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Seeking dedicated GPS to replace an android device for personal journaling

I've been using the free MyTracks app from google (sometimes other apps that use OpenStreetMaps, etc.) on a Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 (Android wifi-only device) for several years to record my daily movements as a method of journaling (just to keep track of where I went each day), and sometimes for basic navigation. It's really convenient and usually works fine, but it's a bit buggy and sometimes just stops working. Since GPS is all I used it for, I'm looking for a dedicated GPS device to replace it, but I don't want to lose the "smartness" of the android interface. The features I want are:
1. Pocket-size -- current device is 5" long, I wouldn't want anything longer.
2. But it needs to show maps/tracks (a simple data logger won't do), so I can verify it's working, and use it occasionally for navigation.
3. Must have a responsive, smartphone-style interface. Pinch/spread fingers to zoom in/out, etc.
4. Must be able to manage tracks, edit track names on the device. I don't want to have to load everything onto the computer before editing. Must have a soft keyboard (i.e. smartphone-style) for fairly quick typing on the go.

In other words, I want something that behaves like a decent smartphone but all it actually does is handle GPS, in a sophisticated way. I downloaded a Garmin eTrex manual and it looked extremely primitive and basic. Also the Garmin Nuvi in my car has really poor touchscreen responsiveness. So I'm hoping there are other brands that are more smartphone-style.

I'm open to considering tiny, geeky devices (like a wristwatch, bracelet or whatever) as long as it permits in-device naming of tracks.

Thanks for any suggestions!


  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited February 2015
    The Garmin Monterra pretty much fits your requirements. It is an Android device with a glass multi-touch screen that runs Garmin's software as an App. It is rather expensive and was buggy when first released. Hopefully those have been resolved by now. It is rather large and heavy though.

    The only other device that comes to mind is the Garmin Oregon 6xx series. It also has a glass multi-touch screen, but it uses Garmin's proprietary dedicated operating system so you cannot add your own apps.

    The 3xxx series Nuvi models have glass multi-touch screens as well, but the software is going to be like the other Nuvis and they are primarily intended as automotive devices. You would also have very limited battery life.

    Really, based on what you've said, I don't think you will be happy with any dedicated GPS devices, they are all very different from smartphones. Dedicated GPS unitsare either intended for rugged outdoor use (hiking) or automotive use and it doesn't sound like you want either of those. Maybe you just need to find a more robust app, or a phone that you like better?
  • leif 0 Points
    Thanks for the great tips!
    The Oregon 600 would be perfect if it weren't so thick (1.3"). The idea is I need something thin and unobtrusive to have in my pocket all the time. So the Oregon would be like carrying around 3 of my current device.

    The problem with the "better smartphone" idea is that I don't use a smartphone, I use a rare / discontinued product category called the "pocket-sized, wifi-only android device". ( I use cell phone only rarely and not interested in being committed to phone plans so I use a pay-as-you-go dumb phone.) But I will keep a lookout and maybe someday they will come out with a new wave of small wifi devices.

    But that's a good point you raised. I will see if there are more reliable GPS track apps out there, even something that costs $$$.

    Regarding the GPS antenna itself... Since my current device has been adequate, I imagine the actual bulk needed for the antenna is quite tiny. So I'm surprised all the Garmins are so thick. On the other hand, I'd be willing to take a little more bulk for (presumably) a much better antenna - maybe up to 2/3 of an inch or so.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    edited February 2015
    I think handheld gps devices are big for at least four reasons.

    1) shockproof, so they should survive a drop onto a rock
    2) water resistant (designed to submerge in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes)
    3) ability to use AA batteries (allows lots of power options and extended run time)
    4) more room for the antenna

    There really are no dedicated outdoor devices I can think of that are thin like a phone. Now the Nuvi 37xx and 34xx are thin like phones though, but they are primarily automotive devices. However they both have advanced pedestrian mode, a feature that Garmin removed from current devices. You can get factory refurbs of these (with full warranty) very inexpensively. Run time is going to be pretty limited though (3 hours maybe) and they only use Garmin's proprietary software.

    You could also get something like an iPod Touch and use it with an external bluetooth receiver like the Garmin GLO.
    leif said:

    The problem with the "better smartphone" idea is that I don't use a smartphone,

    Maybe it's time to get one? :) Seriously, you could buy a used one without a data or voice plan...
  • leif 0 Points
    Oh wow, that GLO is super cool! I am definitely gonna consider that!
    That's about the same size as my dumb phone, so it's easy to imagine finding pocket space for it.
    Seems like that opens up various possibilities. Perhaps, sometimes I can tether the GLO to some ultra tiny device, just to log the track; and at other times, can use it with a larger device, so I can view maps. Thanks, this is exciting.

    Another option - I think I could buy a smart phone that has wifi and GPS, but not use it as a phone...need to research that some more.
  • leif 0 Points
    Ups, you already basically said what I just said about a phone used as a wifi device, sorry.

    Another thing I like about the GLO vs a smartphone though is the better antenna.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    I did an in-depth review of the GLO over at, although I used it with a Windows 7 tablet. It is kind of a cool device, but mine has sat on the shelf for over a year now, it just doesn't really fulfill any of my current needs.

    In terms of accuracy, I was impressed by the static tests where it sat in one place for a half hour and recorded a position fix every second. My walking and driving tests were fine, but no better than a dedicated handheld.

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