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Phone vs computer?

Old 08-01-15, 07:34 PM
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CFster
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Phone vs computer?

What's the consensus? I'm new to this. I understand I need a speed/cadence sensor, and that I MIGHT need some type of adaptor (ANT?) to use it with my iPhone 6. With all the apps and GPS available for a phone, this would seem like the logical choice instead of spending more money on a computer? What are the advantages of a computer?
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Old 08-02-15, 08:46 AM
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Yes, by the time you buy everything for the iPhone, you could buy a Garmin - water proof phone mount, aux battery, ANT+ adapter. The iPhone 6 is quite large and easy to damage. The advantage of a computer depends on what you get.
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Old 08-03-15, 10:56 AM
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Wired bike computer will cost about a week of the phone contract service fee, if you have a Cheap plan .
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Old 08-03-15, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Wired bike computer will cost about a week of the phone contract service fee, if you have a Cheap plan .
Not sure what you mean by this. Does using the phone for this purpose use cellular data?
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Old 08-03-15, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by CFster View Post
With all the apps and GPS available for a phone, this would seem like the logical choice instead of spending more money on a computer?
There's no consensus.

How much did your iphone 6 cost? How much would it cost to replace it, in a crash for example?

Will you ever ride in the rain? Not just leave your house while it's raining, but is it possible that you'll ever be out riding and not expect it? If you want to use the phone to show you your speed and cadence, that means it's going to be on your handlebars. Your phone isn't waterproof.

So you can buy a case for it. If you only ever do short rides the battery will probably be fine, but GPS takes a lot of juice, and keeping the screen on takes a lot more. Which means people who do long rides using their phone as a computer (and display) buy separate battery packs for them, or special cases with batteries built in.

Somebody here was talking about a phone app he pays $5 a month for. He felt like it's a great deal compared to a bike computer. It's $60 a year, $300 for 5 years. A lot of bike computers will last much longer than that, are already waterproof, don't have problems with the battery, and can still be used interactively in the rain or with gloves on.

Now if you just put your phone in a ziplock bag in your pocket and have it record a track using a free app, the economics change to benefit the phone, but you get less from it as a result.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:29 PM
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Well, you don't ​need a speed/cadence sensor. I don't find either particularly useful unless combined with a power meter. HRM is a much better investment, IMHO, but if you want speed/cadence, go for it. And personally, I'd prefer to ride without a computer at all than use my phone as one. I've had my Edge 800 for 3 years now and it functions as well and has the same battery power as when I got it. I prefer to save my phone's battery to call for help if I need it.
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Old 08-03-15, 09:09 PM
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I prefer the computer, mainly because I will ride through some rain, and I like to have my cell phone for emergencies. I like all the numbers speed,cadence, HR, but you can do that with a phone if you want them. I don't have a need for a power meter, at this point its hard enough just to keep pedaling.
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Old 08-03-15, 09:33 PM
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The phone will provide about 95% of functionality of a high end computer and more than a mid range computer. If you carry your phone anyhow for safety, using it as a computer means one less thing you need to take with you. The sensors are a wash between the two.

J.
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Old 08-03-15, 11:22 PM
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I've been using Android.
Having a phone + nice integrate camera is nice.

Running GPS eats up the batteries. And having the phone with the screen on all the time eats up the batteries quicker (and the screen keeps turning off which is annoying).

I just have a basic $10 bike computer for speed, distance, etc.
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Old 08-04-15, 12:12 AM
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I got the Wahoo BlueSC speed/cadence sensor, a $20 phone mount, and the free Cyclemeter app on my iPhone (it's already in a case). That's quite a bit less than a comparable Garmin unit. I rarely ride more than 2 hours at a time, so battery life isn't an issue. The setup works great for me.
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Old 08-05-15, 08:42 AM
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I'm in a similar boat. I really don't want to spend the $$ on another bike computer. I'm considering getting a Bluetooth sensor (cheap ones on ebay for about $20-$25), phone mount and then find a decent app for Android and see how well it works. worst case I can either get another computer or use one off of another bike that has multi-bike capabilities. Still would need an Ant+ sensor & computer mount though. Any recommendations on an Android app?
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Old 08-05-15, 09:34 AM
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What do you want to measure, and why?

