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Bike computer vs iPhone

Old 11-22-23, 09:52 AM
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Imo, a phone can work very well as a bike computer. It wont have the endless (mostly useless?) functions as a dedicated computer usually has, but the processor is much faster, the screen is bigger and has better resolution and its connected to the internet so no additional up or downloading of routes and data. This means quick route planning directly on the device, on the fly rerouting and routes planned in say Komoot on a PC is "just there" when you open the Komoot app on the phone. Of course it doesn't work well if you keep it in the pocket or you ride epic rides and don't bring a small power brick.
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Old 11-22-23, 10:41 AM
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A dedicated GPS is going to be more accurate and be more responsive than a smartphone. I prefer the Garmin Edge models with a touch screen that makes it very easy to make changes and deviate from a route. As mentioned these are great for downloading routes from Ridewithgps.com and adding them.

The Garmin can be linked to a cadence device or to a heart rate monitor or to a Garmin wrist watch. With the watch one gets a vibration when approaching a spot where one needs to make a turn and while it is not perfect it does allow for paying more attention to the road ahead and any potential hazards and not looking at the GPS/smartphone.

When people insist on using their smartphone for everything I am reminded of the Japanese saying "he has many knives, none sharp"
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Old 11-22-23, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan
Imo, a phone can work very well as a bike computer. It wont have the endless (mostly useless?) functions as a dedicated computer usually has, but the processor is much faster, the screen is bigger and has better resolution and its connected to the internet so no additional up or downloading of routes and data. This means quick route planning directly on the device, on the fly rerouting and routes planned in say Komoot on a PC is "just there" when you open the Komoot app on the phone. Of course it doesn't work well if you keep it in the pocket or you ride epic rides and don't bring a small power brick.
Iíve watched a number of YTís for a cycling couple, went cross the U.S in Ď21 I believe, as well as a circle route, 800 miles or so, across France in Ď22. The husband did the navigating, used Kamoots on a Google smartphone on the h-bar, connected to a battery in the front bag. Yes, this can work.
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Old 11-22-23, 11:07 AM
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I get more than 10hrs constant use with my smartphone running a cycling app, gps, bt sensors, bt tunes and the screen on all the time with notifications enabled. I also have a 10000ma battery in my light that can be used as a power brick, but I've never needed to. It's a $200. Samsung A14 in a tough case mounted with a Ram mount and has a 5000ma internal battery. For a cheap phone it's awesome and you don't have to worry about it's replacement cost. I use the Supercycle app that can upload to Wahoo or Strava if desired. This works for me and it's a cheap way to stay connected. I've gone down 3 times with this setup and never damaged the phone. Of course, I haven't been run over by a cage yet either, so there is that, knock on wood.
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Old 11-22-23, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Calsun
A dedicated GPS is going to be more accurate and be more responsive than a smartphone.
It's not clear that the GPS of the typical handheld dedicated GPS unit is better than that in phones. Either way, the GPS in phones is good enough.

Dedicated GPS units have much slower processors than smartphones.

The big difference of a dedicated GPS is better battery life and, maybe, smaller size. The dedicated GPS might handle sensors better.

Originally Posted by Calsun
When people insist on using their smartphone for everything I am reminded of the Japanese saying "he has many knives, none sharp"
The phone they already have gives them most of what a dedicated GPS device provides.

Last edited by njkayaker; 11-22-23 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 11-22-23, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker

The big difference of a dedicated GPS is better battery life and, maybe, smaller size. The dedicated GPS might handle sensors better.
I just find dedicated units like the Garmin Edge range more focused in their design and functionality than a phone.
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Old 11-22-23, 12:01 PM
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Pretty close



Last edited by jadmt; 11-22-23 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 11-22-23, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I just find dedicated units like the Garmin Edge range more focused in their design and functionality than a phone.
I expect that isnít unusual.

(There isnít really any reason a phone canít get close to the same thing.)
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Old 11-22-23, 12:58 PM
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Question for folks that travel/tour with Garmin and other dedicated computers/GPS...how do you find and navigate to places not on your route, i.e., you are going through a small town and want to stop at a cafe or restaurant or bike shop? Does your Garmin/other offer that kind of searching? Does it have Google Maps style restaurant ratings/reviews?

Genuinely curious because that's my use case.
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Old 11-22-23, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
Question for folks that travel/tour with Garmin and other dedicated computers/GPS...how do you find and navigate to places not on your route, i.e., you are going through a small town and want to stop at a cafe or restaurant or bike shop? Does your Garmin/other offer that kind of searching? Does it have Google Maps style restaurant ratings/reviews?
There are some of these sorts of POIs on the Garmin devices. But, honestly, using a phone is going to be easier to use and have better results.

