GPS computer or smart phone

by Coxy900   February 25, 2014  

Hi,

I'm about to venture into the GPS computer market. This will include cadence and heart-rate monitors. However, I'm also about to upgrade the old phone, so this could be an opportunity to get seomething suitable for the bike-related-stuff and save on having to buy a dedicated device.

Any comments or suggestions? Is this a good idea? Are the proper bike computers/gps much better than using a smart phone? What sort of interfaces would be best with a phone and do you have any recommendations?

Many thanks
Coxy

18 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

http://road.cc/content/forum/108899-smartphones-and-long-rides-strategy

There's a lot of info and suggestions here.

You could spend £500+ on a Garmin and the gubbins, or maybe £150 on HRM/Cadence sensor connected to a new iPhone or some Android phones - check they have either ANT+ or Bluetooth 4 / Bluetooth LE.

That way you can then use online mapping tools like Viewranger et al to plot and navigate routes. Mapping for Garmins is in excess of £100 for UK OS, or free on Viewranger using OpenStreetmap/Cyclemap, for the whole world.

No, there's no clear answer. It depends on depth of pocket, basically. Technically and usability-wise I don't see one being better than the other.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [474 posts]
25th February 2014 - 11:36

like this
Like (2)

I personally view my phone as an incase last resort sort of tool, so i tend to charge it up before i go then if i need it i have incase i majorly break down.

I say this because of the smart phone tracker apps strava etc tend to be a drain on you battery life, i.e. Ive got friends who just use their phones and its run out mid ride because of the battery usage. Its missed out the last of their rides and a few strava segments if your that way inclined.

What i did recently was purchase a garmin 800 performance pack so h/r and cadence from amazon for around the 270 mark, then its 30 for the maps from garmin, but you don't need to purchase the maps as all garmin a come with a basemap so can track you where ever you go.

Hope this helps

Chris

posted by Bigchrismm [14 posts]
25th February 2014 - 11:47

like this
Like (2)

You've got tons of options. Bluetooth LE is indeed rising in popularity, but the vast majority of devices out there (Polar excepted) use ANT+ which Samsung have just announced they're going to add to all their phones (past and present as far back as Galaxy S3) which gives you even more choice if you're upgrading your phone. If you're an Android bod the S5 is released April 11th and is waterproof too....rather handy on the bike to protect from sweat and so on. Take a look at the Edge 510 or 500 (the last version) too. Excellent value. If you want mapping, an Edge 800 or 810 (the later ones have wireless) then you can get free turn by turn mapping as mentioned above. It works perfectly. Big Grin

davecochrane's picture

posted by davecochrane [101 posts]
25th February 2014 - 11:50

like this
Like (1)

Phones
Relatively cheap and great quality high res mapping at reasonable prices - it's possible to download 1:25K and 1:50K mapping. Streaming maps is unreliable away from cities and drains batteries fast. Phones are vulnerable if bar mounted (I smashed an iPhone after it's case flipped open). Ok for occasional use but limited for longer rides.

GPS units
More expensive up front but keep going for much longer - I use a Garmin GPS 62s which is a hand held unit that works fine cycling and has HRM & cadence integration. It is much larger than their cycling specific units but is water proof and can be used for walking, kayaking etc. Another benefit is the batteries last ages and can be changed in the middle of a ride. Mapping generally isn't as high res as phones and scrolling around to browse map tiles can be sluggish compared to phones. I'd avoid touch screen systems which are a pain in the cold when wearing gloves. Overall, probably the best choice for a cyclist because the latest units with on-screen mapping are excellent and are great for live navigation.

Watches
Suunto and Garmin both have some great products with the most sophisticated HRM software. Look for higher end watches that support HRV (Heart Rate Variation) which gives a 'Training Effect' for rides. It essentially processes the HR data and lets you know how hard your training ride has been. The latest watches include full GPS without the need for a separate pod. Mapping is generally very basic on screen for navigating with, but the watches will download your routes in the same way as a bar mounted GPS, so are fine for recording rides.

langfordxc's picture

posted by langfordxc [3 posts]
25th February 2014 - 11:53

like this
Like (2)

To be clear: an iPhone will last over 12hrs on a ride, if you turn off WiFi and mobile data. Ditto mobile navigation like Viewranger, if you set the screen to be off and only wake it for turns.

