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Android GPS Tracker

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Android GPS Tracker

Postby illusion7il » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:29 am

I am looking for an Android app that works similar to the SPOT tracker. Basically just want my wife to be able to track me in real time 15-30 intervals via phone or web that shows location history. It seems that there are a bunch of these apps that are free or low cost, but do any of them actually work well in the back country?

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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:23 pm

illusion7il wrote:free or low cost, but do any of them actually work well in the back country?

Well, anything on a smartphone would be using cellular instead of GPS satellite technology or require an internet connection to update, I believe, so they won't be as reliable. In many areas, like the San Juans, you won't get a signal at all.
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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby dfrizzle » Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:34 pm

I believe most Android phones do actually use satellite by what's called aGPS, assisted GPS. The data (phone) signal helps make pinpointing by GPS quicker when you actually have signal. In my experience, when you're out of cell range it IS still possible to connect with satellites via GPS it just takes longer...being out of signal may though prevent the type of data connection you may need for an app like the one you mention. I have a compass app as well as Backcountry Navigator Pro (worth the $10 and then some) and these both work well in and out of cell range with my Android phone's GPS.

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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:39 pm

dfrizzle wrote:I believe most Android phones do actually use satellite by what's called aGPS, assisted GPS. The data (phone) signal helps make pinpointing by GPS quicker when you actually have signal. In my experience, when you're out of cell range it IS still possible to connect with satellites via GPS it just takes longer...being out of signal may though prevent the type of data connection you may need for an app like the one you mention.

That shows you how much I use my phone for navigation! :lol: I can never seem to get the GPS functionality to work on my Android phone unless I have a cell signal. Seems pretty unreliable AND I prefer to keep my phone battery for emergency calls when I'm climbing.

Maybe someone with detailed knowledge on the reliability differences between smartphone gps vs. SPOT could chime in.
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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby jdorje » Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:43 pm

Google latitude does what you want: but requires a data connnection.

I was playing around with an app that would send your location by text periodically. The jury is still out on it though, and of course it still requires some phone service. Now, if you had satellite phone service (as SPOT uses) then it'd be easy.

I have never had a problem with my GPS, though most GPS apps are terrible. The first time I used backcountry navigator (the best of the group) I was on a north-facing slope with no satellite reception, thus no GPS, but the app had no way of showing me that. The hardware is surely almost identical as that of a traditional GPS device - though it may not get as good satellite reception due to interference from other phone electronices. I often turn it on airplane mode now when I want to use it as a pure gps.
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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:20 pm

jdorje wrote:but requires a data connnection.

Wouldn't that be the same for all smartphone apps using aGPS?

SPOT uses a two-way connection through the satellite network but, I think, a smartphone app would still need an Internet connection to provide the location info to a site, for viewing. If that's true, the reliability of getting location info comes down to cell (data) connection availability.
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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby jdorje » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:03 am

BillMiddlebrook wrote:
jdorje wrote:but requires a data connnection.

Wouldn't that be the same for all smartphone apps using aGPS?

Yup. aGPS isn't really needed for your normal track function though; you can still get 10-foot accuracy horizontally without it. I haven't noticed if you get better GPS accuracy when you do have a data connection...seems like it would certainly be possible.

BillMiddlebrook wrote:SPOT uses a two-way connection through the satellite network but, I think, a smartphone app would still need an Internet connection to provide the location info to a site, for viewing. If that's true, the reliability of getting location info comes down to cell (data) connection availability.

Correct, though my idea was to send the data through text messages rather than the data network. This is what spot does, only through a satellite. IIRC from what I read - spot uses a satellite phone system that allows sending 40-something-byte text messages, which is how it transmits the data and probably also why the data is so low quality (lacks elevation, etc). Any way you design it though you need some method of contact with the outside world, via your android device. Where I got bogged down in my system was in interpreting the text messages at the other end (via google voice, for instance).

BillMiddlebrook wrote:AND I prefer to keep my phone battery for emergency calls when I'm climbing.

Old android devices are already quite cheap though, and as time passes better and better ones will become cheap. And if you upgrade regularly you'll have your old android that some internet site will offer you $5 for. In short, I think a phone GPS can be separate from the actual phone.


On an unrelated note, it should be mathematically possible to have two regular GPS phone units communicating with each other (via data network, text message, or any sort of short-range radio system) to have one provide a form of aGPS to the other. If the position of one of the phones is known exactly (at a surveyed summit, for instance) that information can be used to assist the other in positioning itself (at a nearby summit or saddle) more accurately - including elevation which is often quite inaccurate. However, I don't know just how accurate it could be. I've never seen a GPS device that actually says how accurate the elevation is, and that could be pretty important for some uses.
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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby Nelson » Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:59 am

It has been my experience that with any smart phone, when you use any GPS app, the battery runs down very quickly. My Iphone links to my SPOT. I turn it on when I send a message and turn it immediately off.

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Re: Android GPS Tracker

Postby dsunwall » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:43 am

Nelson wrote:It has been my experience that with any smart phone, when you use any GPS app, the battery runs down very quickly.


thats just not true anymore. Samsung seems to be the best choice right now, long battery life and you can bring spares. I get 16 hours of tracking on one battery with my Galaxy G3. Spare batteries are $7.00 and weight 1.3oz. It has become my GPS of choice, but no it does not work as a SPOT unless you have the spot connect. The Iphone has 2 hangups for backcountry use it seems, short battery life and you cannot use a spare. correction, it appears the I-phone 5 has better battery life than the 4.

http://blog.laptopmag.com/best-battery-life-longest-lasting-smart-phones

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