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+1 vote
Hey guys,

what do you think is better for geocaching and why? I found nearly 4000 Geocaches and search the majority of them with my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S4) and I can't imagine why people go geocaching with a GPS-device. On a smartphone you have a better display, so you can see the map better and of course you got a lot more tools on a single device (Camera, GCC, etc.) Even the accuracy is sometimes better than with a GPS device, the only thing which comes to my mind would be the battery pack capacity but when using a powerbank, that is enough for two or three days.

So GPS-users, just tell me what you like about these devices, I know, its a never ending discussion, but I would really like to know, why some people are so crazy about their GPS...
in Miscellaneous by Flep98 (1.1k points)
retagged by Flep98

12 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
I agree that phones have some advantages, but here are some advantages with a GPS:

- Durable. I've dropped my Garmin more times than I can remember and it still works, including after I forgot it on my car roof and had it slide off at 90 km/h. It was still on when I picked it up later. In contrast I have a crack in my phone after dropping it 0.5 meters.

- Waterresistant. A few phones are as well, but far from all.

- Battery life is better, and if the battery does run out I can just stop at a gas station and get some spare AAs. With a phone I need to carry a powerbank.

- Controlled with buttons or screens sensitive to pressure. In the winter with gloves, this is a definite plus.

- It's not my phone. That means that I can use my phone to calculate myst/multi coordinates and then enter them directly into the GPS without lots of app switching.
by pinkunicorn (Moderator) (171k points)
selected by Flep98
hi pinkunicorn,
in some cases youre right, but in some points you mentioned I think the phone is as good as a GPS.

-Durability and water resistance: with the right case (for example otterbox) you can drop your mobile like everyday (just like me ;) ) and nothing will happen to it...

- I never had problems with controlling the phone screen, my S4 even has a "glove mode" so it works fine in winter, too. The only time when I cant control the phone is in heavy rain, but I think its the same Problem with a gps, isnt it?

- with the right apps, like "GCBuddy" or "cgeo" Geocaching is a lot more easier and you dont even need to type in the coordinates because, the phone does it by itself...

So the only point which is left is the battery life and I personally never had issues with that. Furthermore the advantages of the mobile are worth carrying a powerbank (which weighs about 200 gramms) to me.

But if youre happy with your GPS, thats fine, I wont buy one since in my opinion its a lot more comfortable to go geocaching with a Smartphone.

I like the fact that the GPS has a carabiner so you easy can hang in on belt loops or on a back pack. It is easier to hang the GPS like that then to put a phone in a pocket and be sure it wont fall out

I also have a string to attached to the GPS so i can secure it to me. I often cache by bike and have is securely attached to the backpack and cant be dropped if looked at while biking. There might be phone cases that can do that.

Using a powerbank with a phone is possible but the cord is always in the way.
Changing the battery is a better. Some phones can of course also do that

The GPS has no problem in rain. If it is a touch screen is it resisitve and not capacitive so it detect that you press on the screen not that your finger is there.
Some models are controlled by buttons/joystick without a touch screen

You done need to input coordinates on a gps. You can load it with a PQ just like a phone. If your phone has USB OTG you can load it in the field

The screen is alos nicer for usage in the sun because the screen is transflective. and have no problem regardless of light level. The background light can be turned of in daylight.

I think the phone is better in the city when "satellit" photos and better maps are useful. But if you walk in forest the handheld GPS is better.

I ofen use both at the same time. Look at D/T size hint old logs on the phone and navigate on the handheld GPS
+3 votes

We are a team of two, and we sometimes find it helps to have one of each! One of us has a Garmin 600 and also the other of us uses the App on an iPhone. The combined use often homes us in better. One very useful feature on the phone (which doesn't appear on the Garmin) is a satellite view of the exact cache location, and we have found that having this can often make the difference between a find or a DNF, especially if the signals are bouncing around, as the satellite view shows the published co-ordinate location in relation to the surrounding features. 

by GCZ Team (22.0k points)
+2 votes
I often use both of thoes solutions, but more often i just use my Galaxy Note 3 Smartphone. I like the option to calculate  in the separate calculator window or the split screen. But i dont have a very powerful powerbank to extend battery usage. So for longer trips, i navigate with the gps and just mark the cache found in cgeo on the Smartphone, so i can upload the field notes later on the fly and then compose my logs on the website..

Should i find a good powerbank i would take the Garmin less often, unless it is wet weather, because the smartphone has some problems when there is rain on the display..
by NoobNader (Expert) (15.9k points)
+1 vote
I use both. GPS provides better accuracy, but smart phone  is more versatile.
by urriellu (640 points)
+1 vote

My reasons to use an outdoor GPS device (I have two different Garmin devices):

1) durability - My older Garmin is almost 10 years old - it has survived many treks, hundreds of caches, navigation on high seas, it was submersed in streams, rivers, seas and swamps, it fell down cliffs, rocks and trees, it was even run over by a car. No smartphone can survive that for so long, no matter what case you use.

2) accuracy and reliability of navigation - No phone is as accurate and reliable as a good dedicated GPS navigation device, certainly not the fancy and expensive Samsung I used to have, certainly not my girlfriend's iPhone.

3) power source - You can get spare batteries almost anywhere, anytime. Feeding a phone might be a problem on longer trips. You do not exhaust your phone by using the navigation and you do not exhaust your navigation by using your phone.

