Use a Smartphone as GPS

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  #1  
Old 04-20-19, 06:57 AM
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Use a Smartphone as GPS

I'm one of the few that still has a caveman flip phone and a GPS. The GPS is having trouble. Looking at prices, it may make sense to get a Smartphone. As an experiment I downloaded a good part of New England maps to my Samsung tablet, brought with me and used Google Maps successfully,

I wonder how it is to routinely use a Smartphone as a GPS? I know a cellphone can be just about anywhere in a vehicle to make calls, but I wonder if it would need to be on the dash for the GPS signal? I believe that's where I placed by tablet when I tried it. I have a bluetooth speaker so I'd have that on to hear the instructions. The only thing I may miss would be a saved address list which is available in a GPS, but maybe something similar could be done with Google Maps or some other app.
 
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  #2  
Old 04-20-19, 07:42 AM
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My wife uses Google map on her phone any time she goes to a new place.

I use mine occasionally when I need it. Its certainly handy, accurate & helpful.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 08:27 AM
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I use Google Maps and WAZE. Both pretty accurate. They also let you know ahead of time about traffic jams or whatever and give you alternate routes.
No, it doesn't have to be on the dashboard. I often just leave it in my pocketbook.
They save addresses automatically. It also brings up addresses automatically in a list when you're putting in a new one. Much easier than my TomTom where I had to put it in starting from the state and working backwards.

When I got my first smartphone, I never wanted to go back.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 08:28 AM
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I often use my smartphone as a GPS. It works but it's no dedicated GPS. I mainly notice the difference in dense urban areas and rural areas with sparse cell coverage. But if you've been using a phone based GPS previously I don't think you'll notice much difference. One problem with the smart phone in sparse areas is the phone can know it's position via GPS but it can't download the map data off the cell network to display your location.

On a recent trip to southern California I had a Garmin Nuvi GPS sitting right next to my phone to handle the navigating while driving. After emerging from the parking garage I was over a mile away and three turns navigating with the Garmin before the phone was able to establish a rough location. Then over the next 45 minutes of driving the phone several times paused/froze and would take 30-90 seconds to again resume navigating.

In foreign countries and in the bush I never go without my Garmin Oregon. It has never let me down and has always worked when my phone was useless. But, when walking around in a strange city the smartphone can't be beat. The phone can easily find a place for lunch and navigate there well enough. Dedicated GPS can also have databases with restaurants and points of interest but they all pale in comparison to what Google can find.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 08:43 AM
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After reading Pilot Dane's reply, I have to say, I've never used it in out of the way places or overseas, so my experience has just been in well traveled local type places.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 08:51 AM
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Well then it seems I wouldn't be sacrificing much if anything going to a Smartphone! The apps you mentioned would actually be an enhancement to my non-subscription GPS as I get no live traffic data. Good it doesn't need to be on the dash.

Now I wonder though - if a map was downloaded previously to a phone, would it not just use the GPS satellite to guide your route and not rely on a cell signal? When I brought my tablet to test that's all I had - a tablet using the GPS signals. I can see where 'Points of Interest' would be more accurate and up to date with Google than a GPS.

Thanks for good information/experiences so far.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 08:59 AM
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That would be my situation as well, using it domestically.

Now if I could just contact my cellphone company to find out what's involved to transfer my number to a new phone. I selected a callback option - estimated time 10 minutes. It's been almost 2 1/2 hrs, no callback. In Chat I was number 66 in line - will try some other time!
 
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Old 04-20-19, 10:40 AM
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You could use a stand-alone GPS & it will work. However, it wont give you live updates of traffic jams, road construction, even accidents etc. Google is usually near real time. Also, if the map you downloaded doesn't have regular updates, you may not know about new roads, etc. Again, Google maps is near real time & can tell you about a new road that opened just this morning & route you that way.
Most GPS's will have a little voice that will tell you to turn in a certain distance etc. Google is real good about giving directions via voice.
"Turn left on to Smith street in 1 mile. Turn left on to Smith street in 1/2 mile." Right down to like 50 ft or something like that.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 11:59 AM
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I've never had the live traffic updates on my GPSs. I just checked the tablet, it's been a while since I used Google Maps so I assumed I'd have to download new maps. I checked the status and what's there is good till May 17th, so evidently the maps are being downloaded automatically. I use that tablet all the time for streaming/playing music, so it must happen in the background.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 12:42 PM
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No, your phone does not buffer or store the Google Maps road maps or satellite imagery. It is constantly downloading the information as you move about. There are ways you can manually download the maps for an area and store on the device. I do that before going to Alaska since there isn't cell coverage and it allows me to use the phone as a GPS.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 01:06 PM
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and just FYI, most all smart phones I know about come with google maps already installed. I cant say for sure that all do, but the one's I've had do. Just check before trying to download the app

And I know it wasn't part of your question but just in conversation, my wife never wanted a smart phone. I was insistent on buying myself one so she reluctantly agreed to get one too so we'd have the same phones. About a week after she had it, you couldnt buy it from her for the price of two phones. Once she found out all she could do with it etc, she wont have anything else.
We arent overly technical people so even basic things excite us. I wanted its because the touch screen fascinated me. No real keypad like a flip phone, just an animated screen & just touch the screen & it dials numbers. And the screen scrolls just by swiping your finger across it. 15 years ago, that just amazed me. It was like magic.

Old people......


