Re: GPS Tracker

John Dennis


I would have thought a 2-1/2 year old iPhone would have GPS. It certainly will use wifi and cell towers for a quick location (or indoors, or if the GPS device is not turned on). My basic Android phone of about the same age has GPS which allows me to track my path, and when overlaid onto Google Earth seems pretty accurate to me.

What model is your iPhone?


On Nov 16, 2013 1:43 PM, "Frank Stamford" <frank.stamford@...> wrote:

Hello Iain,

Thank you very much for that explanation, which has greatly clarified the situation.

I was under the impression that mobile phones worked out their positions from phone towers, not satellites, so I did not see how they could give GPS locations. My iPhone is 2-1/2 years old, which probably makes it an advanced geriatric.

Your suggestion in your last paragraph is interesting, and I will draw the LR editors' attention to it.


On 16/11/2013 7:32 AM, Iain Stuart wrote:

Things have changed in the hand held GPS world since phone manufacturers have changed from using mobile towers as base stations to using the full  “GNSS,” (short for GPS + GloNASS the Russian satellites) this gives an accuracy of 3-5 m (or better?).


I had no idea about this and when my Garmin etrax Vista (which is a middle aged version of the Etrax Frank was talking about) list its functionality I replaced it with a more expensive Garmin Montana. Neither give more accuracy than 3-5 m although the Montana does offer a point collection feature that allows you to collect say 50 location measurements and average them thus reducing some random errors.


I mostly used the GPS’s for documenting my walks and for navigation while overseas. There was a small amount of archaeological use.


Then my lovely indestructible Sonim phone wore out and I decided to replace it with a “smart phone” and was surprised at what was available in terms of data collection using the GNSS power of my Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Apart from simple tracking, I can use Google Earth/Maps so I know where I am – with additional maps possible through various add on “apps” as well as other apps for data collection and interaction with survey level GPS’s, georefereferenced photos and smoothish importing into other programs. This is so much more than the simple GPS tracker idea.  


The level of GPS accuracy is the same between the Montana and the Note and seems in line with that reported by ESRI for the Iphone4. Why the Montana is in a draw in my office is the software for the Samsung is so much better to use than the Garmin software (I could never get Basecamp to work properly) and there is much more choice from other vendor.


My prediction is that if Garmin don’t lift their game they will be out of the handheld business very soon. They are releasing an Android GPS called the Monterra which is US$600 but apart from its more rugged design is less functional than my Note.


I am taking about top of the range for non-survey GPS  here – the GPS Frank mentioned is Garmin’s entry level model – there are details on Johnny Appleseed from who I have bought my two Garmin GPS’s. You do need to check what sort of map you might need. Many GPS’s come pre-loaded with US maps which of course only have a vague understanding of Australia. It can cost almost as much as the GPS to buy the maps!!


When you upgrade your phone Frank you may indeed get a GPS inside it and what’s more a camera which can take georeferenced photos.


There is much more I think is worth opening up for discussion such as mapping use of Google Earth and GIS applications and I was wondering whether some sort of occasional discussion in the Light Railways Research Section might be warranted.


Dr Iain Stuart


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