Was going to get a Garmin GPS - should i just get iphone instead?

8:33 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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I was going to get a garmin gps 60csx for occasional long distance driving and off route hiking. However I also need a cell phone, and I read that the GPS on the iphone is quite accurate.

Seeing as how the garmin costs 350 + more money for maps am I correct in thinking I'm way better off witht he iphone for my driving/hiking needs? I know it doesn't have all the features of a garmin, but as long as it can give accurate lat/long coordinates and record your path as you hike, it would be pretty ideal. That and of course it can do a bunch of stuff the garmin can't.


9:14 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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I dumped about 15 pounds of wet snow on my Garmin eTrex Vista the other day and it was none the worse for wear -- I guarantee you my iPhone would've been toast. Hiking GPS units are essentially waterproof; not true of iPhones.

Also: My eTrex can record tracks on at least two weekends of hikes before the batteries drop. An iPhone cannot last more than six hours on a charge.

Plus: your iPhone is only as good as the maps you download onto it.

There are many ways to make up for all the iPhone's weaknesses when it's out of cell-phone range; it can pick up GPS signals, but dedicated GPS units do the job much better.

9:24 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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Re: Was going to get a Garmain GPS - should i just get iphone instea?


The 60CSx is a "hiking" GPSR and in its standard form leaves a bit to be desired as a vehicle navigation device. Yes, you can use it for such. The main difference between the "hiking" and "driving" units is in the software and the stored information. Units for driving have much more sophisticated routing algorithms and much more detail in their street and road information (and "Points of Interest", which means lists of gas stations, restaurants, motels, car repair, parks, and so on. For long distance driving, you are better off with even a lower-end automotive unit. TomTom gets pretty consistently good recommendations (and can be used for wandering around a city visiting museums and parks), with Garmin's Nuvi next.

As for accuracy, the accuracy in GPSRs sold after about 2000 for "non-authorized users" is the same. There are some differences that can make a difference under some conditions. Most units sold in the past couple of years have higher sensitivity chipsets and work fairly well under heavy canopy (that's vegetation, like trees). The "canyon" effect will reduce accuracy for just about all civilian units. This is for both natural canyons and the "urban canyons" of tall buildings. Buildings and hills block the signals of the satellites and reflect signals of others so the GPS receiver thinks the satellites are in a different location than it really is.

So for your hiking, you really only need one of the low end units. One of the big problems with the Garmin 60CSx (and other models of Garmin and other brands with the built-in compass and barometric altimeter) is that these extra sensors (the "S" in Garmin's naming) chews up battery life rapidly, plus both the compass and barometer need to be recalibrated frequently (for the compass, this means finding the right place in the menu, then turning around slowly two times at just the right rate - turn too fast or too slow and you start over again).

As for the Iphone (and the Droid, and several other models of phone that have GPS receiver capability), again, the accuracy is the same - you gain or lose nothing compared to a dedicated GPSR that way. Both Apple and Google advertise having lots of maps in their mainframe computers that you access over the phone networks. Of course this means if you are in the middle of Nevada and have no 3G coverage (look at the ATT, Verizon, and other phone company maps), you only get the map coverage you downloaded before you got to that area (US 50, the "Loneliest Highway" has very poor coverage from all but the one local cell phone company, which will be happy to sign you up on the fly, except they do not have the necessary 3G capability, and the IPhone and Droid download on the fly only a small area around your location - by the way, they do have a GPS chipset in them standard, but you pay extra for certain of the mapping and routing features beyond the basic service, something not mentioned when both companies brag about their wonderful mapping capabilities). That's not the only place with poor 3G coverage.

So again, you are better off with a low end TomTom or Garmin dedicated automotive GPSR plus a regular cell phone.

9:31 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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I'm working on an article about iPhones and all the apps available, of which maps you download to the phone are just a fraction. When you add up all the apps (tons of guides for things like survival, first aid, animal identification, etc,) the charms of an iPhone add up.

I'm sure Jim (AKA Greenhorn) would put in a good word for the iPhone GPS, provided it had maps installed to provide the essential "where the hell am I" reply -- it's fine if you only have to turn it on a few times a day, but leaving it on all day to create a track of your hike will just drain the battery and leave you with no phone.

10:26 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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Thnx for the replies. glad to see the cell phone companies turning up the heat on the gps manufacturers anyway.

what do you think of the vista? a number of reviews of it on rei mention that it does not accurately log the distance you have traveled if you are going slowly, so i was considering the c60sx instead.

12:12 a.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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Actually I have no idea how accurate my Vista is ... I spent some credit card points to get it and I use it to make GPS mashups at everytrail.com.

It has helped me get found a few times when I missed a turn.

I think the c60 might be bigger and bulkier; might be a concern.

2:04 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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I have both the Garnin 60CS and iPhone 3GS. Both have their place. One thing about the GPS/iPhone combo is that it eats batteries. If you are plugged into power, great. If not, be prepared for very short run times.

As far as acuracy, the GPS in the iPhone is pretty good. I'm a geocacher and have used them side-by-side, with exactly the same results. The iPhone is a lot slower to point, especially if you change directions.

3:40 p.m. on December 29, 2009 (EST)
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I'm a little late to the discussion, but I have both the Garmin 60CSX and an iPhone 3GS. I bought the Garmin for hiking and when I am out on my boat.

Love my iPhone, but it's not for hiking. The slightest amount of water can kill an iPhone. Plus, one thing I've found, if I don't have a phone signal it has a problem orienting to the gps satellites. I think it uses the cell towers to get an approximate area, then finds the satellites based on that - not sure, just know that it has posed problems. Or it may be that because it loads its map from google it needs internet connectivity.

The 60CSX isn't perfect, but it's a good device. Waterproof, and it floats. I have a tendency to create a waypoint, then turn it off to save power - I'm always concerned about batteries.

You can (and I did) buy software to make the 60CSX a road worthy GPS. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of a dashboard unit, and the screen is small, but it is functional. I think the sw cost me about $100.

6:01 p.m. on December 29, 2009 (EST)
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car units are inexpensive - $99 or less on sale - and work much better for that purpose than handheld units made for hiking. or phones made for talking.

any handheld gps, whether it's garmin, delorme, what have you, will out-perform a cell phone if absolutely anything happens that isn't according to plan. your cell may not be in range, may get wet, may take a dive that zaps it, whereas the handheld gps units are built to take much more abuse.

i have the garmin 60csx and think it's great. but, for the price, you could get an inexpensive unit for your car AND an inexpensive handheld unit for the same price.

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