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Metro NY Geocaching Society • View topic - New iPhone and Geocaching

New iPhone and Geocaching

GPS Hardware and Software

New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Merge! » Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:35 pm

So, what's everyone's thoughts on the new 3G GPS iPhone? Is it a real GPSr in the iPhone? I can only imagine the possibilities in regards to software that can be made available through the iPhone apps thing in iTunes. This should make paperless caching absolutely perfect.

Right now I use a Centro and Garmin eTrek, but once my contract is up in a year and half (or sooner if I break contract), I'm definitely springing for the new iPhone rather than a new GPS and new phone, I already need a new iPod, but that can wait.

-Merge!
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby pelagori » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:11 am

I believe it has to be a proper GPSr - I think they are required as part of the E911 service - and they have to have yhis and location integration with google maps in order to compete with the blackberry...

iPhone should be a great paperless ceching tool. Newer blackberrys should be too... I have one but through work and its a "corporate lockdown" that I can't install the software on...
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Child Of Atom » Wed Jun 11, 2008 12:55 pm

Is your culture a counter-culture or an over-the-counter-culture?

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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Child Of Atom » Wed Jun 11, 2008 12:59 pm

Oh... and I've been using my iPod touch as a paperless caching device for months now, in conjunction with my GPSr. converts the cache descriptions into contact cards that you can synch with the iPod Contacts application. It will also do it as Notes for older iPods, but for some reason not the Touch.
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby addisonbr » Wed Jun 11, 2008 2:25 pm

I have two concerns...

The first is what CoA has already mentioned, that it's not clear exactly how much Apple is going to be allowing folks to provide "real time" GPS navigation (as opposed to more "poke" type applications, like "see which of your friends is at the bar you just walked into!"). I don't know if it's for liability, or because they plan to roll out their own navigation software, or a reason I haven't been exposed to and am not smart enough to think of on my own. I do suspect that Apple does not plan any geocaching applications, so I would think they would be less likely to stand in the way of independent developers writing their own. It would be pretty cool to have a GPSr that essentially has live updated waypoints. Instead of having to download pocket queries all the time, anywhere you could get a cell signal you could get an up-to-the-minute map of active caches wherever you are. Nice.

The second concern I have is that GPS is an "expensive" technology from a hardware standpoint. The speculation I read over the past few weeks about the new iPhone suggested that one reason a GPS in the iPhone was not a lock (perhaps even unlikely) was that the new iPhone would have to be a little thicker than the old version and there might not be enough demand for GPS technology to justify that design change. That they actually came out with a slimmer design, but with GPS capabilities, makes me suspect that the iPhone's GPS will be relatively weak. Garmin may not be on the cutting edge of technology in general, and their engineers may suck compared to Apple's, but they have been doing GPS for a long time and their best models are still pretty bulky (way bigger than the average cell phone, even the average smart phone). I suspect if there was a cost-effective way to make really good GPSr's smaller today they would have been the favorites to figure that out first. Now, I could be wrong, and it could be that after a year of tinkering Apple's superior engineering teams were able to accomplish things that Garmin's teams were not. And it could also be that by augmenting traditional GPS with cell tower triangulation and other software solutions, Apple is able to do an end-around on the hardware limitations. I certainly hope that I am wrong. But my gut reaction is that those of us used to Garmins, especially high-end Garmins, may be disappointed with the accuracy of iPhone's first generation GPS.

All that said, I'm still getting one, and I'll be happy to report back here what I find. I definitely share Merge's enthusiasm for the possibility that this could be pretty awesome for paperless cachers (like myself). Where I currently carry around my 60csx for navigation and my Treo for Google Maps and accessing cache pages, it would be very very cool to just carry around one device that's smaller than either of those individually.
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Merge! » Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:20 am

First off, I want to just vent. My laptop was stolen on Thursday. Stupid me, I just disabled password protection when putting to sleep. So my computer is totally accessible until they log out or restart!!!!!!! Ufffff..... :cry:

That said, I have a feeling the iPhone may actually be pretty good for Geocaching, but we'll see. It has GPS and A-GPS, so when you have too much cloud cover, at least you'll still have a little bit of GPS functionality, but not too reliable.

This is what I like (from http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/gps.html):

----------------------------------------------------
Stay on track.
Maps on iPhone 3G use GPS to help you get from point A to point B. Find a location, get directions, and, if you like, follow your progress along a highlighted route with live GPS tracking.
----------------------------------------------------

Using Google Maps and Directions it appear that you can just enter your current address, and the GPS coords for destination, and it will show you when you get to location. Guess we won't know until it is field tested.

But with people writing apps, I feel there is bound to be one released that will do what we need.

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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Merge! » Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:26 am

And then there is this (of course Apple's verbiage regarding real time route guidance may shoot down TomTom's hopes, perhaps Apple has something in-house up their sleeves? If so, let's hope its not just driving directions):

http://in.reuters.com/article/rbssTechM ... 3120080609

TomTom says navigation app already runs on iPhone

Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:03am IST
AMSTERDAM, June 9 (Reuters) - Dutch navigation device maker TomTom (TOM2.AS: Quote, Profile, Research) already has a version of its navigation software running on Apple's (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) iPhone and has plans to sell it to consumers, a spokesman said on Monday.

