The GPS Question: Accuracy and What People Actually Use

A common discussion that we have with new clients regards the accuracy of tablets and smart phones. In our recent survey, lots of folks have already moved to iOS and Android apps for GPS. In fact, these apps are second only to Garmin handhelds in the field. But how does the accuracy of these devices stack up?

One thing to know is that iPads and iPhones have dedicated GPS chipsets built-in, so you don’t need cellular access to have GPS capability. These devices no longer rely on “cellular GPS”, which is when they triangulate from cell towers and offer accuracy of about 8 miles. That was the case years ago when cell phones offered this feature, but didn’t have true GPS chips. Nowadays, they see accuracy in the neighborhood of 15-30 feet. Usually not as tight as a handheld Garmin, where users can get 10-15 feet in perfect conditions. However, many companies (Garmin, Bad Elf, etc) offer small GPS transceivers that wirelessly transmit coordinate location to the phone or tablet, overriding the internal chip, and can achieve accuracy just as good,

What We Actually Use

What We Actually Use

and in some cases better, as a dedicated handheld GPS. Some claim accuracy of 2.5m. These can be had for about a hundred bucks.

Interestingly, the devices that offer higher accuracy (Trimble and the like), comprise a pretty small number of users, even though in another survey question, 54% of users indicate that they NEED accuracy better than 2.5m (8 ft), only about 20% of folks are actually using devices that are capable of this accuracy.

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