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Old 03-15-2013
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Cellphone Nav?

A professed sailing newbie with his first boat about to go in the water in a week asks how many use their cellphones for GPS navigation. I have the Samsung S3 and the lite version of "marine navigator". Having tested it while on other boats it appears to track things very well. I downloaded a bunch of appropriate NOAA charts and cold see everything I needed to see to get where I wanted to go. So is this something that is catching on in the sailing community or are we still advised to purchase stand alone GPS/plotter equipment. I am sure the phone software has limitations but it is tough to beat FREE. Plus the professional version is only like $6.
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Old 03-15-2013
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

I have and use a couple of apps on my iphone/ipad. A couple, the Navionics, the MotionX GPS , Windfinder, WindAlert. All really usefull and seem to be pretty accurate. Not familiar with the one you are looking at and the Navionics is $50? But they are good apps and have been accurate for me in the SF Bay and surrounding area.

I don't have a GPS on my boat other than the ipad but have been looking to buy one as a back up. I've been looking at the Garmin Montana but at about $500, I'd rather find an older used one. Not that I'm stingy with my money but the Iphone's nav apps are so good, it's hard to justify.
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Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

I am an old fashioned guy who likes paper charts. I have a whole whack of apps on S3 including Navionics. I would use it to navigate if the following failed:

my charts fell overboard
my chartplotter quit
my netbook with OpenCPN quit
my Garmin handheld quit
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Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

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I am an old fashioned guy who likes paper charts
Your first "go to" are paper charts? In 2013? Really?

Ok. Each to their own.
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Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rbyham View Post
A professed sailing newbie with his first boat about to go in the water in a week asks how many use their cellphones for GPS navigation. I have the Samsung S3 and the lite version of "marine navigator". Having tested it while on other boats it appears to track things very well. I downloaded a bunch of appropriate NOAA charts and cold see everything I needed to see to get where I wanted to go. So is this something that is catching on in the sailing community or are we still advised to purchase stand alone GPS/plotter equipment. I am sure the phone software has limitations but it is tough to beat FREE. Plus the professional version is only like $6.
I had the lite version and bought the paid version. It's very nice - definitely worth the money. I didn't really need it but wanted to pay the guy because he did such a nice job with the app. However, I found it very useful for use on the dinghy when I chartered in the BVI a few months ago. I'd mark my spot when we went out for dinner, and could use the cell phone to find my way back to the boat after dark. With dozens of boats in most anchorages, it was very useful, especially since I had my cell phone with me anyway.

The main complaints I hear about apps like this for phones and computers is from people who can't figure out where to get the charts and how to load them, or they just don't want that hassle. Sound like you've already solved that problem, and as you've noticed, it's a only one-time hassle.

As for paper vs. electronic, that's almost a religious debate. I have a handheld Garmin GPS that has been very useful, but I see no reason why a good smartphone won't completely replace handhelds very soon, just like they're replacing automotive GPSs.

I would suggest you get a waterproof case for your phone. Search "DryPak" on ebay.
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Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

just be sure you're not going out of cell phone tower range .... as there are a lot of cell phone 'holes' (no reception) in the Carolina and GA 'low country' ... ditto for well offshore, too!
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

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just be sure you're not going out of cell phone tower range .... as there are a lot of cell phone 'holes' (no reception) in the Carolina and GA 'low country' ... ditto for well offshore, too!

iPads with GPS don't use cell phone towers. They use those Funky GPS thingyamagigs. You know, Global Positioning Satellites . Or something like that.
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Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

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Originally Posted by RichH View Post
just be sure you're not going out of cell phone tower range .... as there are a lot of cell phone 'holes' (no reception) in the Carolina and GA 'low country' ... ditto for well offshore, too!
Not correct IMO. I think you have stated a common misconception about cell phone GPS functionality.

Except for a very few restrictive plans that block GPS on low-cost "feature phones," you do not need cell phone reception for the GPS to work in a smartphone. I have never owned or heard of a GPS capable Android phone/tablet, iPhone, or iPad that did not work when away from cell reception. They might get a slightly faster initial fix with the added benefit of cell tower triangulation, but once you have the first fix you'll get a fast fix after that since sailboats don't go very fast. The satellite reception is all you need, and that's available basically everywhere except around skyscrapers and dense forest.

My Nexus4 had no cell service in BVI - in fact, I kept the radio turned off to avoid accidental roaming charges. Yet my GPS worked perfectly. Ditto for my son's iPhone.

My iPad has AT&T wireless capability, but we've never purchased the wireless service. (My son bought us the wireless model to get the internal GPS, even though he knew we would not subscribe to the wireless service.) That iPad also worked flawlessly in BVI (using Garmin Bluechart app).

If you know of a specific model of phone whose GPS does not work without cell tower reception, please let us know what model it is so sailors can avoid it. But until I hear about those models, I will stick with my own observation that everything I've tried works fine. And I would bet that any GPS capable phones that don't work could be rooted to work.
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Old 03-16-2013
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To be fair, earlier Samsung models did have an issue where they'd never get a gps lock if they were out of cell tower range and their cached aGPS data was older than a day or so. This was a manufacturer issue, not inherent to android. The Galaxy S and S II on Sprint both had this issue. The S3 does not, and will happily lock cold with very old aGPS data and no cell reception.
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Re: Cellphone Nav?

I can only speak for the iPhone and iPad. They have real GPS receivers and do not need cell reception to work. Without a cell signal to already know what part of the planet they are on, they will just take a little longer to initially lock onto the appropriate satellites. Once locked, it makes no difference.

With an iPad, you only get the GPS receiver, if you buy the version that has the 3G cell receiver. You do not need to activate 3G service for the GPS receiver to work, they just bundle the add-ons together.

I do not use either for primary navigation, but I do check them often and have used my iPad as a backup to a failed chartplotter. I cross check all navigation. Nothing is true, until two independent sources say its true. Typically, I use an electronic means as primary and my eyeballs as secondary. If I'm in familiar waters, I'm checking that land or nav aids are where the chartplotter says they are. If in unfamiliar waters, I am cross checking to a printed chartbook.

Here's a little secret. When I go below to use the head, make something in the galley, or whatever and my wife has the helm, I often pop on Charts and Tides on my iPhone and keep an eye on where we're going. Don't tell her.
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