If you're new to cycling, and want to start spinning while measuring how far you ride, a $50 dedicated, wired bike computer will do everything you need. (That'll cost less than a stand-alone cadence bluetooth device, too.) If that's the case, I'd suggest you start with that, then figure out what else you want.
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Old 08-05-15, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
There's no consensus.

How much did your iphone 6 cost? How much would it cost to replace it, in a crash for example?
No different risk than if you carry your phone with you when you ride anyhow. Everyone should, it's a safety issue.

Will you ever ride in the rain? Not just leave your house while it's raining, but is it possible that you'll ever be out riding and not expect it? If you want to use the phone to show you your speed and cadence, that means it's going to be on your handlebars. Your phone isn't waterproof.
but there are many waterproof cases and they are easily attached to the various mounting systems out there for those for whom riding in the rain is important.

So you can buy a case for it. If you only ever do short rides the battery will probably be fine, but GPS takes a lot of juice, and keeping the screen on takes a lot more. Which means people who do long rides using their phone as a computer (and display) buy separate battery packs for them, or special cases with batteries built in.
Let's quantify - GPS no display will take about 10% of the battery per hour. That would give you around 8-10 hours on a fully charged phone battery for the GPS and is consistent with current standalone bike computers (e.g. Garmin et al).

With GPS and Display it's going to use around twice that. You also have the option of battery cases or small adjunct batteries that will give you pretty much unlimited battery.

Somebody here was talking about a phone app he pays $5 a month for. He felt like it's a great deal compared to a bike computer. It's $60 a year, $300 for 5 years. A lot of bike computers will last much longer than that, are already waterproof, don't have problems with the battery, and can still be used interactively in the rain or with gloves on.
Mmm. maybe. Li-ion batteries have about a 3-4 year life to them anyhow. I'd say the useful life of a bike computer is about 5 years max (although I'm sure some use them longer and many shorter). I'd say that this estimate is about right.

Now if you just put your phone in a ziplock bag in your pocket and have it record a track using a free app, the economics change to benefit the phone, but you get less from it as a result.
If you have a phone and bring it on a ride anyhow, the economics almost always dramatically favor the phone. The sensors are a wash in cost either way (presuming you are using sensors and not just the GPS). The functionality of smartphone apps is either similar or at worst slightly less than top end standalone computers. If you add a case, remote display (i.e. RFKLT+) you are still probably less than if you bought a standalone computer.

The economics also tip in favor of the phone if one is looking more downscale in the bike computer line up. The phones have most of the functionality of the highest end standalone devices. In the case of the more midrange devices, the phones and their apps are much more feature rich.

The newer smartphones, as they get larger, do present somewhat of a problem if mounted on the bike. An iPhone 6+, for example, is going to really want an external display such as the RFLKT+ just because of it's size.

I'm basing this on having and using and owning both a smartphone and app (iPhone 6 and Cyclemeter - an outstanding app) as well as an Edge 1000 from Garmin. The Edge 1000 is attractive to me when using my Di2 bike because I'm able to set it up to see the gearing in use - not necessary but nice. But on my non-Di2 bikes, I find it easier to use a RFLKT+ and my iPhone. Rumors are that Wahoo is working on integrating the Di2 interface so that could easily take that advantage away.

Another area where the phones excel is in user interface and especially the ability to build your own display. You can decide how large the fields are, the color and size of the font, which field goes where etc... On the Garmin units, you get to tell it how many fields and that's about it. You can't choose the font, the size of the font, the size of the field or the color of each individual field. You can't add more display screens (but you can turn off the ones they give you). On the phone - at least with Cyclemeter - none of these are limitations.

Where this whole thing is heading anyhow is that there will almost be a personal network server be it the phone or the bike computer. You an already see Garmin headed this way with the new products for lighting and rear vehicle detection that are coming. They will talk to the computer as the display unit. The phones are headed this way too with things like smart watches, sensors, activity trackers and other personal appliances and having them interface with apps and data you already have. It's pretty easy to see which device will win that battle - there is a lot more development and interest in doing this in the smartphone world than there is bike computer world (which is, at best, a small sideshow in comparison).

