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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a Garmin 820. It's a very annoying device. Connection to my smartphone over BT is crap, loading GPX file is a nightmare, and the Garmin maps don't match the actual trail markings where I live.

And guess what - any Android phone can do the above .

So I thought - what if I buy a small android, just for this task? I don't ride in the rain, and battery consumption will not be a problem - the main phone will still sit idle in my bag.

Something like this:

US $78.25 9%OFF | 2019 SOYES XS 3'' Mini Smartphone 3GB+32GB 2GB+16B Android Face Recognion 1580mAh 4G Wifi Backup Phones PK 7S Melrose K15
https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/bnMmqnSs

Now lets be honest: of course the hardware won't be Garmin level. But lets say it'll last 1-1.5 years, that is still a better deal. When it breaks down, I'll just buy the next generation.

Opinions?
 

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As many bad things as I have to say about my garmin, the GPS track is almost always bang-on.

People I follow on strava with other obscure devices have their tracks bouncing all over the place. Even apple watches seem to do this sometimes.

Is there reason to believe the GPS in this device will give usable information?
 

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I have had my Galaxy S7 in a case in my backpack for the 3 years I've had the phone and it's still working fine.

Get a good case to fully enclose your phone and you're good to go. For non pack days, toss it in your jersey pocket (without a case as it probably won't fit).
 

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I have a Garmin 820. It's a very annoying device.
Understatement of the year.

A significant issue with phones is battery life if you're running the display full time. Check into that if it's a concern. Also, there is no need for the phone to have a cell or data plan. You can download maps and info via wifi and upload your ride data via wifi. Some Android phones are capable of talking ANT+. My Samsung phones are as long as the fitness app I'm using has that capability too. That might be of value if you have ANT+ sensors.

Disclaimer: I currently use a 520 and 820 and not my phone on the bike. I use the phone for hiking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
A cheap android has always worked pretty good for me. Battery life has never been a problem but I just keep it in my pocket until the end of the ride.
Sometimes I use my Edge 820 for navigation. For this task I need to:

a. Have a map available

and/ or

b. Follow a GPX route.

With the device in a pocket/ bag, this task is very clumsy.
 

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I have a Garmin 820. It's a very annoying device. Connection to my smartphone over BT is crap, loading GPX file is a nightmare, and the Garmin maps don't match the actual trail markings where I live.

And guess what - any Android phone can do the above .

So I thought - what if I buy a small android, just for this task? I don't ride in the rain, and battery consumption will not be a problem - the main phone will still sit idle in my bag.
No comments really about the specific device you mention, but I do have some questions/comments.

1. I hear plenty of stories about the terrible touchscreen of the Edge 820. Honestly, I don't like touchscreens on my bike at all. Every single one I've ever used has been problematic in one way or another. I suspect you'd just trade one set of irritations (Edge 820) with another (cheap android device). The worst touchscreen I've ever used while riding was my old Samsung Galaxy S5. That touchscreen went absolutely batshit poltergeist crazy if there was any sweat even nearby. A cheap android device will probably be as bad or worse. The resistive touchscreen on my Oregon 450t doesn't flip out with sweat, but it's nowhere near as precise or responsive. It's minimally functional as such, mostly for just tapping the screen (swiping is just "meh" and there's no multi-finger input options). I've given up on touchscreens for bike computers. Button-only inputs may be annoying in their own ways, but at least they work and are predictable.

2. What is so "nightmarish" about loading .gpx files? I can't say I've had problems with the process before. But then again, I don't find the feature all THAT useful for mtb use.

3. Absolutely ZERO digital trail maps are going to be correct for every place 100% of the time. If you have that expectation, you're going to be disappointed all the time. There are HUGE logistical problems to ensuring that level of accuracy on a consistent basis everywhere. You're going to have to do some legwork to find the best maps for your area. Once you do, you'll find that there ARE better options, but it'll take some extra steps to update your device with those maps. And even still, some areas won't have good coverage in digital maps, either. I've been some places like that, too. YOU have to be a bit more flexible to work with whatever resources are available. I think that device manufacturers packaging "trail maps" onto the devices is problematic because it sets up higher expectations for potential customers than they ought to have. I've been riding long enough that I distinctly remember the days of riding where the best expectation I might have for a trail map might be a vague handout at the trailhead printed by the land manager, or maybe a print guidebook that I'd have to purchase, with similar quality maps (along with written descriptions) where I'd have to photocopy pages of the route(s) I wanted to ride, and carry USGS topo quads so I could refer those maps to the landscape in general. And more often than not, there was no trail map, so I had to rely on my own senses, a lot of dead reckoning, a sense of adventure, and enough flexibility to deal with wrong turns.

