Hmm good to know. If only I didn't have such an aversion to all things Apple (or Smart phones in general)!
Incidentally if anyone does plan to make use of a smartphone as a back-up GPS of some sort, especially if you aren't using it habitually, make sure you know how to get useful coordinates from it.
Just because the phone might know exactly where it is doesn't mean it'll automatically tell you. Phones vary, but it could be necessary to go out of your way to find an application that'll display that info in a way you can read it. Otherwise you could end up speaking to a SAR rep some day trying to explain how your phone's showing your position exactly in the middle of a uniform matt-grey area on a useless map display that doesn't include any numeric coordinates.
I have OruxMaps for Android on my phone plus a full set of NZ Topos on the SD card (about 4gig). If I bothered to play around with it a bit more then I might find it quite good. Does waypoints, tracks, routes etc. It doesn't seem to do and NZ grids but if I read the documentation it might be loadable.
The achilies heel is the battery life, small and cluttered screen and poor antenna that put me off.
Why bother when you already have a Garmin.
Ashamed to confess to playing with technology of late - mainly for trap lines as I hate tying out lines of cruizetape, and the dog got herself run over so is unable to do her usual job of tracking traplines lately.
pmkey's OruzMaps sounds a little more efficient than the Bacountry Navigator application I use. I have national coveage at 1:50,000 (up to zoom lever 14) downloaded from nztopomaps.com using mobac, and satellite photos up to zoom 16 for the NI main ranges only. That adds up to one 16GB memory card full. Ideally for sat photos you'd want zoom 17 or 18 to be able to reliably spot huts, work out exact vegetation cover, but for general tramping/trapping zoom level 16 was sufficient.
Backcountry navigator will not do any NZ grid reference format, and will only give you the lat-long. If you rely on these, make sure you know which format you ahve these displayed in (WGS / GCS) - either can be selected.
If you pay for your broadband, you're probably cheaper forking out the $50 for oziexplorer or another app that comes with the maps on a disc than downloading them.
When I needed to replace my phone, I bought a Gamsung Galaxy S2 specifically as it had the largest screen size available - with GPS applications in mind. My main problem with all other purpose-built GPS's I've used is the small size makes route-planning impossible, and the bad resolution, and attrocious vector-maps make things even worse.
I tried the built in GPS on my Samsung Galaxy 2 in a few locations, and have never got a reliable signal in the bush or in valleys. The performance of the GPS receiver seems about equal to the cheap $120 (non 'high-sensitivity') garmin etrex. Which is to say fine on the tops, but of no use under canopy or with restricted view of the sky. A freind used his iphone 3 for the same purpose, and has much better success under canpoy, so brand may make a difference here. Unfortunately, whilst real gps's publish their receiver sensitivity values to allow you to compare, I've found nowhere that rates the gps sensitivity on phones, including the manufacturer's sites.
Instead I use a qstarz 818xt Bluetooth GPS ($89), and the app 'Bluetooth GPS', which connects to it and lets any GPS-using software on the phone use the external GPS instead. This has a sensitivity of -65dbm and I have never yet been in a situation where it has lost signal in the bush.
GPS: From previous experience using them in Southland (where they are mandatory for Environment Southland's possum trapping software) the Bluetooth GPS lasts 2-3 days on a charge under continuous use. They take Nokia mobile batteries, and spares are about $5 on dealextreme.com.
Phone: Battery life here is the issue. With the phone's phone features turned on, I can get 4-6 hours of carefuly use (checking position every 100m-or-so when approaching next trap) on a charge if I am completely out of coverage. In good coverage this increases to 6-8 hours.
However, by turning off the phone radio itself, I can reliably get 8-10 hours of the same use. Some phones let you go into airplane mode, then turn bluetooth back on. The Samsung galaxy S2 does not, however. For this phone:
Go to the phone dialer and enter the Test menu by dialing:
Select 'Phone information'
Scroll down and click 'Turn off radio'.
This disables the GSM/WCDMA radio rtransceiver, saving power, but leaves bluetooth on. Unfortunately the software that controls the radio continues to run even though the radio is off, and is typically responsable for about 40% of battery use in a given day. If I could figure out how to turn this off it'd extend the battery life considerably.
I always carry a spare battery. $8, again from delaextreme.
The screen lock on the samsung cannot be turned off, which is really annoying whern you just want to press power to turn on the screen, glance at the screen, and press power again to turn it back off. Instead you have to swipwe the screen to exit the screen-lock: not good when you ahve hands full of trapping gear, or covered in mud and water.
The 'No Lock' app allows you to enable / disable the lock easily and was a godsend in this regard.
I wouldn't use a $700 phone in the bush unless it was in a waterproof, shockproof case. Beware when buying these, as some claim to be waterproof but aren't. Look at the IPX rating. IPX6 is 'waterproof' (idry, driphone), IPX4 is 'splashproof' (Ultimate Addons, others). If it's not rated, forget it.
I would never rely on a GPS for tramping.
- Even with the big screen it is very hard to plan routes on such a small piece of realestate.
- Batteries go flat
- Electronics die expecially with big impacts
So I'd always have a map and compass, and tramping - if it comes along at all - the phone and GPS are in the pack as a backup.
Howerver, on 3 occasions in the last year, I've pulled it out of the pack. All have been that situation of trying to locate a particular spur down off a tree-covered ridge, where the spur is not visible until you drop 50-100m. For this, it has been great!
The above combination is great for trapping or any other waypoint-finding application. The phone keyboard is so much easier than the rocker on Garmins for recording notes. The nztopomaps on a good screen are clearer than the garmin vector maps. A good combination
Samsung Galaxy S2
16GB microSD memory card
Qstarz 818xt bluetooth GPS
Bluetooth GPS app
Backcountry Navigator app
No Lock app
nztopomaps at zooms 6-14
sat photos at zooms 6-16
Wow. You look like a right geek now, madpom.
I've used an app on my iPad that allows you to load LINZ GeoTIFF maps - but had some trouble with it crashing, plus GPS accuracy (tends to wander quite frequently) and of course it's a bloody big device so I never took it hiking - just navigating driving off main roads. Of course, having a big 7" display for your maps can be brilliant, but it was a pain to use, plus has none of the features of even a basic dedicated GPS.
Now that I have a mapping GPS - an eTrex 30 - as of a few weeks ago, I'm processing LINZ maps with merging and cropping down to a manageable size and quality with MAPC2MAPC. Have spent hours and hours figuring out how to get elevation/DEM data to replace the very low-res worldwide basemap that came with it but not much luck so far.
topomap.co.nz is the best for getting the maps you need - much easier to drill down to the right maps than the LINZ website, plus has KMZ format which I don't think LINZ offers.
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