Author Topic: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?  (Read 3462 times)

Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« on: April 16, 2013, 12:13:07 pm »
I was thinking about buying a new GPS system. The Etrex 20 looks quite nice. For the same money though I could have a basic Nokia smartphone with built in GPS mapping.
I could then use it as a phone, an MP3 player and GPS.
I can charge it on the go off my hub gear, so battery life is not an issue.

So why would I spend more on a bike-specific system?

robgul

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2013, 12:16:07 pm »
.... it rains quite often ... real GPS gadgets are pretty much weatherproof ... phones are not.

Rob

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2013, 12:19:15 pm »
.... it rains quite often ... real GPS gadgets are pretty much weatherproof ... phones are not.

Rob

At the other end of the weather spectrum, GPS unit screens are usually designed to be read in bright sunlight, unlike smartphone ones (as I found last year, could read the screen of the Edge, but not the screen of my S2!)
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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2013, 12:21:50 pm »
A slightly more considered response to my initial attempt ...

Battery life is an issue but if you're charging off a dynohub then you've got it covered.  I have an E30 which is great now I've tamed it.  For the last 4+ years I've used a bike specific GPS and think its just fine but I suppose if you're starting from scratch you could go down the smartphone route. Might be worth a try.

vorsprung

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2013, 12:25:04 pm »
I've not tried pushing my current phone to the limits of battery endurance but the old HTC Desire could do about 7 hours of GPS + data before running out of juice, on a full charge.

You'd need an external battery pack to use a smartphone for navigating imho

The eTrex does at least 15 hours ( one time it did 24h ) on a single pair of AA.  And a spare pair of AA is easy to carry.
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contango

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2013, 12:32:36 pm »
I was thinking about buying a new GPS system. The Etrex 20 looks quite nice. For the same money though I could have a basic Nokia smartphone with built in GPS mapping.
I could then use it as a phone, an MP3 player and GPS.
I can charge it on the go off my hub gear, so battery life is not an issue.

So why would I spend more on a bike-specific system?

Historically the primary advantages of a dedicated GPS unit were that they had a better chipset, weatherproofing/userproofing and better battery life.

I found my Garmin 60CSx to be all but indestructible - I hiked with it in the pouring rain on Dartmoor, cycled with it through many a rainstorm and hailstorm, dropped it from waist height onto concrete a couple of times, covered it in mud on muddy trails and then washed it under the tap - all things you wouldn't want to do with a smartphone. The batteries lasted all day, compared to about 3 hours on my smartphone, and the only time it lost GPS signal was in a tunnel where my smartphone (an old HTC) lost GPS signal if I walked within about 100 yards of a tree.

Now smartphones have decent signal, there are all sorts of ways to extend battery life, and you can buy hard cases to give them the weatherproofing normally associated with GPS.

As it stands the only real advantage to a bike-specific unit I'm seeing is the readability of the screen (and touch screen GPS units will suffer a little here, even if not as much as a phone) and the interface to things like heart rate monitors and cadence sensors. Although I believe you can get both sensors with bluetooth rather than ANT+ so even that's not so much of an issue.

Just make sure the mapping you get with the Nokia is fully offline, as it would be a real drag to get into a remote area when you run out of maps and find you've either got no coverage at all or you're stuck with trying to download map tiles over GPRS.
Always carry a small flask of whisky in case of snakebite. And, furthermore, always carry a small snake.

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2013, 12:51:34 pm »
For road use it is difficult to see beyond a decent smartphone and google maps these days.   For hillwalking, sailing,kayaking, etc the jury is still out for me.   

One thing:   My Garmin GPS60csx mounts on the bars and runs all day on a pair of AA rechargeables.   My htc smartfphone doesn't mount on the bars and runs for a pittance unless plugged in to an auxilliary battery or charger.   

Also consider that smartphone routing uses a mix of data as well as GPS and thus will eat into your data allowance.

Toady

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2013, 01:46:43 pm »
This is no substitute for proper research but ... Nokia maps are (or at least were when I looked a couple of years back) fully offline so you can download your big map datasets of your destination country at home over wifi.  My Nokia N8 (which is a lovely bit of kit, but not exactly cutting edge any more) certainly is.  However, since their change to Windows Mobile they may have rescinded this lovely feature. 

Note, however that cellphones typicially use A-GPS which uses a data connection as part of the GPS setup (basically speeds things up a bit) without which they can complain or even not work.

I too am still using a 60CSX which has also been subject to some serious abuse and has laughed at it all, apart from needing a replacement battery cover.  I'd add to contango's list:  bouncing off the handlebars and hitting the road going downhill at about 40km/h.  Left outside overnight at about -30C.  Stolen and hidden by border terrier.  I doubt some of the modern cycling specific Garmins would be so forgiving. 

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2013, 01:56:12 pm »
I was thinking of a Raspberry Pi with GPS dongle and HUD spectacles.


Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2013, 02:05:16 pm »
Now smartphones have decent signal, there are all sorts of ways to extend battery life, and you can buy hard cases to give them the weatherproofing normally associated with GPS.

And some phones are water and dust resistant, e.g. Sony Xperia Go. 

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2013, 02:15:15 pm »
Now that looks interesting. Imagine a head up display for your route sheet on an Audax, or the team manager sending text messages to you during a race.