"Our navigation system runs on the iPhone already," the TomTom spokesman said after Apple announced a new version of the iPhone that will include global positioning (GPS) capability.

The spokesman did not say when TomTom, Europe's biggest maker of car navigation devices, would be ready to start selling the software. (Reporting by Niclas Mika; editing by Carol Bishopric)
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Child Of Atom » Sat Jun 14, 2008 4:51 pm

Perhaps less reliable than a Reuters Link, but... says that TomTom rumor was JUST a rumor.

I'm itching for a field test... less than a month unless some Geocache notary has an advance phone.
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby addisonbr » Thu Jun 19, 2008 12:43 pm

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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby paulo » Wed Jun 25, 2008 10:17 pm

I have a jailbroken iphone and could try gc apps out, but to replace my garmin? i couldn't get past the short battery life and that its as waterproof as a laptop.
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby addisonbr » Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:21 pm

This article was less interesting than I hoped. Regardless:

http://www.maclife.com/article/iphone_3 ... ching_find
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Child Of Atom » Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:54 am

Not an app for finding caches, but an app for paperless caching in the current iphone and itouch models.



One week to go to see if the GPS function functions for caching!
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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby Child Of Atom » Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:22 pm

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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby addisonbr » Sat Jul 12, 2008 10:32 am

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Re: New iPhone and Geocaching

Postby addisonbr » Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:32 pm

Took it out for a little geocaching spin today. One-sentence summary - inadequate in many ways, but software development will probably cure much of it.

- The accuracy of the GPS seems fine. I suspect that some of the physical limitations the phone faces due to the size of the unit (as compared with the size of the 60csx or Colorado) are being well-compensated for via the cellular corrections. I guess it is worth noting that the last iPhone had cellular-based location gimmicks that did a pretty decent job, without using GPS technology at all. I hunted for two caches today trying to rely solely on my phone, and other than a couple of times when the "me" beacon seemed stuck for a few moments, it seemed pretty good. It wasn't very happy when I passed through some tree cover, but then again, my Garmin isn't often overjoyed either. When I was standing on the cache, I was virtually standing on the cache. However, this brings up the point that...

- I have concerns about how good the GPS technology will be in an environment with no cellular coverage. I myself am probably only in an area with no cellular coverage twice a decade. But I know many of you behave differently. I don't have a great sense of how accurate the GPS would be in that environment.

- Currently, the applications for hunting caches pretty much blow. The only application I have on my phone that is GPS-helpful is Google Maps, which is okay but not great. You can't zoom in nearly as close as I'd like to zoom (designed with drivers in mind), it won't show you distance to target (at least, that I could figure out) or tell you want direction to go. And you can't cut and paste the GPS coordinates from the browser page to plug them into Maps. Argh! But that said, it will take GPS coords as an input, and will drop a pin exactly where you tell it to. Once you get used to just trying align your "blue dot" with the cache's "red pin" without the other information, it really wasn't a bad experience, and not fundamentally different than following looking for a cache from the map page on a Garmin. Because Google Maps doesn't store information locally - it retrieves map and satellite info from the web - this may also be a case where using your iPhone to cache outside of AT&T's coverage area would pose a big problem. The unit knows where you are but might not be able to really show you where you are on a map, unless I'm missing something.

- That said, a program did get released today in the iTunes store called Geopher Lite that is the first caching program for the iPhone that I can identify. Its heart is in the right place - it will pull up caches near you based on your current location, tell you your current location and how far your are from a target, display a compass, etc. What I like best about this program is not necessarily what it does or doesn't do (some of the reviews were pretty negative), but rather that Apple approved it for listing in its iTunes store. This seems to mean that the hand-wringing over their developer agreement (much of it by me) is not really a concern, and real-time geocaching applications are fine by Apple. I would expect better and better products to come out in the coming months, ala the different options currently available on the Palm OS (GSAK, etc.). Even this program is only advertised as a "Lite" version, so maybe the full version will be a lot better.

- The point about taking the iPhone out in inclement weather is fair, but I think that there are certainly solutions. I have a protective arm band I slip my iPhone into for running that provides some padding should the phone be dropped, a protective plastic window for the screen that still allows touch screen inputs, and can be attached with a strap to your arm or leg while you hike.

- Logging from the field is cool, should you want to do that. As much better as the browser is on an iPhone compared with my Treo, I'm far less happy typing on it than I was on the Treo's physical keyboard. I can double-thumb that thing and go reasonably fast, but the iPhone's touch screen keyboard is trickier, and for me, a lot slower.

Overall I wouldn't think about getting this phone to replace a GPSr. But if you are getting this phone anyway, you might not feel like you have to bring your GPSr everywhere. I usually keep my Garmin in my bag in case something comes up, but I don't think with this phone I'll have to keep doing that.
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