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There is a debate over what between a smartphone and a dedicated GPS unit is the better outdoor technology for activities requiring position or location. The answer to this question largely depends on how you intend to use GPS. There are cases where your smartphone will meet your needs and thereby replace a handheld GPS. However, in some instances, a smartphone cannot hold up where truly powerful GPS units can. Think of solutions that would require Trimble’s millimeter accuracy receivers.

In this article, we outline some interesting smartphone applications which provide capabilities that would rival most astronomically expensive handheld GPS units in the market.

  • GPS Essentials: Is arguably the most complete GPS App on the store. Many users consider it a “Swiss-knife” for navigation, data collection, and for managing waypoints, tracks and routes. It has a dashboard which shows your current location in Latitude, Longitude, Accuracy and Altitude. It shows your Speed, Bearing, Climb, Course, Date and Declination. The app also shows Distance, Max Speed, Min Speed, Actual Speed, Sunrise and Sunset. Even Moonset, Moonrise, Moon Phase, Target, Time and Turn are displayed by this awesome app. It features a compass that shows the orientation of the earth’s magnetic field, arbitrary tracking angle and the current target.

Like a dedicated GPS unit, GPS Essentials allows users to import/export waypoints in GPX and KML formats. Users can also create turn-by-turn instructions between way-points. The app also utilizes the phone’s camera to allow users take photos to enrich captured text content. What is even more striking is that users can export way-points, routes and tracks as KML or GPX files or send them by email or upload to Google Docs or DropBox. This means that you can actually have one team working remotely in the field while another is in the office validating and analyzing the submitted data.

  • GeoPaparazzi: Is a great app for taking notes, either as text, photo or audio. In addition to the functionalities which are available by default, the app allows a person with a basic skill in .json to create their own forms for collecting data.

Learn how to create your own data collection forms in .json here.

GeoPaparazzi has the following key features:

    • Allows users to capture georeferenced notes and enrich the text with photos.
    • The app enables managing of GPS tracks with a map view for navigation of the environment.
    • Easy export of collected data GPX, KMZ, geopaparazzi cloud projects and bookmarks.
  • OSMAnd+: OSMAnd+ Is a great tool for building your own custom maps, or downloading and caching online data. Way-point creation is not very fast or accurate on this app. Yet, the app is unrivaled with its offline capability. It works well with GPX files (import & save) and as an offline navigation application offers unmatched access to the free, worldwide, and high-quality offline maps. It is a wonderful navigation tool with turn-by-turn voice guidance to lead you along the way (recorded and synthesized voices).


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