4. As for bluetooth, I can't say I've ever had a positive experience with attempting to maintain a long term data connection over BT. Speakers work fine. Short term data connections work fine (I occasionally upload from my Edge 520 via BT and then turn everything off when it's done). This is especially true when phone signals are sketchy, which is incredibly common in a lot of places where I ride my mtb. Any sort of phone connectivity gets flaky when the cell signal drops out. If you want more reliable live tracking and communications when you're out riding your mtb, you probably ought to look at a satellite communicator type device.

5. As mentioned before, you WILL suffer from poorer quality GPS reception from such a cheap phone device. It's not something really addressed in phone specs, but the quality of the gps chipsets (and specifically important to gps signal quality, the GPS antenna) varies WILDLY among phones. Only some high quality phones have really good GPS accuracy with the GPS chipset alone. Almost all of them rely on augmentation of the GPS signal using cell tower triangulation. When you're out on mtb trails, farther from civilization, the quality of that cell tower triangulation wanes so the device's location services become more reliant on the GPS chipset and GPS antenna. And if those bits of hardware are cheap/lower quality, then you're going to get low quality locations on that device. It happens a LOT. I look at Strava flybys from time to time just to see what trail traffic was like when I was out riding, and where other people went. It often exposes me to other route possibilities that I hadn't considered. I see a LOT of really terrible quality GPS data, and almost invariably, Strava tells me that the track was recorded by "Strava Android" or "Strava iOS". I do see some quality tracks laid with those apps, too. In seeing that variation, it tells me that the difference comes from the hardware, and that some devices use good hardware, whereas others use token trash. Strava doesn't report what hardware people were using. It would be informative to see that, and be able to identify what devices have poor GPS hardware.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Reply to Harold:

Regarding 2:
Loading GPX from PC via USB cord doesn't always work. There's a trick for loading GPX file from android devices, but that trick depends on having a fine BT connection. Recently my 820 just went mad about pairing with my android phone.

(The 'trick, BTW, is to install Gimporter app on the Garmin, and Gexporter app on the phone. When BT connection is established, the importer app detects the exporter app, and allows you to load the files vis BT)

Regarding 3: whete I live (Israel) there are good online topographic maps, with trail colouring that matches the actual marking in reality.
And they are frequently updated. For the Garmin I have to wait for a propietry map, and these never intend to match the actual markings.

Thanks for your detailed reply, I'll consider the points you mentioned.
 

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Reply to Harold:

Regarding 2:
Loading GPX from PC via USB cord doesn't always work. There's a trick for loading GPX file from android devices, but that trick depends on having a fine BT connection. Recently my 820 just went mad about pairing with my android phone.
If you're having problems with connectivity via a usb cord, you have a problem somewhere. Maybe a new cord is needed (they DO go bad sometimes). Maybe the port on your computer is bad (I've had these go on my computers before, too). Maybe there's a problem with the device that warrants reaching out to customer support. You shouldn't have to rely on the wonky bluetooth data transfer hack.

Regarding 3: whete I live (Israel) there are good online topographic maps, with trail colouring that matches the actual marking in reality.
And they are frequently updated. For the Garmin I have to wait for a propietry map, and these never intend to match the actual markings.
You do NOT have to use Garmin's proprietary maps. You absolutely can get maps from other sources formatted correctly for the device. Trailforks has some (not sure how their coverage for Israel is, but the positive thing here is that you can upload trail data yourself for your area). gpsfiledepot.com is another solid resource. None are perfect, but they're sources. You can also make your own from the existing online topo maps if you cannot find anything else. This process is a bit more technical and challenging, but it's absolutely doable.

Of COURSE Garmin's maps won't match actual trail markings on the ground. No map does that where I live, either, and my riding area is very popular and well mapped. The problem here is that there are simply so many potential details about a given trail, and only a limited number of ways it can be displayed. Sources like Trailforks and MTBProject will color a trail based on its difficulty rating (not the rating posted on the trail signs, but a "community" rating averaged out based on the ratings of riders who have ridden it). The best quality paper maps where I live color the trails based on permitted uses on that trail. The options are "hike only," "hike and bike," "hike and horse," and "hike, bike, and horse". Difficulties for the trails are listed in a table. All of the trails in the area have blaze colors which appear on the signs and on trees along the trails. Those colors do not appear on any maps. The trails also have numbers and names. The numbers and names are typically included in the various maps in some way or another. One major limitation for map coloration on small devices comes down to readability of those maps. The device is going to show your path of travel in some color, and your intended path in some other color. If you then try to color every trail on the map according to the color on the ground, your map readability is going to go to ****. There will be times where your path of travel or your intended path of travel are indistinguishable from the color of the trail on the map, or one of those colors washes out on the screen in the sunlight (yellow, for example, is a terrible map color, even on paper maps, for this reason). IMO, on a digital device, I want a VERY limited color palette for the maps. Brown for contour lines, blue for water, black for human built stuff. Change the shapes for the types of human built features so you can distinguish between a trail, a road, and a railroad, for example. Don't try to dump too much information into the map on a small device or users won't be able to read it.

