GPS (Arabic: جهاز الملاحة or جهاز تحديد الموضع العالمى) is a device that measures --with aid of many satellites-- the exact location on the surface of Earth.
Historically, GPS devices has been standalone with famous brands such as Garmin, Magellan and Tomtom. When Smartphones surfaced, it had three undeniably superior elements over all standalone GPSs:
- Hardware with latest technology in micro-processors, sensors, and screens
- Immense connectivity options over several protocals and channels, and
- Very large markets of navigation apps from competitive teams tapping on enormous advancement of technology, digital maps offerings, effective APIs, and very large reach of potential users making small payments each.
Because of those reasons, the standalone GPSs are declining leaving the stage to Smartphones GPS with OSs such as iOS, Android and Windows Phone. However, with high flexibility comes difficult choices in choosing the right Smartphone, Apps and accessories.
This essay is attempting to explain how to make your selection decisions for the GPS that suits you the best.
- 1. Generations of handheld GPS devices
- 2. Android Apps
- 3. Apple iOS Apps
- 4. Comparison between Standalone GPSs and Smartphone GPSs
- 5. Famous Maps used in Smartphones GPS Apps
As usual on this website, this essay is an on-going project open for all Safarists to update and add to as the technology evolves. So keep coming for more updates or for yourself to add to it. You may place Questions on any part of it on our Facebook group SaharaSafaris Club
Generations of handheld GPS devices
Smartphones GPS platforms
With platforms we mean the different OSs such as Android. Famous GPS Apps now exist on each platform benefiting from the hi-tech technologies available on Smartphones and were never feasible on standalone GPSs (eg, gyroscopes). On the overall, Android Apps seems to be a lot more advanced than other OSs while Windows Phone doesn't have except Nokia's (Nokia's Here is already available on Android with an Android App)
Standalone (dedicated) GPS devices
First it started as a military equipment so both embedded and handhelds were the first to come out with little or no good maps to support it like modern digital maps today. Handhelds like "Garmins" and "Magellan" were specially handicapped with small low resolution screens that has pixlated and not so good maps. This stayed as chronic issue with those 'outdoors' handhelds even as we speak today. "Tom Tom" has caught up with the 'big' market owners by making a cheaper, colorful, larger touch screens with mounts to be placed on cars that has excellent treet maps. Tom tom became standard and Garmin sped to catch up with lost market share. Both now are suffering greatly and in phase of heavy transformation to compete in a market they cannot win with their old hardware technology and standalone systems and software.
Garmin has tried to launch a smartphone that has failed miserably and now is making attempts into making Apps on Android and other platforms but they neither are for free nor they have maps as good as the modern free ones available now on all Smartphones mobile platforms.
GPS outdoors apps
- Oruxmaps (free, maps: all and any)
- Locus Maps Pro (paid, maps: good list)
- Maverick: GPS Navigation (free, maps: good list)
A key-criteria in choosing the above is ability to download maps to provide 'offline' navigation in the Sahara and outdoors.
GPS city apps
Note that OSM maps allow offline in most apps. HERE also but only in its own App.
- Google Maps (free, maps: Google's Maps, Google Earth)
- HERE (free, maps: Nokia Maps)
- Osmand (free, maps: OSM)
- MAPS.ME (free, maps: OSM)
- Mapfactor: GPS Navigator (free, maps: OSM)
- GPS Navigation BE-ON-ROAD (free, maps: OSM)
- GPS Navigation and Maps Sygic (paid, maps: Sygic)
Note: Above is the official names of the Apps, use the bold in communication as the most distinctive part of the name
OruxMaps GPS App
OruxMaps is to be found only on Android devices. It uses the following hardware sensors if available:
- GPS: for location and in a lesser degree altitude
- Barometer: for accurate detection of altitude
- ANT+: heart rate monitor
How to install OruxMaps
- On Google play and follow instructions to install as usual.
- OruxMaps needs a little fix from its old versions so we have kept this old file (onlinemapsources.xml) for you to replace the existing one in folder /oruxmaps/mapfiles of the Smartphone's memory.
- Orux top main menu, click: Maps (paper map icon) | SWITCH MAP | Refresh (two circular arrows icon).
OruxMaps offline and online maps
To view your choices of maps, look at Orux top main menu, click: Maps (paper map icon) | SWITCH MAP. A list of maps will show with ONLINE tab as default at their top:
- For offline maps (maps you copied from friends or saved yourself), click on OFFLINE tab and click on one from the list of saved maps, or
- for online map, make sure you're on ONLINE tab (red line underlining ONLINE tab), then click LAYERS folder then on WORLD then click on the one you need from list.
For ONLINE, we propose "Google Hybrid" as most suited for Egyptian outdoors.
For best outdoors saved maps (OruxMaps Offline) of Egypt in all zoom levels, please refer to the SaharaSafaris Club discussion group to get advices and copies shared by club members to load on your own Orux (we have all of Egypt covered from 1 to 17 zoom levels) instead of downloading yourself.
