iPhone vs Android for GPS?

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Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion iPhone vs Android for GPS?

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  • #3722200
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Colorado

    My cell phone plan is nearing it’s renewal date and I am considering switching to an iPhone as most of my family uses iPhones, and I’d like Facetime. My question is, how does an iPhone compare to an Android device especially in regard to GPS apps like Gaia and Caltopo? I am completely ignorant of Apple products, so any tips would be helpful. Thanks!

    Matthew / BPL


    I’m not sure if this will be helpful because I’m completely ignorant of Android devices but I find Caltopo/Gaia to work really well on iOS. They are highly accurate (they consistently place me right at known landmarks like a lake outlet or bridge). Besides those positive experiences I cannot offer insights on the engineering behind the platforms and compare any nuanced differences in how they handle GPS.

    I suspect this is like the Mac vs PC thing. Most people have opinions and a preferred platform but they both get the job done in a similar manner.

    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    It’s not so much an operating system thing, but more a hardware thing. Apple does not make cheap devices; the electronic compass, accelerometers, and GPS chip/antenna are excellent. The iOS isn’t doing a ton here. Android can run on many phones, and some frankly suck. It’s not the app’s or Android’s fault that your phone can’t find you in a canyon or under trees and has no idea which direction you are facing- the hardware in cheap phones is just bad or lacking completely. You will probably get a similar navigation experience from a top tier Android device as from any recent Apple phone if both are running Gaia or Caltopo, so assuming you were going to plunk down real money on the phone, let other app software or hardware or compatibility considerations guide you. Also, there will be a learning curve getting on a new platform with iOS. Being able to Airdrop (share wirelessly outside of cell range) with another iOS user on the trail is very handy. I’ve given tracks to lost/confused people in the boonies before.



    I used iphones for my first ~6 year of having a smartphone, and it was never the latest and greatest one. The iPhones saw use as a secondary navigation tool for an AT thru and numerous shorter trips as well as long bike trips outside of cell service. The GPS functionality was perfectly adequate. My biggest complaint with the iPhone was that cold would kill it. If it was exposed to anything below ~40 degrees for long the battery life would plummet. Much below freezing and the phone wouldn’t function at all. When hiking in winter I would have to warm it up against my body while being plugged in if I wanted to use it.


    I recently switched to a “rugged/outdoors/military grade” smartphone which is an Android that has all the features I want while in the back country upgraded beyond the capabilities of most smartphones, including the GPS. With the upgraded GPS it performs marginally better for navigation than my iPhone did but I still think the GPS on the iPhone is on par with comparable Android phones.



    I’ve never used an Apple product in my life so when I was looking at getting a new phone last year, I looked pretty hard at an iPhone.  I chose an Android. In hindsight, I think an iPhone would have been a better choice  but I’m not tech savy and need to use it for work as well.

    I found that there are so many more aftermarket products available for an iPhone than an Android. If I had enough time to learn the iPhone/Apple format, that’s the direction I would go.

    Brad W
    BPL Member


    iPhone is great in regards to GPS. Works flawlessly.

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