Three years and it will be mainstream.
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Kim

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2013, 03:29:00 pm »
Hiking GPSes made bike-specific GPSes redundant before either bike-specific GPSes or smartphones were invented.

Google Glass and competitors may be a game-changer, though.
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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2013, 03:29:20 pm »
I have used a basic Nokia (5230 or 5320 - I can never remember which) with a Nokia charger on a hub dymano and Viewranger app. The 'rubber band' holder with the Nokia charger is good at holding the phone.

Issues are:


1. Water resistance (you can put the phone in a clear dry-bag)

2. Visibility - very difficult to see the display in bright sun.

3. Using the touch-screen while on the move - small drop-down menus while coping with vibration & cycling gloves.  :facepalm:

4. Display is quite small and I need glasses to see the display.

Viewranger did a free download of GB streetmaps a while ago - you can also use other mapping with it or online.

The Viewranger app is very comprehensive and complicated, probably over-complicated for use on a ride- putting a route in is not at all straight-forward.

Nokia's Ovi-maps is a good, easy to use Sat-nav that is ideal if you are lost and want 'a' way to get home. It dioes like to use motorways if anywhere near, though.  ::-) Again the maps are on the phone, but the phone goes online to find the address/postcode/destination. It is not possible to import a gps to Ovi-maps or plan a route on anything other than the Ovi-maps website.  >:(
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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2013, 03:56:26 pm »
I like the compact handlebar/stem brackets for bike-specific GPSs - especially when the GPS isn't fitted.  A bracket for a smart phone's gotta be larger, hasn't it?

Also, I like the chunky buttons and joystick of my Garmin Edge 605.  I suppose a touchscreen could be just as good, but only if it works through your gloves.  Not to mention the weatherproofing, as already mentioned.
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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2013, 04:37:37 pm »
There are some photos of the Nokia charger HERE , including the 'rubber band' phone mount (note: the writer converted the unit for USB output).  :-\
If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is...

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2013, 06:11:28 pm »
Should you be in foreign parts, data costs could be very high if you needed routing info over the air while en route. 69p/MB and up unless you have done a clever deal with your UK service provider.

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Bryn

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2013, 09:55:18 pm »
I wonder if something like the Pebble watch would provide an interesting solution. The phone can be out of harm's way in something waterproof (in a ziplock back in your rear jersey pocket), with the GPS display and route instructions on the watch. Might also be good for those with vision issues who need to view display at short range.

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2013, 09:47:24 am »
Does anyone know if the Ipad Mini has GPS built in.  I reckon  I would fit one in the map case on my Super C bar bag.  With a suitable charging system off the dynohub That might be a way to go.  No use if you don't have onboard charging though.
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contango

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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2013, 10:27:43 am »
Does anyone know if the Ipad Mini has GPS built in.  I reckon  I would fit one in the map case on my Super C bar bag.  With a suitable charging system off the dynohub That might be a way to go.  No use if you don't have onboard charging though.

If it doesn't have GPS but does support bluetooth you could get yourself a bluetooth dongle and get your position from that. They're pretty small - I bought one four years ago that's barely the size of a matchbox.
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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2013, 11:50:07 am »
How far are you riding? And do you want to log what you've done or follow a route?

I've been logging everything on endomondo lately as I'm using a HRM and want to keep a close eye on my supposed calorie burn, and my phone has coped fine, with additional power from a cache battery for up to 300k.

Routing, however, is a different kettle of fish and if I were to want to use GPS for that, I would use a dedicated device.

I have pre-loaded google maps for using on my phone tho. For emergencies when we were in Furrin Parts. I always have a phone with me. That isn't true for a GPS device and I wouldn't want to start using a dedicated GPS all the time, I'd forget it, and that would annoy me.

Surely most of the strava-posse are doing it on their phones?
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Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2013, 12:25:03 pm »
Does anyone know if the Ipad Mini has GPS built in.  I reckon  I would fit one in the map case on my Super C bar bag.  With a suitable charging system off the dynohub That might be a way to go.  No use if you don't have onboard charging though.

Nexus 7 has GPS, if you're looking along those lines.
Not sure I see much advantage over a smartphone for this though, if you're carrying a smartphone anyway.

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2013, 12:42:17 pm »
Apart from a 7 inch screen.
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rr

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2013, 01:03:06 pm »
I am tempted by the combination of a 7inch tablet and on device maps with veiwranger.
When i am abroad i use veiwranger with stored maps and the data turned off on my phone. Battery life is increased and it works well apart from the tiny screen. Size is important when it comes to finding your way.

Re: Are cheap smartphones making bike-specific GPS redundant?
« Reply #24 on: April 17, 2013, 01:26:06 pm »
I wonder if something like the Pebble watch would provide an interesting solution. The phone can be out of harm's way in something waterproof (in a ziplock back in your rear jersey pocket), with the GPS display and route instructions on the watch. Might also be good for those with vision issues who need to view display at short range.
No good for showing maps, with a display that small - and I want maps, not "Turn left, turn right, straight on". I want to know where I am & what my choices are.

When i am abroad i use veiwranger with stored maps and the data turned off on my phone. Battery life is increased and it works well apart from the tiny screen. Size is important when it comes to finding your way.
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