Author Topic: Using a phone instead of a GPS device  (Read 5879 times)

Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« on: February 23, 2020, 03:13:30 pm »
Has anyone abandoned Garmin, Wahoo and the rest in favour of just using a phone app? 

I'm looking into the feasibility of it, mainly because my old Garmin 705 won't last for ever and I've not found any of the current crop of GPS devices do exactly what I want.

I already use OSMAnd+ for navigation (by which I mean giving me a line to follow - I virtually never want a device to give me turn by turn navigation) from time to time and find it excellent as the big screen has far more detail and better mapping than a GPS. 

What I want to know is what are the best apps to use for capturing ride data in a form that can be imported to other systems (ie not Strava which doesn't give you the ability to re-export your own data)?

Drawbacks from phones that I can see are battery life, waterproofness and screen visibility (too bright at night, not bright enough in the sun).  The first two can be got round with a power bank and a plastic bag, but I'd need to do more testing to have a view on the last one. 

Any thoughts welcome, although ideally not multiple posts on the three drawbacks above!

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2020, 03:45:09 pm »
I've only ever done navigation by phone for long distance riding. I can't imagine being confined to tiny screen and not being able to easily browse ahead or look around the map.

A lot of phones are waterproof. All iPhones from the 7 upwards, and various random Androids (mostly high end, with a few low-end "rugged" phones from never-heard-of-them manufacturers). The touchscreens still become unusable in heavy rain, and moisture in the charging port is a huge worry.

I got an iPhone 11 Pro last year, which is my first OLED - on those power consumption is proportional to the number of illuminated pixels. Combined with "dark mode" this more than doubles battery life - I get around 13 hours screen on, including podcast listening and without using airplane mode or any low power settings. This phone also supports fast charging from a USB C power bank, so between the two I should never have to charge on the bike. It also has Qi charging in case of charging port issues.

I wrote my own app for navigating with. It displays and logs speed/cadence/HRM/Power/Di2 data, and can export all except Di2.

(I don't really recommend navigating with one app and logging with another, as both iOS and Android can't be trusted not to kill background apps)

telstarbox

  • Loving the lanes
Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2020, 04:23:15 pm »
Strava can export a GPX file from your recorded ride if that's what you meant?
2019 🏅 R1000 and B1000

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2020, 04:39:47 pm »
Strava can export a GPX file from your recorded ride if that's what you meant?

It does yeah, including sensor data.

On the other hand, they dropped support for using external sensors with their own phone app recently, claiming it crashed the app too much (i.e. they couldn't be bothered fixing it).

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2020, 04:48:50 pm »
Thanks, interesting. 

Just had a quick look at your app, which seems lovely, clean and simple.  It doesn't quite have all the display feilds that I would like, but I expect nothing will have exactly what I want, but it looks pretty good.  Does it need an internet connection to get google maps, or is there a way of caching maps in advance?


I've only ever done navigation by phone for long distance riding. I can't imagine being confined to tiny screen and not being able to easily browse ahead or look around the map.

A lot of phones are waterproof. All iPhones from the 7 upwards, and various random Androids (mostly high end, with a few low-end "rugged" phones from never-heard-of-them manufacturers). The touchscreens still become unusable in heavy rain, and moisture in the charging port is a huge worry.

I got an iPhone 11 Pro last year, which is my first OLED - on those power consumption is proportional to the number of illuminated pixels. Combined with "dark mode" this more than doubles battery life - I get around 13 hours screen on, including podcast listening and without using airplane mode or any low power settings. This phone also supports fast charging from a USB C power bank, so between the two I should never have to charge on the bike. It also has Qi charging in case of charging port issues.

I wrote my own app for navigating with. It displays and logs speed/cadence/HRM/Power/Di2 data, and can export all except Di2.

(I don't really recommend navigating with one app and logging with another, as both iOS and Android can't be trusted not to kill background apps)

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2020, 04:50:28 pm »
Strava can export a GPX file from your recorded ride if that's what you meant?

Thanks for pointing that out.  TBH I'm not quite sure what I mean!  It's years since I actually tried to export data from Strava and I just remember that it wouldn't let me do what I wanted, and that is all I remember.  It may be that they have changed things now.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2020, 07:00:25 pm »
I've tried using my phone's GPS to log runs with Strava. My previous phone (an LG) had a fault where the aerial connections were shit. Even opening it up and bending pins didn't fix it. My current Samsung works, but is still quite prone to jumps off course and to cover gaps in data. (1km extra in a 10km run wasn't unusual.) So i now carry my bike GPS to log runs.
Maybe I'm unlucky, but I'd be cautious about using a phone where the track's accuracy mattered to me. Navigating, i reckon the human is mostly able to spot errors.


Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk


Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2020, 07:48:53 pm »
Has anyone abandoned Garmin, Wahoo and the rest in favour of just using a phone app? 

This doesn’t answer your question but it is perhaps another benefit of phone apps over GPS devices: over the past month or two I have successfully made use of Google’s routing using voice instructions via Bluetooth to hearing aids (so presumably will work at least as well with wireless ear buds), with the phone out of sight in a pocket somewhere. Worked rather well.


Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2020, 08:03:51 pm »
  Does it need an internet connection to get google maps, or is there a way of caching maps in advance?

It needs a connection for the base map, but not for the line. If you zoom in to a suitable level and follow the track while you have a connection, it will cache the map tiles for later.

It's something people request a lot, but not something I've ever found I really need myself, and that's been the driving force behind actually implementing stuff. Probably a lot of work too.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2020, 10:40:50 pm »
I think what I am after is Cyclemeter.  Seems to have pretty much everything I want (and a lot that I don't, or certainly didn't know that I did), but I'm not sure about cached maps yet. 
Have downloaded it and will have a play with it.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2020, 11:31:54 pm »
Since retiring I've found the time to really get to grips with Orux Maps on Android which I'm running on my everyday phone, a Galaxy S7 and also on a cheap Huawei 7" tablet.  What I really like about using an android device in this way is that it provides multiple options in route planning on the fly.  For planning longer distance rides I use cycle.travel on my laptop and then upload the gpx file to Orux maps on the mobile device.  If I then want to deviate from that route, say in search of "explorer tiles", I'll use the brouter plugin with Orux maps which I've found to work really well as an off-line routing engine.  If I haven't pre-planned a return route and just want to get home on an easy route I'll switch apps and use Komoot leaving Orux maps running in the background and recording the track. 

By using the "dim wake lock" function on Orux maps the map and route are always visible albeit on a dimmed screen which is readable in most conditions apart from bright sunlight.  It only takes a tap on the screen to restore full brightness when conditions dictate.  Running the tablet in this manner on aeroplane mode I can achieve 10hrs+ of navigation and track recording before having to think about recharging.  I know that using a handlebar mounted tablet may not appeal to all, but I find the advantage of having such a large moving map display is of huge benefit when exploring.

Note: the Huwaei tablet cost about £60 new, I waterproofed it by sealing the unused ports with tape and a removable port seal for the charging port.  I house the device in a PU backshell case and attach to a modified topeak ridecase and mount using velcro.  An application of RainX water repellent to the screen also helps in keeping the screen clear during a downpour.
Most of the stuff I say is true because I saw it in a dream and I don't have the presence of mind to make up lies when I'm asleep.   Bryan Andreas

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2020, 09:15:15 am »
Interesting.

I think the appeal of large screens increases with age, as it gets harder to see smaller screens without glasses.  When I see the guys who are on twitter, etc when riding I do think that I wouldn't be able to do that if I wanted to.

It looks like there are a range of options in the open source world.  I need to have a look at a couple.  One I will try that looks quite good is AAT (Another Activity Tracker - uses the same naming system as cycling forums!).  http://bailu.ch/aat/

It looks like it will work from offline Open Streetmaps, which is my preferred setup.  I'll need to have a play to see if it does the rest.

I now realise that this could be a huge time sync.  But it feels a more rewarding use of time than messing around trying to understand how to use a new Garmin!

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2020, 09:55:37 am »
Sean Conway used a phone instead of a GPS unit for navigation on his cross europe ride, he gave the same reasons as you and Grams. Didn't like having a small screen and he found the GPs units crashed a lot and did strange things. Certainly this was true for garmin units when I was using them, it was a real pain in the tits. My new wahoo is yet to crash on a ride but time will tell.

The newer element roam has a bigger screen and is optimised for touring etc but it's £300 (oof) and only 2.7 inches tall relative to a smartphone's more common 5-6".

I use my phone for navigation when I'm doing delivery, as it's a lot easier to plug in destinations and routes on the fly than any head unit. I use either komoot or just basic google maps. Works OK.
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD



Ban cars.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2020, 05:02:46 pm »
I'd heard about Sean Conway.  The app he used is just for mapping.  Quite a few people do things like the Transcontinental using phones too - I don't know what they use.

I used RWGPS once, in an emergency, on an audax last year.  It was ok for showing me the way and also gave me a trace which I used to get my ride validated when I lost my wallet with receipt in it. 

I want to be able to record and display power data.  Not all the time, but sometimes.  And I'd also like a 'lap' button.  Without those requirement there would be a lot more options. 

I've had a look at AAT but it doesn't seem to be what I want, so Cyclemeter looks like the best hope.  RWGPS seems pretty good but don't think it has a lap button.

Need to find time to get out on my bike and test it!

