Question about mobile phone service providers and backcountry navigation.
- This topic is empty.
Sep 5, 2015 at 10:35 pm #1332337
If you are using a phone for backcountry navigation out of cell service range, does your choice in service provider have any impact on finding your location? Or is it all bounced off the same satellites? I'm curious if one service provider would be better than the other.Sep 5, 2015 at 10:47 pm #2225194Jeremy and AngelaBPL Member
@requiemLocale: Northern California
Can you re-phrase the question? As currently worded, it seems like you're asking a question that contains its own answer. If you're outside of cell range, the service provider doesn't matter by definition, because your phone isn't able to talk to any cell towers (being out of range). -J (edit: typo)Sep 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm #2225195
I'm assuming that you need to be paying for a service plan to get gps in the backcountry, is that correct? If that's correct, does my service provider have any impact on my ability to get an accurate gps lock on my position?Sep 5, 2015 at 11:00 pm #2225196Jeremy and AngelaBPL Member
@requiemLocale: Northern California
The GPS function is made possible by a GPS chip on the phone, which listens for the faint signals from the US Government-owned GPS satellite network. Newer chips likely pull in signals from other geolocation systems as well (e.g. Russia's GLONASS). It's purely passive and has no need for a service plan, nor any relation to the service provider. The only way not having a service plan might hinder you is if your phone is stuck at a "please activate me" sort of screen, and there are usually ways around that. This assumes you are using a late-model phone with both a GPS chip and some application that can show location info even when out of cell range (e.g. from previously downloaded maps). -JSep 5, 2015 at 11:25 pm #2225198
Ok, I was totally wrong then. Thanks!Sep 30, 2015 at 7:07 pm #2229626HeathPBPL Member
If you have pre downloaded maps and any modern smartphone it has a GPS chip in it and will be able to display your location on these maps. As Jeremy said it has nothing to do with the cellular service. The cellular modem in your phone is a separate chip (most likely made by Qualcomm). If you are out of cell range best to put your phone in airplane mode, otherwise when there is no/little cellphone service your phone actually works harder to find a signal and drains the battery more quickly.Sep 30, 2015 at 7:26 pm #2229632Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
You need an app like Gaia to download the maps ahead of time when you do have network or cellular access. From there you can use your GPS enabled phone just like any handheld GPS. You can have the same issues as any other GPS device with heavy foliage or terrain blocking satellite signals. If you use the app for continuous tracking it will eat battery time. Do carry maps and compass!Nov 9, 2015 at 12:08 pm #2237026Jordo _99BPL Member
For what it's worth, I've been keeping old smartphones after upgrading for a while now…one is now a permanent fixture in my car (navigation and music) and the other is my "workout tracker". Both of them are solid for GPS but I sync them every few months over WiFi.Nov 9, 2015 at 2:12 pm #2237046Mike MBPL Member
there was some pretty large differences w/ the iphone 5 and battery life depending on the carrier- Verizon phones got pretty good battery life in the backcountry, AT&T didn't this has changed with the iphone 6 where both are getting excellent battery life and possibly even with the 5's as there was a IOS upgrade for all phones but as mentioned, satellite coverage would be the same with all carriers btw Gaiagps simply rocks- for $19.99 you can download all the topo maps you want (you choose the scale and the maps are seamless, so you pick the area covered), you can even download sat maps for those tricky nav spots where a overhead view helps and as Dale mentioned, with the phone's gps you now have a fully functioning map gpsNov 9, 2015 at 2:24 pm #2237049
With the Samsung Galaxy phones you can take extra batteries as they are user replaceable and I don't think that is the case with the iPhone. Also, the Samsung you can put in a 64gig microSD card… put it in yourself… and load the maps to that card… 64gig will hold a lot of maps… that 64g card can be moved between a Samsung phone and a Samsung tablet and the maps will be available on either device… For instance, use the tablet to download maps and plan trips by setting routes/waypoints because the tablet has a larger viewing area and better for trip planning… then move the card to your Samsung phone for when you're actually hiking. Also, some of the Samsung phones are water proof and dust proof… the Galaxy S5 and some of the Galaxies offered through AT&T. I used only ONE battery on my Galaxy S4 for a 6 day backpack recently. Took two extras but did not need them. How did I do that? Airplane mode all the time, did not use it for music or reading books, etc…. only took maybe a dozen pics with it as I took a camera. I did not use the tracking feature except on the last afternoon through a tricky spot, and the phone was off most of the time… I only turned it on a few times a day at critical points to get a read on my exact location. The Back Country Navigator app works really good on the Samsung…. very happy with it. BillyNov 9, 2015 at 2:28 pm #2237050
But to tell the truth… if I were doing the JMT and would be staying on the trai, I wouldn't bother with a GPS at all… just a distraction. When I did the JMT back in the 80's I didn't even take a camera. The JMT is well signed. You won't need a GPS unless you are going off-trail… but even then the terrain is so open above tree line, I never take a GPS in the Sierra even if going off trail. billyNov 9, 2015 at 2:37 pm #2237054
Justin… you can get a phone at about half price if you go to eBay and by one of the older models… just one iteration older and brand new in the original box… make sure it is unlocked and will work with the phone service you intend to sign up for… ie, and AT&T phone will not work on Verizon, etc… only buy from sellers that have a good return policy (read carefully) and only sellers that have very high ratings over many many reviews. billy
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.