Then there is the whole issue of software quality control. Phone operating systems are, by nature, required to be highly reliable and there is a large user base beating them up finding the issues. This same thing is not true for the bike computer world. It is dependent on a much smaller user base to find issues and the competition for resources in a single company in a much smaller market to fix the problems. This has been an ongoing complaint of users with many of the bike computers. Users are captive to that supplier for their hardware and software. In the smart phone world, one has the option of switching to a different app if there is a problem. Competition is a good thing and is reflected in the quality of apps available.

Finally, one of the big safety advantages of phone based apps is that your location can be transmitted in such a way that your progress or last known position is known to others you have selected to see where you are. In the event you don't return home and have trouble or an injury, you can be found. In order to do this with standalone units, they need to have the presence of (wait for it)... a phone to which they are connected.


J.

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Old 08-05-15, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
What do you want to measure, and why?

If you're new to cycling, and want to start spinning while measuring how far you ride, a $50 dedicated, wired bike computer will do everything you need. (That'll cost less than a stand-alone cadence bluetooth device, too.) If that's the case, I'd suggest you start with that, then figure out what else you want.
Not true. Wahoo's excellent accelerometer high end cadence sensor is $49. You can find various speed/cadence sensors for this or less especially when on sale. This example is $35.95

J.
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Old 08-05-15, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
On the Garmin units, you get to tell it how many fields and that's about it. You can't choose the font, the size of the font, the size of the field or the color of each individual field.
In summary, if you want to play at being a web designer and adjust fonts and colors and maybe add a floral border, you should use a phone; if you want to ride your bike, you should use a bike computer.
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Old 08-05-15, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
Where this whole thing is heading anyhow is that there will almost be a personal network server be it the phone or the bike computer.
Ain't no cell reception in many of the best places to ride, and that's not going to change in our lifetimes.



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Old 08-05-15, 10:26 AM
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As one other poster points out using a phone with the GPS and screen on all the time sucks the batteries down very, very quickly. I too have an iPhone 6 and I use a Garmin Edge 200 which does exactly what I want it to do, records GPS data and shows the speed, distance and time elapsed. I am always afraid my battery will be dead on my iPhone and I will need to place a call for an emergency or something. I think that unless your GPS app can download maps that you will be racking up data charges when you use the maps on the phone.


So I carry the phone for a phone and use the Garmin for my computer. The phone sits in my rack pack protected from elements and a crash (hopefully). The Garmin sits front and center on my bars, out of the way and unobtrusive. When I return home I plug the Garmin into my laptop, download the data into SportTracks. The Garmin also uploads to Garmin direct. Best of both worlds.
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Old 08-05-15, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
In summary, if you want to play at being a web designer and adjust fonts and colors and maybe add a floral border, you should use a phone; if you want to ride your bike, you should use a bike computer.
Pardon me, but that's just a ridiculous comment, stupid even on many levels. Points for effort on that one, though.

Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Ain't no cell reception in many of the best places to ride, and that's not going to change in our lifetimes.
So what does that have to do with the utility of the feature? I ride in a places like that too, but that doesn't decrease the utility and safety benefits of the feature in the other 80+% of the country that does have cellular coverage. I understand your frustration though - what is likely to never happen "in our lifetimes" is that standalone units will have cellular capability.

J.
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Old 08-05-15, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
Let's quantify - GPS no display will take about 10% of the battery per hour. That would give you around 8-10 hours on a fully charged phone battery for the GPS and is consistent with current standalone bike computers (e.g. Garmin et al).

J.
My Edge 800 will do 10 hours of screen on, with turn-by-turn navigation on, on map view (color map updating constantly). Using just data screens, it's usually at 50% after doing a 6.5 hour century with turn-by-turn navigation running in the background and ANT+ sensors attached. IIRC, battery life is stated as 16-18 hours of simple recording with the screen on. I believe the Edge 500/510 is rated around 15 hours....so contrary to your claim, it's not at all consistent with what you'll get from a phone. Never mind that at the end of a long ride using my Garmin, my phone is usually above 90%, making it ready to go for a long time in case of emergency.
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Old 08-05-15, 09:42 PM
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Let's see - you spent $300-400 more and you basically get more battery life - which I'm glad you appreciate. Not more that matters for most applications but yes, it's more. That's a very hefty premium for what could be supplied by a $20 USB Battery the size of a pack of gum or a battery sled case. You would have much more than you needed for a whole set of emergency calls. And if you used an RFLKT ($100) then that phone would get 8-10 hours too all by itself.