If you are going to look at and review maps, the phone is better for that too.

Last edited by njkayaker; 11-22-23 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 11-22-23, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Calsun
A dedicated GPS is going to be more accurate and be more responsive than a smartphone. I prefer the Garmin Edge models with a touch screen that makes it very easy to make changes and deviate from a route. As mentioned these are great for downloading routes from Ridewithgps.com and adding them.

The Garmin can be linked to a cadence device or to a heart rate monitor or to a Garmin wrist watch. With the watch one gets a vibration when approaching a spot where one needs to make a turn and while it is not perfect it does allow for paying more attention to the road ahead and any potential hazards and not looking at the GPS/smartphone.

When people insist on using their smartphone for everything I am reminded of the Japanese saying "he has many knives, none sharp"
are you absolutely sure that the GPS is more accurate and more responsive? i'm not convinced, here is my anecdotal evidence that a smart phone is just as accurate and responsive as a bike computer when comparing GPS positions...when i drive (or my wife does) i can see my little blue dot (that would be me) on a map moving through traffic, i can see the dot move right through an intersection on the map and when i look out the window i am in that intersection as well, and that is moving at over 30 mph.

why do people insist on using a dedicated computer when a smartphone can do the job just as well? one could say that "many knives" represents many devices.
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Old 11-22-23, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Calsun
A dedicated GPS is going to be more accurate and be more responsive than a smartphone. I prefer the Garmin Edge models with a touch screen that makes it very easy to make changes and deviate from a route. As mentioned these are great for downloading routes from Ridewithgps.com and adding them.

The Garmin can be linked to a cadence device or to a heart rate monitor or to a Garmin wrist watch. With the watch one gets a vibration when approaching a spot where one needs to make a turn and while it is not perfect it does allow for paying more attention to the road ahead and any potential hazards and not looking at the GPS/smartphone.

When people insist on using their smartphone for everything I am reminded of the Japanese saying "he has many knives, none sharp"
. I have a stand alone garmin and a smart phone speedo app and when I zero them both out when I am traveling in my car they read exactly the same after several hundred miles...
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Old 11-22-23, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger
why do people insist on using a dedicated computer when a smartphone can do the job just as well? one could say that "many knives" represents many devices.
I had the same viewpoint but never found a mount for my phone that was stable. I would go over a bump, and it would move. Battery life was an issue too along with keeping the display visible required going through the setup before and after a ride.
I picked the ROAM because it is bigger display than the bolt and has most of the functionality, including GPS, built in as a standalone unit, not to mention the color that the bolt didn't have at the time.

The functionality between Garmen and Wahoo as decreased over time so much of what is touted as unique functionality of a Garmin is matched on the Wahoo.
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Old 11-22-23, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger
why do people insist on using a dedicated computer when a smartphone can do the job just as well? one could say that "many knives" represents many devices.
For me it's mainly the form factor, battery life, sensor connectivity (how many phones have ANT+?), weatherproofing (including heat, which often kills exposed phones), dedicated cycling functionality (is there a phone app similar to Garmin ClimbPro?) and simply knowing that it's always ready to go on the bike. I carry my phone too, which pairs with it for crash notifications etc.

I'm sure I could make do with just a phone, but I don't really want such a large, expensive brick out front when I can pair up a relatively inexpensive Garmin head unit for display and ride logging.
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Old 11-22-23, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey
Thanks. I ordered one.
Mine came today. I figured out how to set it to mph and to display distance in miles. The user manual isnít super helpful but itís not hard to figure out.
I attached mine to the stem. I am glad I mounted it in my garage. One of the o-rings that attach it to my bike slipped and hit the ceiling. If I had tried that outside I wouldnít have been able to find it. They do give 2 extras in the box.
The display is easy to see and itís easy to toggle through the different displays.
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Old 11-22-23, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger

why do people insist on using a dedicated computer when a smartphone can do the job just as well? one could say that "many knives" represents many devices.
Personally, I sometimes tour in places where I donít have access to electricity for up to 4 days at a time, and I like to save my external battery to charge the phone for photos and communication. A bike computer costs peanuts.
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Old 11-22-23, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
how many phones have ANT+?),
Not many. Samsung used to have support on many of their phones but less so now (it appears). But there are BT sensors. (Though ANT+ sensors might be less fussy to pair.)