4) reliability of software - A smartphone is a very complex little computer with many uses - it also means it is prone to the same problems the big computers have. It can fail in various ways, get infected by a virus, go through various software glitches. It happened to me many times - and if it happens somewhere in the woods, it is a problem that is not easy to solve.

That said, I use a smartphone a lot and carry it all the time. For quick and easy caches, for most geocaching in my home city, a smartphone is good enough and more comfortable to use. But for any longer trip, especially for longer outdoor trips, in difficult terrain, sleeping outdoors, without access to electricity, a good outdoor GPS device is absolutely essential.

by Kub4 (830 points)
0 votes
I would agree with pinkunicorn. To my experience one achieves better accuracy with a true GPS (I am using a Garmin Oregon series), in particular since it offers GLONASS navigation as well and thus being precise to 3 m or so. A smartphone may come close under good circumstances but when signal go weak (in a forest or so), my Galaxy S5 is far less accurate. This is a 'waterproof' phone but still I also share the Garmin is the more robust device and it easily handles some 15000 caches I normally have stored on it. However I can also understand if people would like to do with just one device and to some extent it simply is a matter of taste.
by Domino_67 (6.8k points)
Meh, the Galaxy Note 4 (GPS + WAAS/EGNOS + GLONASS + Beidou) a friend gave me is *MUCH* worse wrt. GPS than the old HTC Desire (only GPS), and even then, my old Windows Mobile 6.1-based PocketPC was slightly better qua accuracy (though the Android-based thingies with AGPS tend to have a quicker TTFF, although WM was even quicker when it had AGPS data or a warm start, and WM could get you a fix with as few as three (2D) or four (3D) satellites, whereas Android waits for six+ usually). Even the old SiRFstar Ⅲ chipset in my WM wasn’t easily beat by hardware GPS devices. Their robustness and battery time is, however, a good point (I still don’t own one; too expensive, and I even bought none of the Android smartphones, only the WM one, and even then I had saved up for them).
0 votes

I use a phone Asus ZenFone Max with a battery 5000 mAh, PowerBank I have to be sure in my backpack, but I needed it. And lasts three days. The phone has GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS. 

It also has arrangements gloves, Great satisfaction.

Translated by Google Translate

by mirek454 (620 points)
0 votes
Dedicated GPSr devices typically have an accuracy of 3-5m phones are typically 5-10m, so GPSr devices are inherantly slightly more accurate. Battery issues are well discussed elsewhere and personally having a power pack suits me fine for the 3-4 hour trips I'm typically am on so I don't consider that a factor. However regardless of what type of device you have the most important factor in getting to a cache is how accurate the hider's coordinates are not how accurate your device is.

The most common reason I've heard people voice for getting a GPSr is that it might help them find caches better. It is an expensive purchase just for getting an extra couple of meters accuracy that means nothing when the hider's coordinates are 15m out in the first place.

If you are regularly walking/treking then having a GPSr device is a good investment, if you just get one because it might help you find caches more easily then typically you are wasting your money.

All this of course assumes you'd have a modern smartphone anyway. If you have an old smartphone with an old/dated GPS chipset then any upgrade would be better.
by ShammyLevva (Expert) (8.3k points)
0 votes
I use both, but more often, I use my GPS.

First of all, I bought a GPS ans it is a little bit expensive. So, I want to use it.

Second, I find it more accurate (but maps are less convenient).

Third, for the battery, I find it more enduring (I use rechargeable batteries)

And above all, when I go abroad, I can search for caches without ruining me by phone costs (I just have to put a Pocket Query in the GPS, and search for caches)
by Bigou13 (780 points)
0 votes
When I first started geocaching I used my phone because I didn't have a GPS-device.  There were many caches that I couldn't find with my phone for a variety of reasons.  Once I bought my GPS-device I had better luck finding more caches easier.  There are some places where the GPS-device is more accurate in leading me towards the location of the cache.  Once in awhile, when my GPS-device acts up (for reasons unknown to me) I am able to use my phone.  Where I live there are miles and miles of area where there is no cell phone coverage, and it doesn't do me any good to look for a cache.  That's when an off line listing and my GPS-device come in handy.  I like to have them both, to improve my odds of finding the cache the first time and not having to DNF it and come back again.
by Go-pher-It (1.0k points)
0 votes
When I started caching 10+ years ago you pretty much had to use a dedicated GPSr, I found it to be a pain to load caches into it and log online. If you decided to do some spur of the moment caching you were pretty much out of luck without planning ahead. Once I moved to smartphone with c:geo I never looked back. Live maps are a necessity for me, even if I'm somewhere with no data I can create a pq from any wifi with an app and use an offline navigation app to drive to the cache area. Offline logging with field notes is great. My latest phone is waterproof, durable with a good case, and has a big battery. Carry a small powerbank for really long caching days. Accuracy is good enough to get me close enough to gz to use geo-sense to locate a cache.

I don't think even with the latest GPSr's I'd switch back! Just my take, everyone has a different thought on this subject.  :)
by Mike Fitz (5.0k points)
–2 votes
I think at first smartphone enough, but when you go in the forest or in areas a weakreception, the GPS are essential and ca makes finding faster! I am realized playing in teams or at even, my face unnecessary smartphone gps friends
by Chup'a (11.2k points)