Unravelling the common myths spoken about the handheld GPS receiver units

I have been using, selling handheld GPS receivers and training people from many different field and disciplines on how to use them for close to ten years now.Since my first encounter with the GPS, the handheld receiver unit has always held a technological fascination for me. Even back then before the mobile rush, there was something extra special about been able to use technology on the go. I have come across several comments on these devices and I decided to share some of the most commonly spoken views and impressions.

Number one – Seems expensive!!

Nowadays, a mid-range handheld GPS receiver is just as expensive and portable as a mid-range price smart phone. The cheapest Garmin Dakota will easily go for between 100 to 150 dollars in the retail store. An outdoor mapping enthusiasts can save up and purchase this, and mind you, they last far longer than your mobile phones can!

Number Two- I can always use my smart phone inbuilt GPS

This is one of the fastest selling myths.

Firstly, the handheld GPS receiver unit comes with a specialized chipset and processor (SIRF) dedicated to tracking and getting signals or GPS fix from GPS satellites. These devices were built for this singular purpose. On the other hand, your smart phones come fitted for generalized location tracking. Yes I agree they can come in handy but only if supported by specialized location software. Your guess is as good as mine of how many buffs out there will download ArcGIS collector or IDK into their iPad or iPhone? Mapping has its tools, smart phone GPS applications are not designed to map anything more than point features and navigation. They are tailored to the extra specs market not the hard nose recreational user who wants to hike and download tracks.

Secondly, the handheld was designed to manage energy  due to the continuous demand placed on the processor by always searching for satellite signals and calculating positions. Most handhelds can last a full day of mapping on a set of Alkaline AA batteries. A smartphone would be stretched to limit with such demand on its battery.

Lastly, the smartphone was not designed for rugged outdoor work while your handheld GPS receiver is made to IPX specifications.

 Number Three- I use it only once in a while and that’s it! It goes in the box for another two years!

This tendency is what I will call the facts gone wrong. From my experience, many people tend to abandon the handheld GPS receiver once the objective of getting them is achieved which is usually an office project or training session or fad to keep up with. A handheld GPS receiver can be so much fun to work and play with if one begins to get creative with it both at work and at home. A simple trekking exercise in the morning with it can help one know his or her usual route and real distance covered. Same also goes for time and the elevation profile of the trek.

We will post that up over the next few days.

 Number Four-I will need some form of advanced training to know how to use it.

Another facts gone haywire. Learning how to use a handheld GPS to do basic functions really is not that expensive nor time consuming. Yes I agree, there are not many trainers out there but we are throwing up a programme soon for outdoor enthusiasts to learn the pros and cons. This is to help the users achieve a better accuracy and a more credible data for optimal use. We are currently working on stringing up some tips on that, but we want it to be direct feedback. So send in your comments on learning challenges with the handheld GPS and we should be able to give you some answers.

 Number Five- Can I use it to locate my parcel of land and measure the size?

I always remind people- if you are not a trained surveyor, no need to try to be one overnight. Really, with adequate minimal training, one can navigate to that long lost parcel of land and in addition, measure the area and perimeter using a mapping grade handheld GPS receiver unit. Note that the level of accuracy will differ from that of modern high tech survey equipment designed for less than 1m accuracy. We will put up about types, causes of error and how to correct for these errors in a GPS.

Hope you enjoyed the short piece. Let’s see your comments please

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