ASA and PSIA Instructor
Join Date: Apr 2000
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Cell phone coverage on Ches Bay is spotty. Likewise along those portions of the New England Coastline I'm familiar with.
The cell companies place their towers in such a way to maximize coverage with the fewest possible towers. There is a radius of coverage around those towers. Particularly in less densely populated areas, they try to minimize both the number of towers and overlapping range.
So they place those towers inland, such that the radius of coverage just reaches the coastline or sometimes slightly beyond with good propagation. And because they want to minimize overlap, there are "blank" spots in the coverage out near the extremes of the range.
Personally, I would not rely on or invest in cell phone technology for even coastal navigation. It would only be okay if you did nothing but hug the coast tightly -- and even then you'd find plenty of areas where it had no coverage. But who wants to operate a navigation system that will be spotty at best and will go blank if you take a long tack out from the coast line? Or weather forces you to keep your distance from the shoreline? Or your course takes you away from it?
Maybe I'm missing something, but I think the appeal would be very limited to protected inland waters and bays. Maybe you'd find a micro-market in places like San Diego and SF Bay?
Then again, I don't have an i-phone and I know very few people who do.
Your comments are correct for phones that relay on cell tower for location determination.
The Andriod phones have a true gps receiver, so the lack of cell tower coverage doesn't limit their useability for nav purposes (or for mountain hiking...). I understand the new, maybe more recent iPhones also now have a true gps. Although I have milspec Casio clamshell which has been an excellent phone - waterproof - after a buddy tracked the progress of last Sunday's thunderstorms to a T with his iPhone weather radar app, I feel that functionality is a must have...especially if you are sailing a smaller boat.
I need to figure out whether an Android is good enough, or even better...
Certified...in several regards...