Cheap smartphones with decent GPS chips?

Hi all,

I've just run a pilot with 15 smartphones collecting (mainly) species
distribution data in the forests of northern Madagascar. Everything went
well and we're hoping to expand to 50 next year, but the phones really
struggled with getting a GPS fix in the forests (even with low canopy
cover) so we resorted to manually typing in coordinates from standalone GPS
units. I'm assuming the main problem was the cheap GPS chip in the phone -
we used the Vodafone Smart First 6 (£20 each!) with the Mediatek MT6572M
SoC, which only supports GPS and A-GPS. There's no phone signal in the
field sites so we're relying on satellite reception alone. Trying my own
phone (Oneplus One) worked much better, but I'm not sure whether it's due
to a bigger antenna, better GPS chip or that it supports GLONASS too.

Does anyone have any experience with cheapish smartphones that have decent
GPS performance? The obvious option would be to buy external Bluetooth
receivers, but keeping track of what's paired to what could be tricky with
50 units. Just wondering if anyone's been through the same problem already
before I pick up a bunch. Any help would be much appreciated!

Michael

Hi Michael,

I don't have any technical knowledge regarding GPS chips, but I can share
my experience with Nexus 7 tablets (which are relatively low cost -- but
still more than a £20 mobile). I have deployed dozens of surveys with Nexus
7 tablets, some with as many as 160 tablets in the same deployment, and
have only had occasional issues (< .05% of tablets deployed) with the
tablets obtaining a GPS signal -- which I have written off as hardware
issues. This includes in rural locations across East Africa, Southern
Africa, West Africa and Asia. The tablets do not have a sim capability, so
relay only on satellite signals.

I'm curious, how is the battery life on the Vodafone Smart First 6? Outside
of GPS acquisition, have you experienced any other constraints using the
device? For that price, it is a tempting proposition if GPS coordinates are
not required.

~Lloyd

··· On Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 4:28:07 AM UTC-4, Michael Darling wrote: > > Hi all, > > I've just run a pilot with 15 smartphones collecting (mainly) species > distribution data in the forests of northern Madagascar. Everything went > well and we're hoping to expand to 50 next year, but the phones really > struggled with getting a GPS fix in the forests (even with low canopy > cover) so we resorted to manually typing in coordinates from standalone GPS > units. I'm assuming the main problem was the cheap GPS chip in the phone - > we used the Vodafone Smart First 6 (£20 each!) with the Mediatek MT6572M > SoC, which only supports GPS and A-GPS. There's no phone signal in the > field sites so we're relying on satellite reception alone. Trying my own > phone (Oneplus One) worked much better, but I'm not sure whether it's due > to a bigger antenna, better GPS chip or that it supports GLONASS too. > > Does anyone have any experience with cheapish smartphones that have decent > GPS performance? The obvious option would be to buy external Bluetooth > receivers, but keeping track of what's paired to what could be tricky with > 50 units. Just wondering if anyone's been through the same problem already > before I pick up a bunch. Any help would be much appreciated! > > Michael >

Michael,

If GPS is the only issue, I'd definitely look at Bluetooth GPSes.
Pairing is a one-time operation and the device should remember which
one it is paired with. You can also use stickers on the back of the
GPS to match them to the phones.

Yaw

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On Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 1:24 PM, Lloyd Owen Banwart lloyd.banwart@gmail.com wrote:

Hi Michael,

I don't have any technical knowledge regarding GPS chips, but I can share my
experience with Nexus 7 tablets (which are relatively low cost -- but still
more than a £20 mobile). I have deployed dozens of surveys with Nexus 7
tablets, some with as many as 160 tablets in the same deployment, and have
only had occasional issues (< .05% of tablets deployed) with the tablets
obtaining a GPS signal -- which I have written off as hardware issues. This
includes in rural locations across East Africa, Southern Africa, West
Africa and Asia. The tablets do not have a sim capability, so relay only on
satellite signals.

I'm curious, how is the battery life on the Vodafone Smart First 6? Outside
of GPS acquisition, have you experienced any other constraints using the
device? For that price, it is a tempting proposition if GPS coordinates are
not required.

~Lloyd

On Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 4:28:07 AM UTC-4, Michael Darling wrote:

Hi all,

I've just run a pilot with 15 smartphones collecting (mainly) species
distribution data in the forests of northern Madagascar. Everything went
well and we're hoping to expand to 50 next year, but the phones really
struggled with getting a GPS fix in the forests (even with low canopy cover)
so we resorted to manually typing in coordinates from standalone GPS units.
I'm assuming the main problem was the cheap GPS chip in the phone - we used
the Vodafone Smart First 6 (£20 each!) with the Mediatek MT6572M SoC, which
only supports GPS and A-GPS. There's no phone signal in the field sites so
we're relying on satellite reception alone. Trying my own phone (Oneplus
One) worked much better, but I'm not sure whether it's due to a bigger
antenna, better GPS chip or that it supports GLONASS too.

Does anyone have any experience with cheapish smartphones that have decent
GPS performance? The obvious option would be to buy external Bluetooth
receivers, but keeping track of what's paired to what could be tricky with
50 units. Just wondering if anyone's been through the same problem already
before I pick up a bunch. Any help would be much appreciated!

Michael

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