg format, into the chosen directory on the phone.

Then, you disconnect the cable, start up the phone and TrekBuddy, load the map, and if you want, start the gps. I've found the gps system is about as powerful as a non-high sensitive Garmin GPS. So it's not as sensitive as a Garmin Hcx, but equals the performance of a cx. It will settle down at exactly the same location as a real gps. You can get positions inside some buildings, and inside your sleeping bag in a tent. Trekbuddy also has three settings for battery drainage. In the alpine, it would make sense to use the lower setting since sensitivity isn't a problem. Battery drainage can be a problem for using continuously such as making or following a track. But position determiation takes so little time that it's not a concern. I've found that it likes to be kept in an inside pocket because the Li battery copes with the cold much more poorly than the Ni-Mh cells I use in the Garmin.

Note that the smartphone stores the map files like photos, and as your collection of maps grows, the access time to look at photos on the phone will increase. Smartphones have relatively weak computing power.

So, if you can work your way through this non-trivial set of apps and applications, the smartphone becomes a gps system perfectly good for anything short of what you'd need a full-bore gps for. And you don't have to pay the MAN for doing so.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2011, 08:02 PM
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 01-03-2011, 11:34 AM
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Here's a screen shot of an Icybus map displayed by TrekBuddy on a Blackberry 8330. The actual on-screen quality is much better. As you can see, it has many place names, and ground cover coloring. (Icybus maps also include street information and many hiking trails.)



Someone mentioned durability. This Blackberry spent 8 months sitting on a mountain exposed to snow, rain, sun, freeze/thaw cycles, and risked being stepped on by bears, mountain goats etc. After disassembly, contact cleaning, drying and charging, it revived. I've replaced the battery since it didn't come through 100%. Of course salt water would likely kill it, but I wouldn't call it fragile.

More on battery life. Trekbuddy activates with the gps reciever turned off. You can browse the maps without the receiver active, and this would greatly increase battery life. In any case, batteries are relatively cheap and you could carry more than one.

As for versatility, smartphones are an ultimate go-light gadget. In one little gizmo you can have a gps, decent camera (the 8330 has a 2Mp camera), a crappy video cam, full featured mp3 player. Some of them have radios. You can use the screen, or even better, the video lamp as a flashlight. Not to mention video replay, basic ebook, basic word processor, audio recorder and bazillions of other apps. And that's without including the phone and Internet connection features.

Here's a couple of photos taken with the 8330:



The Blackberry can geotag photos, but won't pony up the coordinates on a photo and won't integrate with Trekbuddy (yet). All it will do is thumbtack the photo on an on-line map.

The next logical step is to use a smartphone with no data or voice plan at all. You can do most of the things listed above without a plan. Used 2-year old smartphones with gps recievers can be had for $50 or less on eBay. You could get one and set up the off-line gps function. That alone would be as good as buying a real gps. And the smartphones have nice big screens. But the smartphone can do so much more than a gps or a camera. There is a huge and rapidly growing collection of apps that can do so many things it's not funny.

Because they were not intended to be used in the backcountry they lack lanyard anchors and are vulnerable to inadvertent button-pushing. But there are ways to deal with those issues.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 01-03-2011, 11:43 AM
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A Garmin Nuvifone is what you need. Not sure when they'll be coming to Canada though.
http://www8.garmin.com/nuvifone/
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 01-03-2011, 12:00 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by sammysamsam21

A Garmin Nuvifone is what you need. Not sure when they'll be coming to Canada though.
http://www8.garmin.com/nuvifone/
Are they still sold at all? This would also be a good choice to buy used and set it up for off-line use.

The good thing about the Nuvifone is that the maps are stored in the device, so it can be used as a gps without a cellular connection. And it is a very full featured gps compared to TrekBuddy. It has a large touchscreen.

However, unless you get Ibycus maps for it, you're into the costly world of Garmin maps. I also didn't notice any spec for an MP3 player, video cam or radio.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 01-03-2011, 02:24 PM
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the garmin was a bust and is aready discontinued in the US for sale.

I saw one a few weeks ago in the US and the guy was only using it for maps.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 01-03-2011, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by sgRant


The Blackberry can geotag photos, but won't pony up the coordinates on a photo and won't integrate with Trekbuddy (yet).
by default the Iphone will stick the cords right into the jpg data of a pic. which is really scary. if someone takes a pic with their phone and posts on the net anyone can get the cords. (like of their house) I have this turned off on my iphone.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 01-03-2011, 08:26 PM
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There are lots of used Nuvifones on eBay starting at about $150, and new ones starting at around $250.

I'm sure the Blackberry attaches coordinates to photos when the geotagging is turned on, and probably it would be a simple matter to dig them out of the file properties. Probably there's an app for it.

Worse, if you have data transmission turned on, you have no idea what a smartphone might be transmitting. When I got my first bill, I was surprised to find the Blackberry was chattering away every time I turned it on. Now, data transmission is turned off, and I check that setting frequently.
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