Grid square names to identify a location
The KML contains a grid of squares which cover the entire area of Egypt. Note the names of each square made of a letter and a number which you can use to ask other members.
How to install Locus pro and tips for using it
- you need to get the application legally by either pay in Google play. Some gets a cracked one from black market software or by searching filetube.com looking from time to time for updated versions.
- with manually downloaded, install Locus pro don’t open it and then install Lucky patcher(crack software). From within select Locus pro press and hold a pop up menu will appear then select custom patch and apply
- to use google maps search and install from the normal google play market "Locus –addon Map Tweak , opening locus pro and you will find google included in online maps with 4 subcategory . I always use Hybrid google map as its include both classic and satellite when downloading maps use separate map(SQL typ)to create a new map file for specific area adding a new name for it or use external Map (SQL type) to add tiles more areas to previously downloaded maps
- one of recommendation tip is to install program in SD card or using a move to SD application install a small map and move program back to Main memory resulting a great features of storing Cached maps in the SD card and after moving back to main memory you will find a Widget for locus pro Track Record by which you can record track, pause, stop and add quick points while on the move.
- you can download vector map for Locus and by which you can use it for navigation as stand alone map or as an overlays with other maps online or offline http://vectormaps4locus.eu/Africa
Apple iOS Apps
Comparison between Standalone GPSs and Smartphone GPSs
|#||Characteristics||Standalone (eg, Garmin)||Smartphone (eg, Samsung Galaxy)||Weight||Standalone Score||Smartphone Score|
|1||Sensitivity and fast start: GPS may take long minutes to get signal and find your position||Fast (around 1 minute). For sensitivity, it may see through metal and concrete ceilings||Extremely fast (few seconds). for sensitivity, it can see through metal and concrete ceilings. In GSM coverage, it uses network and Wifi to accelerate location determination.||0.5||0.7||0.9|
|2||Ease of use||Good||Excellent. Specially as the sw Apps are integrating with messangers such as Whatsapp and other Apps||0.9||0.5||0.9|
Only the GPS receiver.
Sometimes augmented systems (WAAS, EGNOS, etc.)
Usually both American GPS and Russian GLONASS which adds tremendous availability and much higher accuracy.
More technologies such as (1) GSM Network Cell-ID (Google uses for Maps for handsets without GPS), (2) GSM triangulation (depending on the network), (3) Wifi tracing. Sometimes the technology combines all of the above such as in the case of Assisted GPS (A-GPS)
Additional sensors are: (1) acceleromter for acceleration/speed estimation, (2) gyroscope for direction adapted from navigation technology of Space ships, and (3) barometer which is a more accurate estimation sensor for elevation.
|4||Accuracy (see Locaiton technology above)||
High near 15m or better.
With Augmented signal and receivers could reach 3m
|Extremely high with almost constant accuracy around 5m or better.||0.9||0.7||0.9|
|5||Availability (could it be down?)||
Americans are allowed to shut down GPS in areas of conflict.
VERY HIGH AVAILABILITY.
With both American GPS and Russian GLONASS receivers, it's difficult to black out
|6||Ruggedness (IP ratings)||Very rugged||Rugged smartphones are rare.||0.7||0.9||0.4|
|7||Battery performance||With AA batteries that last a whole day. This is the best solution for outdoors.||Specialised batteries for phones that may need to be bought to cover a whole trip if power source is not available.||0.7||0.9||0.3|
|8||Maps||Usually moderate outside Developed countries||
|9||Online/offline||Only offline.||For huge TBs of maps, online is the mainstream, but increasingly all Apps now can download entire maps on SD memory cards||0.5||0.9||0.9|
|10||Easiness to include KMLs of custom routes||Difficult||Very easy||0.9||0.2||1.0|
- to make a long story short, the Smartphones win with a score of 5.66 over standalone GPSs scored at 3.84
- weights are evaluation of the importance of each of the features
- scores are judgemental scores for the features for each category of devices
- the final score of each category of devices is the summation of the all the products of scores by weights
Famous Maps used in Smartphones GPS Apps
|#||Map Name||Evaluation||Users editing possible||Characteristics||Download||Apps using||Orux||Maps.me|
|No||Satellite images. Updated regularly in Egypt.||No||Most||Yes. Can download all||No|
|Yes. Indirectly||Vector. Largest coverage. Many grave mistakes in Egypt.||No||Most||Yes. Online only||No|
|No||3D Topo||No||Rare||Yes. Can download all||No|
|No||Satellite images.||No||Some||Yes. Can download all||No|
|5||OSM (openstreetmap.org)||City/ Outdoors
|Yes. Fully Directly||Vector. Second largest coverage. Good accuracy||YES||Most||Yes. Can download all||Yes. Can download all|
|No||Rare||Yes. Can download all||No|
|No||Vector. Good coverage. Many mistakes||No||Rare||Yes. Can download all||No|
|Yes. Fully Directly||Vector. Not accurate||No||Rare||No|
|9||HERE (Nokia) Maps||
City and Malls maps
Vector and Raster. Gets recent updates. Malls maps for shops are great
|No||Restricted to its own App HERE||No access||No access|