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Iphone GPS apps
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John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Iphone GPS apps on 10/21/2010 20:43:50 MDT Print View

Anybody have good luck using iPhone GPS apps? Just found one called Gaia GPS that seems like it could be useful, on first glance, have not tested it. What are your experiences with that program or any other? Seems like battery life would be limiting step.

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Re: gps on 10/21/2010 21:15:15 MDT Print View

I've had this app for about 6 months and it is good off the grid and great on. By off grid I mean it works well outside of cell service. I download the topo for where we will be and the gps puts it on the downloaded map. Doesn't work on airplanes, but then I shouldn't be using it there anyway.

Skip Booth
(the1skipper) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
iPhone GPS apps on 10/21/2010 21:29:55 MDT Print View

I really like the Topo Maps GPS app for the iphone. It has free downloads of the USGS Topo Maps and stores them in the flash memory for offline access. It has some nice features for measuring distance on the trail and all of the standard stuff such as waypoints and searching for POIs as well. Here's a good link to their website for the various features of the app:

I've also been happy with the MotionX GPS app but it doesn't have the same offline map integration that Topo Maps has.

Battery life suffers significantly though when using the GPS with any of these apps.


John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
iPhone GPS apps on 10/22/2010 16:52:58 MDT Print View

Am trying GPS Kit too, better interface than Gaia GPS, but no MyTopo.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: iPhone GPS apps on 10/22/2010 18:27:29 MDT Print View

I've tried 5 programs, and Gaia GPS is my favorite. This is because Gaia has seamless USGS topos with a shaded-relief overlay, which I find very helpful. It also has a nice screen that shows a customizable trip computer, including total elevation gain in addition to altitude. Finally, it has an easy system for downloading large clusters of topos.

But there are other map programs that have higher resolution scans. And GPS Kit certainly seems to have the cleanest UI. Does anyone know if GPS kit also has USGS maps as an option?

With any program, though, you don't want to use tracking unless absolutely need to; but if you have a full topo map, why do you need tracking if you can always see where you are on the map?

I went on a 4-day backpacking trip with an iPhone 4 this past summer. I removed the sim card (this is the only way to turn off the cellular antenna but keep the GPS on). I checked Gaia GPS 10-12 times a day for 30 seconds to a minute, took a few minutes of videos, listened to about 6 hours of audiobooks, and used the LED as a flashlight for about a minute. After the trip I still had 79% battery life. And I found acquisition times as well as accuracy to be on par with Garmin H high-sensitivity receiver. The GPS in the iPhone 4 is MUCH better than previous models; I would only take the iPhone 4 out in the field.

Edited by jcarter1 on 10/22/2010 18:34:08 MDT.

Dave Heiss

Locale: Pacific Northwest
iPhone 4 GPS apps on 12/02/2010 16:20:50 MST Print View

I switched to an iPhone 4 a few weeks ago, and I like the multi-function idea of using it as my GPS device. I only use GPS on occasion, primarily to verify my location in situations where there might be some doubt. Maybe one location check a day, if that.

So an iPhone app sounds good to me, but I'm not sure which apps might fit the bill. I've looked at:

Gaia GPS (nice overall package)
MotionX GPS (a bit confusing)
GPS Kit (nothing special)
Topo Maps (good looking maps)
Trails GPS Tracker (very basic)

Have I missed any?

Willy P
(uuilly) - F

Locale: Sierra
AccuTerra on 12/02/2010 20:45:40 MST Print View

I've had good luck w/ AccuTerra:

You can purchase shaded, color topos for many regions and pre-cache them. That way you have GPS and a good topo without any cell signal. I'm quite stoked w/it and have purchased many cali maps. I like it a lot for backcountry skiing when you're trying to follow a trail that's covered in snow.

You can also email kml tracks and see rate of travel, elev etc.

drew doty
(drewdoty1444) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz, CA
Real world use on 12/29/2010 00:07:01 MST Print View

I too am debating getting a gamin Oregon series or an i phone4. I need it for the canyons of utah ie. The maze and other areas in the desert. I like the multifunction of the I phone. just curious as too the reliability of the I phone in remote places ( no roads, no reception, no people). Anyone have some real world experience with it in the backcountry? Better or worse than a garmin gps unit? Do they use the same satellites? I am a newbie to gps so sorry for the lack of knowledge.


Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Real world use iphone gps on 12/29/2010 00:29:39 MST Print View

iphone 4 has a gps receiver and using the same satelites. It can work in the back country assuming the applications your are using stash the maps rather than depend on real time use of say, google maps. I found that the iphone's performance to lag the the better garmin by a generation or so. That's to say they still get an accurate location fix, but it takes them longer, especially from a cold start. The other issue with the iphone is that it burns through batteries pretty quickly if you want to keep the gps application active. It's fine for spot checking location, but isn't up for a full day tracking your location.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Real world use on 12/29/2010 00:39:57 MST Print View

A dedicated GPS receiver, such as a new model by Garmin, does a slightly better job of navigation compared to some other handheld device that also has a GPS receiver function. The dedicated GPS receiver is typically faster for Time To First Fix from a cold start, has slightly better position accuracy, and will operate slightly better in a marginal reception environment.

Of those slight differences, some users can see them, and some can't.


Paul Mountford
(Sparticus) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic Canada
Removing sim card on 01/19/2011 04:31:58 MST Print View

For anyone interested in using their Iphone 4 apps while backpacking, removing the sim is not the only way to keep gps working while the phone’s transmitter is off.

The second option is set up a sim PIN. When you restart the phone, you can choose not to enter the pin. This turns off the phone and allows you to use the gps and prolong battery life. I'm doing a test right now with MotionX. I've been running the track recorder now for almost 15 hrs, and the battery is still at 89%.

Ken Strayer
(TheRambler) - F
iphone gps on 01/19/2011 06:29:21 MST Print View

Maybe I am ignorant as I only have an Iphone 3, but can't you just put the Iphone 4 in airplane mode like with the iphone 3 instead of removing the sim card or using a sim pin?

Paul Mountford
(Sparticus) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic Canada
Re: iphone gps on 01/19/2011 06:36:33 MST Print View

Airplane mode also turns off the phone's GPS reciever.

Scott S
iphone gps on 01/19/2011 06:48:10 MST Print View

Airplane mode turns off all communication devices on the iphone...wi-fi, gps, bluetooth, as well as cellular.

Thanks for the tip on applying a sim pin. I'll definitely be testing that out. I've been so frustrated with motionx annihilating my battery while recording tracks. Never even crossed my mind to pull the sim card or put a pin password on it.

Ken Strayer
(TheRambler) - F
airplane mode on 01/19/2011 09:58:31 MST Print View

on the iPhone 3 I can put it in airplane mode and still get a gps signal, does this no longer work on the iPhone 4 I take it?

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
IPhone GPS apps on 01/19/2011 12:00:12 MST Print View

How do you set up the SIM pin?

NM, found it. Thanks for the tip.

Edited by saparisor on 01/19/2011 12:17:49 MST.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Iphone GPS apps on 01/19/2011 12:19:41 MST Print View

How are your verifying your GPS is working in airplane mode ? Are you sure you aren't mistaking location data over wifi for GPS ?

My iPhone has no GPS in airplane mode.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
iPhone GPS apps on 01/19/2011 17:31:09 MST Print View

I've been wanting to get an iPhone and am especially excited about its GPS functionality. However, I'm looking at getting the Verizon variant when it comes out next month. Without a sim card to pull out or disable via PIN, will there be another way to disable the cell functions to prolong battery life? I was thinking airplane mode would work but maybe that's changed with iPhone 4.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: iPhone GPS apps on 01/19/2011 18:08:52 MST Print View

To prevent the phone from trying to access either a wifi network or the 3g network, is there any difference between taking out the SIM card and simply shutting off the wifi and data connection through the settings? I believe this shuts off all connections, but leaves the GPS chip functioning. Am I missing something?

Edited by T.L. on 01/19/2011 18:09:49 MST.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Iphone GPS apps on 01/19/2011 18:16:44 MST Print View

The cellular network. Your phone will drain your battery very fast looking for a cellular network to make and receive calls.

I can turn off 3G, and cellular data, and still have "five bars" of signal from ATT.

If I wander outside of cellular coverage, my phone will drain the battery quickly hunting for a cellular signal.