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Smartphone GPS

Discussion in 'GPS Stuff' started by taylorericjohn, Mar 1, 2018.

  1. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    I have been thinking about buying a new GPS for the bike, but I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around spending the $500 on one. I have spent a bit of time looking at used ones, that are either older/out of date or still commanding a pretty good price.

    Recently I have started looking into using a smartphone as a dedicated GPS and have found some positive reports on people using a Kyocera phone with offline maps. I have done a bit of playing with offline mapping apps for on road travel and have in the past used online GPX viewers and mapping. The offline turn by turn on road app that I have tried is Here We Go and so far it has worked pretty well. GPS seems very accurate. The GPX viewers I haven't had enough time with to realllget a feel for them

    So I guess what I am wondering is, who has experience with using a smartphone as a dedicated GPS? What did you like? What did you find to be an issue? What apps worked best? Am I totally off my rocker?

    Thanks in advance,
  2. ThatGuyDuncan

    ThatGuyDuncan ODSC-OFTR Member

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    Limited experience, here's what I learned:
    - Few phones are waterproof, so protect it from water -- rain, splashes, naps in rivers, etcetera.
    - If the phone must be powered, it means running power through your waterproofing.

    I solved these problems with an Otterbox and silicone, but the phone would overheat if I used it too long on hot days. YMMV.
  3. Visser

    Visser Limited User

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    Are you talking true offroad riding like single track, etc? Or adventuring?

    I used to use a cellphone on my Vstrom. Bear in mind that you will need either a dustproof and waterproof phone or a good case. Dust gets everywhere.

    You will have to charge your phone while riding... and micro-USB or whatever is not all that robust. You will have to buy good cables that have a solid connection to the phone or it will drop out while riding.

    Very few phones work well with gloves. Even cellphone capable gloves can be tricky to be accurate enough to accurately hit where you want to.

    You will need to remember to start recording and stop recording a track if you wish to do so.

    Personally I gave up using a cellphone for a GPS except in the car where I want live traffic. I use a Garmin Montana now with Backroads Maps and love it. The screen is big, the screen showing relief is awesome, bright, and glove friendly. The powered mount is awesome with no micro usb to break or fall out, and backroads mapbook is so detailed you don't need to know where to find trails... pretty much every trail is on it already (although not all may be passable).

    If you ride mostly road, a cellphone on a bike works. I hated it offroad and was killing my phone fast.
  4. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    It should be noted that this will NOT be my cellphone, it will be a GPS that has other capabilities.

    I have done some reading on the Kyocera line of phones, which I had never heard of before. They sound like they are water/dust/drop proof rugged phones. They also don't die from to much heat. My hope was to charge when stopped not necessarily while riding. But very true. Micro usb are not very robust.

    I would like to use it for all my GPS needs not just on road. So road riding fire roads, single track and in my truck.

    I was looking at a Montana also, but at $500+ for a GPS and $150? For BRMB it is really making me think about alternatives. I can get a new Kyocera phone for around $125- and the apps that I would have to put on would be not much, $5-8 a piece.

    Being hard to use with gloves is definitely something to think about. If I have to take my gloves off every time I use it it would be a serious pain in the arse.

    How was it to read while riding?
  5. Vagabond

    Vagabond ODSC-OFTR Member

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    I agree with Visser. I had the exact same experience trying to use my cell phone off road. Tried for 2 seasons with various apps and I could not find any maps to match the BRMB for Ontario - last summer I bought a Montana and updated BRMB maps and it works great - rock solid charging connection , glove friendly , great screen .
  6. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    So are the main issues you had, touch screen, charging and mapping is not as good as BRMB? I haven't tried the brmb app but apparently it's not as good.

    I definitely agree that from what I have seen BRMB is top dog when it comes to coverage.
  7. Visser

    Visser Limited User

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    Visibility on a phone in bright sunlight isn't great. The garmin is better, although if the sun is overhead it's hard to see too. Then again, you really shouldn't be paying too much attention to the GPS while moving, other than the occasional glance to make sure you are still heading in the right direction.

