For some years I've been using various models of Garmin's hand held GPS and been quite satisfied with them. One of the benefits that they offered was 22-25 hours battery life, and the batteries could use either AA rechargeables or alkaline - a big plus when touring.

The newer phones seem to be getting a better battery life, and if I stopped using the hand held and went to the smart phone for GPS, it would be one less device that I'd have to bother with while touring. Power banks are also better and a worthwhile option if regular normal charging is not always at hand. Most of my trips are for a month or more, but usually a hotel/motel room for recharging both me and the electrics can be fitted in at regular intervals, depending on weather, etc.

Currently I rarely use my smart phone GPS, so I have some questions that perhaps the Audax riders could best answer;

  • If I use the phone in flight mode, can I have the GPS track showing all of the time that the phone is on?
  • I want to be able to import into the phone the track that I want to travel, and then have it record the track that I actually travel. I'd then like to download the actual to PC at some stage after I've finished my tour. From what I've looked at so far, Ride with GPS looks to be the best fit for this use, or should I look at something else?
  • What is the typical battery life of a phone if it's only being used as a GPS?
  • Can OpenCycleMap tiles be downloaded to use offline, or should I just go against my prejudice and download from Google Maps for offline stuff?
  • How do the phones cope with a bit of rain?
  • Which phone would you recommend for this type of usage, as well as the usual smart phone things?

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Not an audaxer.. but I suggest you have a look at something like oruxmaps for more sophisticated control of maps (downloadable, offline, multiple public map sources such as the NSW government's topos, etc).

Battery life is hugely dependent on the phone.

Dabba I haven't used the phone for navigation of some years because I would only get about 5 hours from the battery if using a GPS app. Perhaps the apps have improved, batteries have increased capacity although that generally gets chewed up by bigger screens & processors. I would also be reluctant to put my emergency communication device on the bars when it is likely to get damaged in a crash. While many recent phones are "splash resistant" I don't think they would stand up too well to actually getting wet.

Many of the more advanced (useful) features of the RwGPS app (eg offline maps) are only available if you have a paid subscription or a club account.

For these reasons most "audaxers" still use dedicated navigation devices like Garmins with all their faults, I get 20 hours from my 520, bigger ones generally get less even though they have bigger batteries due to bigger screens and lots more features using power.

I use nothing but my phone for navigation. I use 2 mapping apps on it: Locus map and Memory Map.

Locus uses open maps and is generally pretty good. It often has tracks marked on it that are barely visible on the ground. But because they are open maps, if you go somewhere that few people visit, it may have a few missing.

You can download maps for just about anywhere for very little cost. It lets you adjust your GPS data collection for a variety of activities and you can adjust it yourself as well. It gives pretty good agreement with my old fashioned cycle computer for distance. The altitude/metres climbed /descended can be a bit strange probably due to poor vertical accuracy with GPS.

Memory Map loads standard topo maps so that your map perfectly matches your paper map - possibly more useful for bushwalking/canyoning, etc than cycling.

Both import & export gpx files (and others). Both allow you to preload maps and use them offline. Locus is easy MMap is a PITA. Google also lets you cache map tiles but it's really messy with multiple scales and if you try to cache too much it will throw away what you first cached with no easy way of seeing what you do and don't have.

I avoid hotels and camping areas so travel with a small solar panel and power pack that I keep on charge during the day and use it to top up the phone at night. Easily does a day on a charge, although on longer trips I don't track. I normally run on flight mode to save power - yes the GPS continues to work just fine.

I used to have a Sony Xperia. Supposedly waterproof, but every time it got soaked it worked a little less...replaced under warrantee any the replacement did the same :-( I'm now trying a Blackview 8000. Bit of a brick, but has a big battery and is supposedly IP-68 waterproof/dustproof/shockproof, and a whole lot cheaper than a Sony, but I had to import it, so no real warrantee, and careful, some models don't work with Telstra if you want to use it as a phone as well.

Good on you for making this post Dabba. We will all get a lot of info. In my experience one does not get to know much about what other people are doing. 

I always have a laptop with me. I travel with an iphone that I could use for mapping but I don't. I like to have it in my back right pocket. I use it to take photos, to sms and to email including sharing photos. I typically am not away from internet for more that three days. Recently I was around Haast for example. The significance is that I can replot routes. I plot all my routes on google maps on the laptop when I'm on line. Then I email the url to my email with a name.

For navigation I have a Galaxy S5. And it is not waterproof! ($180 charge). On that I have the OSM app. I like the way it is just "they give me a map" instead of the relentless harassment I felt came from mapmyride when I tried to test it. I think it allowed me to go a place that google didn't have a path in. That tends to be very unusual though.

I keep the S5 on a Rokform mount. 

There is often no need to have the navigation device turned on. I rarely would have mine on all the time. There have been some memorable cases of turning it on and realizing we had just missed a turn. But you can stretch battery life out. I'd normally recharge my S5 every third night.

The subject of potentially being able to get more out of our dynamo hubs is of interest to me. I am involved in a project that will change this. Currently the 6V3W limit is adhered to by everyone as it is the German standard. More to come. 

I have never wanted to plot a route whilst riding and send that back to my devices. What's the point? I still have the url of the route. I put the urls in a word doc in a file for that particular ride. Also, apparently unlike folks in the strava world, I do not want my movements to be visible on the internet.

OSM has worked fine. There occasionally is a funny moment when the track (done on googlemaps) is showing on OSM as us being on a road that does not exist. Last Dec, in 1,400km in Sth India, there was only one of these. And only 8km. The track (goat track) was indeed there but OSM did not know.  Got to hand it to google though. They knew. Incidentally, someone on that ride had a garmin and he missed lots of tracks. He followed.

Daily climb is a big issue. If I ride up a mountain I want to know how much. Admittedly my system so far has not provided this. I know the cycling mode on googlemaps does show climb. But in many countries, not least of all this one, googlemaps usually does not offer cycling mode. After plotting the route for a day and sending the url, I just switch to walking mode. It gives me the climb and I record it in that word file. Also the distance. So I am using a word file as part of the navigation system.

One last thing. On the S5, I am using gpsvisualizer to convert the UIRL into GPS. It opens and saves in OSM. I need to be online to do this.

I have a Samsung S5 mini, which is OK as a phone, ordinary as a camera, but its GPS is dreadful. I'd been trying various navigation apps with it in the stink box and found that it just couldn't keep up with the real world. I didn't know whether the problem was the S5 or the app, so we drove around with my partner's mobile using the same app as the S5, and her phone kept up and had a much better timing for the navigational info than mine did while running at the same time and a foot apart.

My S5 (non-mini) is great on the tracking but I'm not on-line with it when I'm riding. Just relying on the gps chip and it's flawless. For me that is the point of it. I can't be dependent upon a wifi signal in the places I ride.

A slight aside, but if anyone was wanting a new mobile that appears to be perfectly suited to use as a mapping device for longer cycle trips, Energizer might have just announced the device for you.

16,000 mAh battery!

I have nothing to add (I'm a phone Luddite) but +1 on the discussion. Very interesting.

I have a Samsung S7 Edge which is one of the new generation waterproof phones which should give fairly good real life water protection, but I'm with Bill on this - Is it worth risking?

I guess if you put it in an Otterbox or one of the other premium waterproof cases, you have double protection, and some better crash protection as well.

GPS and battery life is amazing and if left in flight mode I'm sure you would get 15 hours or more of tracking recorded. Not so sure about how much life if you are also using the phone to navigate (screen on time). 

But you can always plug into a backup battery to recharge on the fly.


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