Battery life simply is not an issue anymore, with the most basic of steps to manage it. Anyone flattening their battery after a few hours is not even remotely trying, and deserves to pay the Garmin tax.

Plus if you are going Audaxing, removable phone btys or external packs are very cheap nowadays.

For navigation in unfamiliar places, a phone is by far the most cost-effective solution. There's a reason virtually every SAR/mountain rescue organisation in the UK uses smartphones and Viewranger. It works, in the wilds, for a long time. It'll do a Sunday bimble on the North Downs Smile

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [474 posts]
25th February 2014 - 13:01

like this
Like (1)

If you're looking at going down the phone route, it depends which operating system you would be using.

My friend has an iPhone 5, which he uses with the Wahoo Bluetooth HRM and Speed/Cadence sensor which he mounts on his handlebars. The downside of this is 1) he can't keep his screen on the whole time due to battery restrictions, 2) the moment it starts raining, he puts it in his pocket.

I've recommended that he looks at the Wahoo RFLKT(+), but this is another spend which he's not willing to do yet. At the minute he simply asks me how far we've been/time and looks at the stats when he gets home.

It also depends on the software that you want to upload to?
Strava for iOS supports the wahoo, and I believe other brand peripherals, whereas for Anrdoid, it only supports the Zephyr HxM at the minute.

If you're looking at going down the Android route, make sure you purchase a phone which is running at least Android 4.3, as this has updates for the latest bluetooth stack, so should connect to some of the bluetooth heart rate monitors.

The android route is restricted by app support for heartrate and cadence sensors for the majority of mainstream upload sites (garmin, strava, training peaks etc).

Some of the newer android phones are starting to include ANT+ hardware (sony and Samsung to my knowledge), meaning that you can use the garmin accessories, but again the app support is limited.

I personally use a Garmin 500 with HRM and speed/cadence sensor and it works great!

I upload all of my rides to Garmin connect and Strava either via my PC, or by connecting the USB to my rooted Nexus 7.

If you don't like the thought of being tethered to a PC for uploading all of your rides, look for the newer models, as the majority can upload to Garmin Connect via the bluetooth on your phone, although not to Strava (to my knowledge).

I don't have much experience with other hardware, but it may be worth taking a look at http://www.dcrainmaker.com/, as he's got a lot of thorough reviews on the site!

posted by n8udd [12 posts]
25th February 2014 - 13:02

like this
Like (2)

Garmin 800's are no where near £500 so not sure where the poster who put that comment got his pricing. If you want navigation then go for a Garmin. Also Garmins give a better fix than a phone. They are also cheaper to replace in a crash than a phone. Garmin can and do repair them which is getting harder with new phones. If you do mount the phone on your bike and manage to smash it, you're buggered if you use it for navigating or need to call for help.

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/garmin-edge-800-gps-performance-navigation-bundle/

posted by Shep73 [137 posts]
25th February 2014 - 17:01

like this
Like (1)

Shep73 wrote:
Garmin 800's are no where near £500 so not sure where the poster who put that comment got his pricing. If you want navigation then go for a Garmin. Also Garmins give a better fix than a phone. They are also cheaper to replace in a crash than a phone. Garmin can and do repair them which is getting harder with new phones. If you do mount the phone on your bike and manage to smash it, you're buggered if you use it for navigating or need to call for help.

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/garmin-edge-800-gps-performance-navigation-bundle/

£300 + £100 for maps + £50 for HRM strap = close as buggery to £500

The idea Garmins give 'a better fix' than phones is just wrong I have been plotting and recording rides weekly for years, and have never seen a discrepancy of more than a few % either way between GPS and mega-accurate bike computer going off the wheel. A friend tracks using Garmin on all our rides, comparing Strava tracks again there's nothing in it.

If you don't own or need a smartphone, then yes a Garmin might be best. If you already have one there are now multiple waterproof, shockproof options to use your existing hardware to record and navigate for free as opposed to Garmin who have you by the short & curlies regarding map purchases. Battery life and GPS accuracy are not arguments against using phones.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [474 posts]
25th February 2014 - 18:10

like this
Like (1)

I regularly do 6-7hr rides using Strava and Viewranger on my iphone 4S. Never less than 50% battery life left.