Good luck
 
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Old 04-20-19, 01:14 PM
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Don't feel bad about still using a Garmin or the like instead of a phone. I have a current smartphone and still prefer a dash mounted Garmin, nothing to be ashamed of! I can leave the phone on my hip instead of having to pull it out and plug in for power and stuff it in a mount, plus my Nuvi has bluetooth so I can receive calls handsfree if need be when driving.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 02:11 PM
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I'd hope I can do that - store the map after downloading it. I'm on a budget so if possible I'd like to keep the monthly cost the same, don't want start accumulating data costs. If I did download a map of most of New England, for example - would the phone reference that and not be constantly downloading information?

Oh yea - what the phones can do. My son sent me an image of the pork he was cooking in the smoker, then a screenshot of the current temperature of the meat and how much further it must be heated to be ideally done. It was a bluetooth thermometer and an app on his phone! I'm sure there's many practical apps I haven't even heard of.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by stevek66
I wonder how it is to routinely use a Smartphone as a GPS? I
It's very common.

For data charges, you can also set the phone to use Wifi when possible (in the house for example) and most phones have an easy way to "toggle" the cellular data on and off from the screen.

First point- Google Maps does have the capacity to store an on-board version of the map, IIRC it will store map data for mapping an area of roughly 75 miles by 75 miles.

Second, (and scary) Google maps ALSO logs the public WIFI network names that are broadcast, so in many urban or suburban areas, the phone doesn't actually need GPS, it can figure out where it is based on who's WiFi network names.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 03:35 PM
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I would never go back to using a standalone GPS. The constant updating need for a GPS is not worth the trouble. Plus all the benefits the others have mentioned using a smart phone.
 
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Old 04-20-19, 03:54 PM
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I checked my provider's options - for $5 more a month that will allow 2GB of data. I have no idea how much GPS data typically uses. I guess there is no typical answer, it all depends on usage.
 
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Old 04-21-19, 05:10 AM
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If you are not using the phone to surf the web 2gb should be plenty to accommodate Google Maps. You should set the phone so it only downloads updates via wifi so it doesn't use your precious cell data.
 
  #18  
Old 04-21-19, 06:00 AM
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Good tip re: downloading via WiFi only. I have a small ZTE Net10 Smartphone with no service. I have my Google Voice phone number on it and can use it like a cellphone within range of my home Wifi.

Tested the tablet's Google Maps last evening, it's been a while since I used it for that. The prompts were even better than my GPS's with more details.
 
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Old 04-21-19, 04:48 PM
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Google Maps does have a new(ish) feature that you can download directions from home to somewhere while you're on wifi, then not use data as you're traveling.

Nowadays with unlimited plans, it's not something I do much, but it's a good option if you're data-conscientious.
 
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Old 04-21-19, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by stevek66
I have a small ZTE Net10 Smartphone with no service. I have my Google Voice phone number on it and can use it like a cellphone within range of my home Wifi.
I have a few old phones like that,

The last time I checked google maps, on no-service phone, it WOULD calculate the google maps route when in range of home WiFi, and IIRC WOULD update the map location based on nearby WiFi, but would not update routing or show traffic.

I'll have to check whether that trick still works.
 
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Old 04-22-19, 07:52 AM
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If you want to check how the smartphone GPS is working in different parts of the car like the dashboard, seat, etc. there are applications like the one at the link below. It tells how many satellites it's currently able to track, the signal to noise ratio, the current accuracy in feet, etc.

https://www.getjar.com/categories/tool-apps/GPSTest-49057
 
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Old 04-22-19, 07:53 AM
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Bump-

Yep, smartphone running google maps WILL track location, with cellular data off.

The trick is to have google maps save a local copy of the map data

"You can get driving directions offline, but not transit, bicycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won't have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance."

IPhone

Android
 
  #23  
Old 04-22-19, 01:44 PM
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Made note of the GPS position (in the vehicle) site.

Is there a setting on a Smartphone to use only the downloaded map and not the cellular signal even though the signal is in range? I read from another post here you can switch between cell signals and WiFi - but ideally I'd have a cell signal for phone calls but reference the downloaded map while using GPS. Don't know if that's possible, maybe it's one or the other. I was hoping to not have to buy a large data plan.
 
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Old 04-22-19, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by stevek66
Ideally I'd have a cell signal for phone calls but reference the downloaded map while sing GPS.
Interesting point about cellphones-
computer DATA for Google-Maps is generally distinct from "talking minutes"
 
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Old 04-22-19, 04:12 PM
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The problem with a cell phone is all the apps and data you'll be using are someone else's. They are free to change what they do and allow you do without notice. There have been several workarounds that I've used in the past that "poof" disappeared with the latest software update. The trend I have seen is increased reliance on the cloud and increased data usage.
 
  #26  
Old 04-22-19, 07:26 PM
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They work fine. Depends on what you want to do. I use OnX maps and google maps of course. With OnX maps you can turn it into offline mode to use downloaded maps.
 
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Old 05-18-19, 06:12 AM
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Good tip re: OnX maps being able to use it in offline mode.
 
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Old 05-18-19, 12:49 PM
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If you have a CD player get one of these or similar.

https://www.bestbuy.com/site/iottie-...E&gclsrc=aw.ds
 
  #29  
Old 05-18-19, 06:19 PM
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Actually the cave-man company minivan only has a cassette player! I'd have to make some kind of stand for a smartphone or modify something. I do have a bluetooth speaker that I use when listening to music from an old Net10 smartphone I have. Screen is too small and not enough memory to download maps in that.
 
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