So, yes, you did get something for your $300+ but you paid a stiff premium for it and you STILL had to bring your phone.

I get the desire for an external standalone gps (I own one too). There is slightly less hassle for very long rides or if you need the very top end features. The feature set in the standalone software is exceeded by the phones for the low, mid, and even bottom of the high end. For most people the phone solves the problem at lower cost.

My phone talks to HRM, cadence, speed, speed and cadence, power, and pretty much any sensor the standalone units do. And it has connectivity for position reporting that the standalone units do not. You have to bring your phone to do that.

J.
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Old 08-06-15, 02:44 PM
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As you can see, there are pluses and minuses to each approach. I have an iphone 4, and it didn't provide enough battery life running an app when it was new. Now that it's old, it's worse. I can use an external battery, and sometimes I do, but that's pretty inconvenient.

I generally use my Garmin Edge 200. I can use it for several rides before it needs a charge. But we live in two homes, and it's hard to remember to bring it, along with all sorts of other things. Last weekend, I did pack it, but I forgot that I had packed it! So I used my cell phone with an app on a couple of short rides. And let's be honest. None of this tracking is necessary. It's just for fun.
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Old 08-06-15, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
As you can see, there are pluses and minuses to each approach. I have an iphone 4, and it didn't provide enough battery life running an app when it was new. Now that it's old, it's worse. I can use an external battery, and sometimes I do, but that's pretty inconvenient.
Just as an aside, it's simple to replace the battery in an old iPhone 4. I've done at least 5 of them for family and friends. New battery is about $20 or less. Same is true for iPhone 5. I haven't done a 6 yet, but I'd bet it's not a big deal either.

I generally use my Garmin Edge 200. I can use it for several rides before it needs a charge. But we live in two homes, and it's hard to remember to bring it, along with all sorts of other things. Last weekend, I did pack it, but I forgot that I had packed it! So I used my cell phone with an app on a couple of short rides. And let's be honest. None of this tracking is necessary. It's just for fun.
Exactly right. And so is the all the debating about gear, when we get right down to it.

J.
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Old 08-06-15, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
Just as an aside, it's simple to replace the battery in an old iPhone 4. I've done at least 5 of them for family and friends. New battery is about $20 or less. Same is true for iPhone 5. I haven't done a 6 yet, but I'd bet it's not a big deal either.
I've replaced the battery in my phone once and in my wife's twice. This phone is very old for a smartphone. I've used it heavily. NVRAM gets slower over time, so the phone is slower than it used to be. I suspect this causes increased battery drain. I now use it more lightly than before, because it's so frustrating to use. I have an ipad mini 2 and do most of my handheld internet stuff with that instead. I didn't get the cellular option with it, so it's no good as a navigator. I might get the cellular option next time I buy a tablet. And an ipad mini could make a great dashboard for a bike.


Exactly right. And so is the all the debating about gear, when we get right down to it.

J.
Look at how, in the commuter forum, we obsess over the ideal commuter bike. But really, you can commute on a balloon tire bike, a BMX bike, or whatever. Here in NYC, the variety of bikes people get around on is amazing. I've seen big guys on little girls' pink bikes. I suspect they weren't making statements. They're just going places with whatever is on hand.
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Old 08-06-15, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
Pardon me, but that's just a ridiculous comment, stupid even on many levels. Points for effort on that one, though.
You're complaining that a Garmin can't show you your speed in pink, and you think it's stupid for me to call you out for having said that?
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Old 08-06-15, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Having a phone + nice integrate camera is nice.

Running GPS eats up the batteries. And having the phone with the screen on all the time eats up the batteries quicker (and the screen keeps turning off which is annoying).
A recent 8.5 hour ride ate up 85 percent of my iPhone 6 battery charge. A seven hour twenty minute ride left me with 35 percent of the battery charge. The screen was off at all times during the ride.
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