All you have to do is turn off wifi and mobile data/3G. Takes seconds and the phone is still fine for calls & texts if requited.

I keep mine in my pocket and only use it if I'm unsure at junctions as Viewranger works a treat for that sort of thing.

Pain is just the French word for bread.

S13SFC's picture

posted by S13SFC [88 posts]
25th February 2014 - 19:43

like this
Like (2)

KiwiMike wrote:
Shep73 wrote:
Garmin 800's are no where near £500 so not sure where the poster who put that comment got his pricing. If you want navigation then go for a Garmin. Also Garmins give a better fix than a phone. They are also cheaper to replace in a crash than a phone. Garmin can and do repair them which is getting harder with new phones. If you do mount the phone on your bike and manage to smash it, you're buggered if you use it for navigating or need to call for help.

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/garmin-edge-800-gps-performance-navigation-bundle/

£300 + £100 for maps + £50 for HRM strap = close as buggery to £500

The idea Garmins give 'a better fix' than phones is just wrong I have been plotting and recording rides weekly for years, and have never seen a discrepancy of more than a few % either way between GPS and mega-accurate bike computer going off the wheel. A friend tracks using Garmin on all our rides, comparing Strava tracks again there's nothing in it.

If you don't own or need a smartphone, then yes a Garmin might be best. If you already have one there are now multiple waterproof, shockproof options to use your existing hardware to record and navigate for free as opposed to Garmin who have you by the short & curlies regarding map purchases. Battery life and GPS accuracy are not arguments against using phones.


Maps are included at the £300 bracket, you can also download free maps that actually better than the Garmin ones. I have had it on good authority from people in the industry that a dedicated GPS gives a better fix. More so for off road in places such as the Forest of Dean, I have had gaps in rides using a phone and never had this problem with my 800. On open road areas I doubt there is any difference but it proves that dedicated GPS units are more reliable/accurate. Strava also recommend dedicated GPS units for making segments. I wouldn't want to stick a £4/500 phone on my handle bars.

posted by Shep73 [137 posts]
25th February 2014 - 20:58

like this
Like (1)

I did the iPhone thing. Pain in the backside if you want to use it for anything other than a Strava logger. I got a new Garmin 800 with HRM, Cadence and Maps off ebay for £220. Lasts for hours, does full route mapping, is on all the time and doesn't loose a signal. Has some unusual quirks and sometimes the mapping drives me mad but that's down to user error

posted by dunnoh [172 posts]
25th February 2014 - 21:05

like this
Like (1)

KiwiMike wrote:
To be clear: an iPhone will last over 12hrs on a ride, if you turn off WiFi and mobile data. Ditto mobile navigation like Viewranger, if you set the screen to be off and only wake it for turns.

Really?

I use ViewRanger on an iPhone with everything switched off and all apps closed and never got more than 5 hours out of it. My impression is this is par for the course for an iPhone. 12 Hours is just incredible. Then again everything has to be switched off so it would be hopeless for navigation on a century ride..

posted by wellcoordinated [76 posts]
25th February 2014 - 22:48

like this
Like (1)

wellcoordinated wrote:
KiwiMike wrote:
To be clear: an iPhone will last over 12hrs on a ride, if you turn off WiFi and mobile data. Ditto mobile navigation like Viewranger, if you set the screen to be off and only wake it for turns.

Really?

I use ViewRanger on an iPhone with everything switched off and all apps closed and never got more than 5 hours out of it. My impression is this is par for the course for an iPhone. 12 Hours is just incredible. Then again everything has to be switched off so it would be hopeless for navigation on a century ride..

Rubbish. I do it virtually every weekend. Simply flick wifi, data/3G off and use Viewranger as & when and 12hrs is easy.

Pain is just the French word for bread.

S13SFC's picture

posted by S13SFC [88 posts]
25th February 2014 - 23:52

like this
Like (1)

S13SFC wrote:
wellcoordinated wrote:
KiwiMike wrote:
To be clear: an iPhone will last over 12hrs on a ride, if you turn off WiFi and mobile data. Ditto mobile navigation like Viewranger, if you set the screen to be off and only wake it for turns.

