Droid App Or Smart Phone Reports Inaccurate GPS Distances [Consumer]

by on July 3, 2011

in consumer

Consumer news, Consumer alerts and a Consumer's opinionJul 2, 2011: About a month ago I installed the CardioTrainer app from Worksmart on my Motorola Droid X phone. It’s pretty cool where you can choose what kind of workout you’re doing, from bike to running to walking. It then tracks and maps your workout via its interaction with the built in GPS system of the phone. When you’re done it tells you the estimated calories you’ve burned, time, distance, speeds and such. It also has the ability to upload to your social account like Facebook and such.

I’ve been playing with the app for a while and thought I noticed a small discrepancy in the distance reporting. More than likely it’s not the app, but I’ll explain that in a moment.

So today I took it on a 14.1 mile ride to test out how accurate it is with distances. I set my bike odometer to zero, the route had already been mapped out via USA Track and Field website. The test was on.

When I finished my ride, CardioTrainer reported a 13.56 mile ride. But I had mapped out a 14.1 mile route and my bike odometer was very close to that number also.

When I reviewed the GPS overlayed map, CardioTrainer showed my track and it looked like I had cut corners across houses, through apartments, at spots, whole blocks and such. And trust me, it would be a lot of work to cut corners and climb over some of my obstructions.

To be honest, I can’t say if it’s the app or the system in the phone that is off. I have to presume that the phone itself is really the root of the problem and not CardioTrainer.

My next test will be to pit my phone/CardioTrainer app up against my Garmin GPS wrist device and see if this is a GPS side-affect with civilian equipment or a smart phone “flaw!” I’m suspecting the phone, being as how I’ve tested the Garmin before… but then again, my Garmin tests were only for my 4 to 6 mile runs.

[UPDATE July 3, 2011]: I just took out my smartphone, Garmin and ran my bicycle odometer. Over a winding course that took me through streets with many trees (I’m trying to mess with my GPS reception), I clocked in 5.51 on my Garmin, 5.53 on my bike odometer and 5.39 off my smartphone.

For the time being, I guess I can’t depend on any numbers that come out of my smartphone, though I can use it as a very rough reference for now.

[UPDATE November 30, 2011]: There may be redemption for my phone’s GPS reception. About a week ago I went on a 9 mile run. I only had my Smartphone and then I used an online mapping site to calculate my miles. After 9 miles, there was only a .04 miles difference. I’ll obviously have to redo another test, but right now, it looks a wee bit promising. Verizon had delivered an update to my phone over the last few months, so I’m wondering if a GPS update was one of the updates.

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