What do you use to acquire GPS data?

I recently had to delete another GPS focused app from my phone due to horrendous inaccuracies. Thinking about buying a tracker in the near future but I am curious what other observers use to assist in location data gathering.


I have been using GPS Logger by BasicAirData for several years now on Android phones. Pretty reliable and accurate.

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Thanks. I’ll give it a shot.

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Either a Garmin 62s or Google satellite. iNat uses Google, so you’re guaranteed to get it right with a distinctive feature; the Garmin has options to relate to the dozen-odd different reference systems used around Ontario Canada.


I’m not sure I understand the problem. I just use the exif data on my phone’s photo files, and I take a photo (of anything, or of nothing) with my phone whenever I take photos with my non-GPS camera. Out of the hundreds of photos from that phone that I’ve posted, I’ve only really noticed a couple of them being noticeably off. It definitely helps if you have it under regular battery usage- the phone stops keeping such good track of GPS data if you turn the battery saver on (at least on my version of Android), so the accuracy really plummets.

I also like to track the path that I’ve walked, and for that I use Geo Tracker. As far as I can tell it’s very accurate, unless your phone is in battery saver mode.

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Phones do usually record GPS data into photos. But those of us who mainly shoot with an SLR or Point & Shoot camera usually don’t have GPS in camera. Its a lot easier to sync a GPS track than taking a few photos along the way with my phone (which I used to do). I thought that was the case with the original poster. Looking at their observations though, it is a phone.

Using a GPS logging app can be a bit more accurate than just the GPS in photos because the GPS location is updated more often and likely has data from more than the minimum needed satellites you might get when snapping a photo occasionally. How you would sync that data with the photos in your phone I don’t know. The app I suggested only records the log. I use Lightroom Classic on my PC to sync my SLR photos to the track data.

If you aren’t seeing GPS locations with your cell phone photos, GPS could be set to off on your camera app.

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I used to use a bulky Garmin GPS, but I’ve found I get the same (or sometimes even better) results using my cellphone. If I just need to track, I use GPS Logger which when set right is accurate and uses very little battery. If I also want a base map and other useful functions, I use Locus Map Pro. I then georeference the downloaded photos in my computer against the gpx track using Geosetter which also does an excellent job of reverse geocoding (adding the geographical data of locality, city, region, nation, etc.) and numerous other metadata related actions. Have a great observation day to you all, Sarah.

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My camera has a GPS feature which occasionally works.

I also try to always have location data switched on for my phone (Android, Huawei) which is generally pretty accurate except when reception is poor. Then I just photograph and it logs the data to the photo automatically.

Lastly, sometimes I’ll do an educated guess, with room for error.

I didn’t know there were apps for GPS! I thought most phones has it built in these days. I’d think the built in would be the most reliable for it, if you can connect the data to the photos you take in the settings menu.

I don’t know jack about phones, so the exif stuff flies over my head. My only requirement is if the camera has any manual settings. I do, however, have my phone constantly on Battery Saver mode. I’ll be sure to fiddle with that, too. Currently, I’m DSLR-heavy since iNat abandoned my phone series a few weeks ago.

On my Android 6, I use an app called GPS Status & Toolbox, in airplane mode – all cell and wifi service off (these can muddle the true GPS location). Make sure iNat and any other camera app has permission to access the GPS in your phone (then no need to sync with a separate track). Turn off Autosync in the iNat app (permanently). And find the setting in the GPS Status app that keeps it running in the background. With decent view of the sky, I consistently get locations within 5 meters of true. Once you have a batch of observations assembled and ready to upload, take it out of airplane mode, make sure you have a good data connection, and hit the manual Sync button in the iNat app.

That’s what I do anyway. Airplane mode and keeping the GPS app running about breaks even with battery usage.

I now have a camera with built-in GPS, but I continue to take a picture of my old Garmin screen after each observation.
I do this because a GPS needs time to “stick” its position from satellites ticks. When you turn the camera on, I have to wait for the fix, and first points are quite unaccurate. When I compare exif data to my picture of garmin, the error may be as large as 100-200m for the first pictures downto 10-20m after 4-10 pictures (plants don’t move).
Furthermore, built-in GPS are IMHO quite less sensitive under canopy, with greater position errors.
Note that the last GPS fix is written in exif data, with (sometimes) a field indicating if this fix is actual or not. Coordinates may just only be the place of your last picnic, not your observation :-)
I strongly recommend if you need precise location (Research Grade!) to take GPS screen pictures (you may discard or highly compress these afterwards) instead of relying on built-in fix.
If you forget your GPS and have only your camera, wait a long enough time even after the first fix in order to get a precise position.
As far as possible, keep your GPS/phone switched to “on” during your hike in order to accumulate enough data to reduce the PDOP (polygonal distortion of precision) inherent to GPS technology.
Finally, be sure to use the “universal” GPS coordinates system (WGS84) in order to avoid misplacement.
Hope this helps…

I use a Canon 5D Mk-IV DSLR camera with GPS and find the GPS results are very good with most captures being within 5 metres of actuality. However, I have had one result in France whereas I was actually in Liverpool, UK. Nonetheless I go into every observation I upload and reposition the dot to where the observation actually too place rather than leaving it to the default accuracy.

My partner uses an Android Samsung Galaxy A20e (Android vers. 10) with the iNat app and in most cases finds her GPS accuracy to be relatively poor - usually well over 20 metres out from the actual spot. She has been in contact with iNat support over this and has supplied log-files but with, so far, little change. She has had results in both France and in Africa when she has been in Liverpool, UK.

I will get her to try Airplane mode when we are next out recording and see if that gives her any improvment in accuracy.


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I bought my first gps unit 20 years ago and used them for hiking and geocaching. I switched to phone about eight years ago as I was finding it quicker and more accurate than the Garmin unit I had at the time.

I have used Gaia GPS and ViewRanger. I found both to be accurate and easy to export the gpx files and not a big drain on battery life.

It’s important to make sure your camera and phone time is the same and the same timezone which has tripped me up a couple of times, recently when the clocks changed.

“exif” stands for Exchangeable image file format, but that’s not terribly informative. It’s basically metadata- the notes that are taken when an image is captured by your camera (ANY camera, whether it’s in a phone, a stand-alone camera, on a laptop, webcam, etc. It is not specific to phones). Depending on the abilities of your camera, things like the date/time, camera maker, camera model, F-stop, ISO, exposure time, and other important information about the photo are automatically recorded and are embedded within the file itself. If your camera has the capability, it also records the coordinates, the altitude, and in my case even the address.

I have never used the iNat app to upload observations, but the iNat website automatically recognizes all of that information from the image file and adds it to your observation. I would assume it’s the same with the app. If you want to see that information yourself (on any image file), you can always select the file (if using a mouse, right click on it, if not you can press and hold the thumbnail until it’s selected) and then click on “properties”, or “get info”, or whatever your operating system calls it. Sometimes you can even do this with photos you find online, but many sites nowadays will delete that kind of stuff for privacy reasons.

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