Really?

I use ViewRanger on an iPhone with everything switched off and all apps closed and never got more than 5 hours out of it. My impression is this is par for the course for an iPhone. 12 Hours is just incredible. Then again everything has to be switched off so it would be hopeless for navigation on a century ride..

Rubbish. I do it virtually every weekend. Simply flick wifi, data/3G off and use Viewranger as & when and 12hrs is easy.

If you want your iphone to last as long as possible, and you don't have the latest iphone with the longer lasting battery, use Viewranger to plan your route, save the resulting gpx file, email it to yourself, then open the email in Bikehub. When you're on your ride, turn all data completely off, turn the Bikehub map off as well, and just follow the breadcrumb. Because the breadcrumb is stored in the phone, you don't have to wait for the map to constantly render, so there is no delay to slow you down at junctions and you don't have to keep turning the screen on and off. It always works, even if you're in an area with no signal.

If you want to extend the life of your iphone battery further then just get a charging unit (the type that takes two AA or AAA batteries) off Ebay for a couple of quid. Carry half a dozen AAs and you've suddenly got a system that will last over 24 hours, or indefinitely if you buy AAs on route. I find that a set of fresh AAs will raise my 3 year old iphone's battery life from 10% to 40%. I was out on a 24 hour ride last year and the set-up worked fine for me, without having to ever worry about running out of juice.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
26th February 2014 - 2:18

like this
Like (1)

KiwiMike wrote:
Shep73 wrote:
Garmin 800's are no where near £500 so not sure where the poster who put that comment got his pricing. If you want navigation then go for a Garmin. Also Garmins give a better fix than a phone. They are also cheaper to replace in a crash than a phone. Garmin can and do repair them which is getting harder with new phones. If you do mount the phone on your bike and manage to smash it, you're buggered if you use it for navigating or need to call for help.

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/garmin-edge-800-gps-performance-navigation-bundle/

£300 + £100 for maps + £50 for HRM strap = close as buggery to £500

The idea Garmins give 'a better fix' than phones is just wrong I have been plotting and recording rides weekly for years, and have never seen a discrepancy of more than a few % either way between GPS and mega-accurate bike computer going off the wheel. A friend tracks using Garmin on all our rides, comparing Strava tracks again there's nothing in it.

If you don't own or need a smartphone, then yes a Garmin might be best. If you already have one there are now multiple waterproof, shockproof options to use your existing hardware to record and navigate for free as opposed to Garmin who have you by the short & curlies regarding map purchases. Battery life and GPS accuracy are not arguments against using phones.

sorry but you way out!!!!!

i bought my garmin 800 with cadence & heart rate monitor from probike kit for £230, then downloaded some free maps to it, it works great and saves me having to risk damaging my phone plus running strava & mapping used to drain the battery quite quickly (5 hrs) id rather have a fully charged phone for emergencies or to connect to the web to get information whilst riding

posted by kev-s [36 posts]
26th February 2014 - 5:29

like this
Like (3)

If you want to use a smartphone with cadence & hr that's another £100 for the wahoo kit.

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [363 posts]
26th February 2014 - 9:09

like this
Like (1)

Plus a waterproof case and mount for your phone if you want to actually use it while riding.

And then new ones when you upgrade your phone at the end of the contract.

posted by Nick T [797 posts]
26th February 2014 - 9:29

like this
Like (2)

KiwiMike wrote:
as opposed to Garmin who have you by the short & curlies regarding map purchases.

They do have you by the short and curlies if you want to buy the maps that Garmin make specifically. Fortunately, Garmin also let you use maps from a wide range of sources, many of them free, on the their devices - you're not locked into their software in any way.

On mine I have an £8 16gb SD card plugged in, with the entirety or Europe installed on it, for free (donations to the website offering them are optional). It's really very easy to do, and not in any way contravening your user agreement with Garmin.

http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/05/download-garmin-705800810.html

posted by Nick T [797 posts]
26th February 2014 - 9:54

like this
Like (1)