Last edited by njkayaker; 11-22-23 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 11-23-23, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Personally, I sometimes tour in places where I donít have access to electricity for up to 4 days at a time, and I like to save my external battery to charge the phone for photos and communication. A bike computer costs peanuts.
That's it - we should all choose the solution that works for us. There's always a tenor in these discussions that there's a right way and wrong way to do things when reality is more nuanced and we all make different choices..
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Old 11-23-23, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
That's it - we should all choose the solution that works for us. There's always a tenor in these discussions that there's a right way and wrong way to do things when reality is more nuanced and we all make different choices..
Exactly. Pretty much everyone carries a smartphone these days and yet many cyclists still choose to use a dedicated bike GPS head unit for good reasons.
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Old 11-23-23, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
That's it - we should all choose the solution that works for us. There's always a tenor in these discussions that there's a right way and wrong way to do things when reality is more nuanced and we all make different choices..
And when I do get access to power, it is often in a situation where I have to leave the device in somewhere like a restroom in camp, creating a risk of theft. One upside of the external battery (swag from a company meeting) is that if it ever goes missing, I won't be nearly as pissed if the phone were to.
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Old 11-23-23, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
That's it - we should all choose the solution that works for us. There's always a tenor in these discussions that there's a right way and wrong way to do things when reality is more nuanced and we all make different choices..
And when I do get access to power, it is often in a situation where I have to leave the device in somewhere like a restroom in camp, creating a risk of theft. One upside of the external battery (swag from a company meeting) is that if it ever goes missing, I won't be nearly as pissed if the phone were to go missing.
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Old 11-23-23, 09:59 AM
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Four pages of discussion so I hope the OP has it figured out.

As someone who went thru different tools (wheel magnet cyclometer, Garmin GPS, Fitbit watch, modern head unit with GPS/ANT+/BLE), as well as a significant period of going back to "no data", I'll contribute the following:
  1. If you just need speed and distance then any wheel magnet or GPS bike computer will do. You don't need to spend a lot of money on this.
  2. Smartphone: battery life, display timeout, susceptibility to damage following crashes are valid concerns. Also, notifications and other background activity can affect the functionally - ever try to close something or switch between camera and other apps and accidentally kill your RWGPS app in the middle of the ride?
  3. A Garmin or Fitbit watch does the job but glancing at the wrist every time you want to see something can be distracting. Also Fitbit is terrible with respect to losing GPS connectivity and if it's on my wrist I might not notice it until much later (not that there's any corrective action to take if the recording has already started).
  4. I rode many years without having access to real-time ride data. There are benefits to this, especially if coming off of a period of being data-obsessed - it can be more relaxing or allow you to be more present on the ride. But overall having data can be quite beneficial/enjoyable as well.
  5. The only reason I got a modern head unit is to use my radar light. I really would have been happy if the radar light could give me audible alerts without the need for a head unit, but now that I have a head unit, I use it for the following: radar (obviously), cadence and HR (requires additional sensors), real-time metrics on gradient, time of day, ride duration (moving time), temperature - those are the on-ride metrics I find to be helpful to have, even if they're not essential. So in a way, getting a head unit was like a gateway drug into ride data (and sensors) that I didn't really need for many years prior.
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Old 11-23-23, 11:21 AM
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i don't really care what anyone uses. my comment was only in response to the demand to use a dedicated bike computer instead of a phone. i use the phone because that is what i have and it suits my purposes. i'm using CycleMeter on it and pay $11/Year so that i can get my HRM and Cadence connected. all over bluetooth but my phone does have ANT+. if i had a PM i'm sure it would be able to connect via Bluetooth as well. my phone is eitehr in my jersy pocket or in the bike bag, depends on if i want access to it while riding or not. a bike computer mounted on my bars would be great though.
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Old 11-23-23, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
And when I do get access to power, it is often in a situation where I have to leave the device in somewhere like a restroom in camp, creating a risk of theft. One upside of the external battery (swag from a company meeting) is that if it ever goes missing, I won't be nearly as pissed if the phone were to go missing.
Have you looked into one of the backpacking small solar panel chargers?
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Old 11-23-23, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
Yep. I know my local area really well, and don't need directions to ride where I want to ride. However, while vacationing earlier this year, mapping was a big factor in being able to do some really excellent rides in an unfamiliar area.

My most critical real-time data is HR.
Same. I don't know how other folks' minds work, but I build maps in my head, so after riding around here for >25 years, I have all the roads I like to ride that I can easily get to in my head. BUT we're planning to move across the country in 3-4 years, and all the roads will be new to me! I'll have to build the map afresh.

Speed and HR are the most critical to me, because I know how fast I should be going in any particular place for a given HR.
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