As you said, you have other good maps that show other relevant information. Use ALL of your resources. Be flexible. Don't place overly high expectations on your gear. Make yourself aware of the limitations of various tools. Failing to do that is a recipe for disappointment at minimum, and even potentially getting yourself into some dangerous trouble. Your brain is the best tool you have. Train it, and use it.
 

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Do modern day cell phone batteries really suck?
I suppose if the display one full time on while mounted to the bars for visibility it could be an issue.
My phone is 3 years old. I started Strava and came back 3 hours later and battery was down to 84%. To use only 15% battery for 3 hours doesn't seem like battery life should be an issue? Unless like I mentioned, a person is reading the Strava screen while in transit.
 

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^^^ display off, no problem. Display on = short battery life. The cell phone batteries are optimized in capacity vs physical size for typical cell-phone use. Garmin units are usually run on the bars with the display on full time (backlight on or off) for easy reference while riding. Running a cell phone like this will quickly drain the battery...though it's not uncommon to get an couple of hours or so out of it.
 

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Continued use of 'display on' for a cell phone will get some burn in.

I like Strava, but not enough that I want to see the static graphics when not using Strava. haha
The thing I look at most on my Garmin screen would be the time. Followed by distance. My rides always have some sort of time or distance goal to them. If time is my limiting factor, then I base a lot of decisions on the time (both time of day as well as time of activity). If I have no time limitations for a given ride, then I might have a goal distance in mind. It's either that, or a goal of reaching a specific location - a specific downhill, or a specific spot for a panoramic view, or a specific swimming hole (it's getting to be swimming hole season) or something like that.

When I reach the top of a climb, I will often look to see how much climbing I've done up to that point. If I'm doing a particular ride where I need to keep my eyes peeled for a specific intersection, I might tap to the map screen so I get a little warning that it's coming so I can slow down and pay attention (not uncommon for intersections to be subtle or located in the middle of a fast downhill around here). Sometimes I might be doing a more fitness-oriented ride and I'll want to see HR metrics.

Either way, the more you interact with your phone for stuff like this, the faster the battery will drain. My Garmin's screen is always on (backlight off) so battery drain remains pretty consistent. I can get pretty easily a 2-3 solid days of riding out of it before NEEDING to recharge. Not gonna happen with my phone. Even if I don't use it to track my ride, I've gotta charge it every night.
 

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Data fields displayed on my Garmin vary by activity. I use the map screen often as I like to ride in new areas as often as possible and don't like stopping to check my phone or a printed map. On the road, having the unit navigate is very helpful. On the mtb; elapsed time, speed, distance, HR, cadence, elevation gained, time of day. I don't necessarily always look at these or care. Road bike is more workout oriented so add 3 sec power, 30 sec power, avg HR and some others. You can, of course, have workouts set up on the unit and view the appropriate data screens and fields for those.

There are times when I look at and use this stuff and times I don't. Despite what many would have you believe, I found it is possible to go for a ride without a Garmin, phone, or any form of data and tracking.
 

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Why not just use the Andriod phone you already have?
I don't want to expose it to vibration/ crash/ dust etc. Of course Garmin Edge is built exactly for that, but I mentioned its drawbacks already.

I'm willing to risk a second android device, if it's cheap, and has a chance to do a descent job.
Yeah, I think a "cheap" Android phone would do the trick with possibly a little comprise.

I assume you wouldn't have carrier service for it. So if it were me, I'd use Trailforks and download trails for whatever region/state I'm riding over WiFi (or tethered to your primary phone if you need to). Trailforks works fine without a carrier connection. Turn off Wifi, Bluetooth, and if possible, carrier services (some Andriods can do this), and battery life gets extended. I'd probably consider a better refurbed phone over a cheap new one. I'd make sure it's an unlocked phone so you can remove any bloatware it has on it. Or unlock it yourself if you're up to it.
 

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I bought the new Palm phone. Much better size and weight for biking. My favorite part is that it shares the same number as my primary phone.
I still use a 520 GPS though. I've lost too many rides and PR attempts when relying on a phone for GPS.
 
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