Phil W

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2020, 06:51:52 pm »
Modern android phones have Ant+ not so sure about iOS phones. Assuming your power meter is Ant+ only and not Bluetooth 5 etc.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2020, 07:15:15 pm »
OruxMaps has ANT+ and other sensor support.
Most of the stuff I say is true because I saw it in a dream and I don't have the presence of mind to make up lies when I'm asleep.   Bryan Andreas

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2020, 10:19:42 pm »
Power meter has Bluetooth so connectivity not the issue, its just whether the app gives the option to display power.
surprisingly few seem to.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2020, 10:54:03 pm »
Yes, you can add add any of the ANT+ sensor readings including power to the Oruxmaps dashboard.
Most of the stuff I say is true because I saw it in a dream and I don't have the presence of mind to make up lies when I'm asleep.   Bryan Andreas

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2020, 10:57:50 pm »
Sorry, misread your post but to confirm there are also options to add BT 4.0 sensor readings to the dashboard as well.
Most of the stuff I say is true because I saw it in a dream and I don't have the presence of mind to make up lies when I'm asleep.   Bryan Andreas

Diesel

  • or Richard
Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2020, 11:19:34 pm »
I've gone the other way from phone to Wahoo having done rides of 1000km and 1500km using the phone. But it is a good question

Battery life wasn't a problem in itself but I found I couldn't keep the charging port on my android phone dry. So even though the phone worked and I had power to charge it the phone 'detected moisture' sometimes in wet conditions and would not charge. This was a major draw back.

Visibility in sun was difficult at times but puttibg the phone on max brightness was ok

It did offer the benefit of seeing a bigger map and I miss that. Using wahoo for PBP I lost all sense of where I was and didn't like that.

The other big challenge I have is that the wahoo screen is so small and as my eyes deteriorate (with age!) I struggle to read it.

Maybe I'll go back to phone at some stage

I used RWGPS on the phone and it served me well. Better and more reliable than Wahoo. It has a feature that if you follow a route with cues it turns the screen on for each cue (turn) and off in between which works pretty well.


Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #20 on: February 25, 2020, 08:12:49 am »
Interesting thread as I have moved to using a Samsung phone with a protective case for walking using Komoot or the OS app. The screen powers on as I lift it and I can read it without glasses on the hills. On aeroplane mode the battery life is more than enough for a full days hill walking.

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2020, 10:09:57 am »
I want to be able to record and display power data.  Not all the time, but sometimes.  And I'd also like a 'lap' button.  Without those requirement there would be a lot more options. 

Yeah I think you'll struggle to find an app that does this  - my only suggestion would be getting one of the cheaper mini GPS units to record the power data etc and then just the phone to navigate. Looking at https://powermetercity.com/2018/05/08/power-meter-smartphone-apps/ I can't see anything that fits the bill, especially re pressing a 'lap' button.

This £120 STAGES one has a lap button and measures power. https://www.sigmasports.com/item/Stages-Cycling/Dash-L10-GPS-Bike-Computer/K9O1
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD



Ban cars.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #22 on: February 25, 2020, 06:07:45 pm »
I'm pretty sure Cyclemeter does everything I want. 
It sounds like Orux might do too, but needs a bit more investigation. 

Power meter data isn't hard, as far as I can gather, just the app designer needs to have thought of it!

Phil W

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2020, 06:38:58 pm »
I have Orux Maps on my phone as backup. It also shows  the same offline OSM mapping as on my GPS. I just copy the mapping img file from the GPS to the phone storage. Orux can read it direct. I don’t use power outside so can’t comment on that.

Re: Using a phone instead of a GPS device
« Reply #24 on: February 26, 2020, 10:14:08 am »
First test with cyclemeter on the way in to work.

it wasn't bad. Did a good job of recording and displays more than enough data fields. Was pleasantly surprised that it found maps despite me having it on flight mode, assume it cached them at the start. Need a longer ride to test how that works. It has loads of ride analysis, which is not such a priority, but it is good.

the map on the main screen is much better than a garmin but nothing like as good as osmand has. It does have a good map but it's on another screen. And not so easy to switch.

It worked ok with gloves.

One thing I realised is that I need to get phone on an in front mount. Currently on stem but it is too far away from the road to be looking.

I'll test it some more.

I'll also review my requirements. The main one being lap button. I only need this when I'm doing intervals and the garmin can manage those OK so maybe I don't need it. That would open up other options with better mapping, such as oruxmaps. It would also open up rwgps which has a better interface,and works with offline maps.

It might be that I end up using two or more different ones, eg cyclemeter for intervals and something else for long rides and navigating round town.  I use Osmand for that at the moment and it is hard to imagine anything else will be better.

This is turning into a bit of a project, but interesting, and I'm now certain I'll have something that meets my needs better than garmin or wahoo. It will also cost less, but that's not the main priority.