Posted by: audaxing | May 6, 2011

Erstaz GPS

I recently had to get a new phone as my old one is having trouble with the battery and charging and all that kind of stuff. I got the old phone for bike-ish reasons so I’d have a then state-of-the-art 2M pixel camera in a phone for PBP 2007

This time, being a bit of a geek I got an Android phone. This type of phone can do some mapping and I was interested to find out how good it was.

At the weekend I did the test ride for my 400km event the “Avalon Sunrise”. This was checking the routesheet. And as I now had something to try it with, checking the GPS track too.

google map on HTC Wildfire

google map on HTC Wildfire

I have for years used pages torn out of a old road atlas as my “backup” maps when I am out riding events. All the events I ride use a routesheet with turn by turn instructions. If I misread something or miss a turn then a map is handy to have.

On the test ride though, I just took the Android phone. I’d prepared by loading the gpx files into the google maps service, and then emailing the urls back to the android phone. There is probably a more elegant way to achieve a linkup to the route trace but this worked.

Opening the url from the email brought up an Android google map with the route drawn on as a line. As you can imagine, when checking new instructions on a routesheet this is quite useful. The phone guesses where you are by triangulating from the cell phone masts it can pick up. There is a marker at your approximate position. The approximate position is plenty good enough for this sort of navigation. It also has a proper GPS locator in it that uses the proper satellites. This uses more battery up so I normally have it switched off but turning it on seems to give a very accurate fix quite quickly.

I still don’t like the idea of GPS as such, telling me where to go. And a lot of the fiddling about with computer files that seems to go with GPS isn’t my idea of fun either. But using a simple google map instead of a road atlas as the “backup” map works ok for me!


  1. Welcome to the ersatz GPS club, vorsprung!

  2. Hey,

    Following your suggestions I’ve been doing similar (to avoid getting lost on my piddly 30 mile rides in the New Forest!), but now (I guess google maps for android has improved a bit!) accessing the maps via the layers menu and my maps which I guess saves faffing with emails and URLs.

    How’s it working for you? Got any more tips? I’ve been using ‘prefetch map cache’ to save battery by letting me turn the data off (other than GPS).


    • Yes, I’ve been using the layers feature to access “my maps”. Not sure about the caching effectiveness but it’s a nice idea

  3. […] after a while I started using it with Google Maps to aid navigation during […]

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  5. How did you get the GPX files into GoogleMaps?

    • I may have tweaked the xml slightly but they basically “just worked”
      I tried to do one the other week and it came out a bit mangled, with lots of crap that made it difficult to use as a trace
      My spies tell me that converting to kml, the google earth format is the way to go, haven’t tried this yet

  6. Ah no, I was thinking more – where is the “button” (or menu or whatever) on Google Maps that allows you to import a GPX file?

    • ok this is how I do it
      1) “login” to google
      2) go to “”
      3) click on “My Places” top of LH bar
      4) “Create Map”
      5) “import” ( hyperlink between “collaborate” and buttons for “Done” “Saved”)

      Hope this helps 🙂

      • Ah ha! Got it, thanks!

  7. […] used an Android GPS equipped phone as a back up map and way of getting back on track when lost for a while. But I recently got a […]

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