    I don't think your plan to only charge while stop is going to work well. What is the rated screen on time for that phone you are considering? Will 20 minutes charging while stopped really be able to provide a couple hours of screen on time riding? I know my phone's battery wouldn't last long under those conditions.
    taylorericjohn and ThatGuyDuncan like this.
  8. ThatGuyDuncan

    ThatGuyDuncan ODSC-OFTR Member

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    I put mine in an Otterbox, drilled a hole for a usb cable and used silicone to reseal the box. The box was too large for the phone, which had to be pressed against the top surface to keep it visible during daylight hours. On the one hand that's a lot of work, but it had the effect of stabilizing the phone so I never had any trouble with the USB connection.

    I have only had screaming fits from frustration when running the GPS / phone without constant power. Either the phone dies, or at the least it turns off the screen constantly (and I had to unpack it every time to turn the screen back on). That's a setting I could change, but the battery would die very quickly. My friendly suggestion -- do whatever it takes to make constant power available to whatever device you use.
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  9. Visser

    Visser Limited User

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    Also, I have no idea how tough the Kyocera is made, but it will need to be tough to handle what you are planning.

    I still have a Garmin Oregon 450 that has the rear removable battery cover as well as the back housing cracked and fractured throughout despite never being dropped... the constant vibration of the bars through the RAM mount beat the hell out of it, in particular the 1300+km of gravel on the Trans Lab run that it did. The 450 is also powered by the mini usb port... which constantly had the cable falling out, corrosion issues from riding in wet Newfy weather, etc... The montana with the powered mount is far superior to the Oregon with mini usb power -- I was better off just running AA batteries in the Oregon.

    I've spent way too much money on Garmin GPS'es over the years.
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  10. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    To be honest I am not sure of the screen on time. The talk time is around 17 hrs I believe. I don't really need the screen on when riding single track, although when on The road I will want it on. I am was thinking that when on the road I would be able to plug in. Although from what you guys are saying that might be be a lofty goal. I am also hoping that because I won't use it for anything other then a gps that there won't be any other items draining the battery.
    I was looking at the kyocera phone because it is supposed to be extremely rugged. Dust,vibration and water proof. Is it? I can't say for sure, I don't know anyone with one.

    I guess it really seems to come down to sacrifice or spend big money....
  11. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    Also I am not opposed to buying a GPS, but as a father with young kids I think it only makes sense to explore all of my options. Especially the more cost effective ones
  12. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    Visser, you have used it sounds like you have used a montaMo, oregOr and smartphone. Montana is the obvious to of the heap, but how does the oregon do? I have heard mixed reviews on it, but they can be had at a far better price and can be found used for $100-150. Or a 6x series?W Worthwhile or will I just get frustrated with it? Thanks for your knowledge!
  13. Visser

    Visser Limited User

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    Your best bet for a garmin gps is something that has a power connection other than mini usb (unless you are willing to run it off battery).

    The Oregon 450 is discontinued now, suffered from a relatively small screen with on screen controls that were tough to tap with gloves. Also used mini usb for power.

    The Garmin GPS Map 78 is actually a good budget model... it suffers from a small screen, but has a power cable available and has button controls so gloves are not an issue at all. I used one for awhile and sold it to haverbakel on here (I think) when I got a Montana.

    I've never used any of the 6x series.... apparently the older ones had a solid power mount (same as the Map 78), but the new ones are mini usb only.

    Dualsport (Bob) has way more experience than I do with all of these models, so perhaps he could chime in.

    Honestly, If I were you I would watch for sales and just bite the bullet and get a Montana -- they do go on sale sometimes (I got my Montana in July of 2016 for $449 from GPScity.ca). Buy once, cry once, kind of thing. I spent way too much money on cell phone mounts, power cables, cases, then an oregon 450 with it's limitations, then a Map 78 with the small screen, and then finally spent the $600 or whatever (taxes, powered mount, etc) anyway on the Montana. How much would I have saved if I just got the Montana to begin with?
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  14. wrightonalan

    wrightonalan Limited User

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    I totally agree with visser just get the montana now and be done with it,it will be cheaper in the long run .
  15. Neil Edmunds

    Neil Edmunds ODSC Executive

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  16. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    Thanks for all the advice guys, I really do appreciate it.
  17. taylorericjohn

    taylorericjohn ODSC-OFTR Member

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    Well I asked and you guys replied. Patients and Kijiji worked their magic and I was able to find a Montana 600 for $180 fairly locally! Now I need to get some maps on it and figure out how to best utilize it.

    Thanks for everyone's help
    ThatGuyDuncan likes this.