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Top 5 iPhone Apps For Geocaching

Geocaching – once the sole domain of the handheld GPS unit – has been taken over in recent years by the rise of the smartphone. This transition from dedicated GPS units to multi-purpose devices owes a lot to the popularity of Apple’s iPhone.

Once in the hands of many a geocacher, this user-friendly and stylish tool created a demand to be able to geocache on the go, to go paperless like we’d never been paperless before (except, perhaps, if you had been using CacheBerry on a Blackberry).

But the iPhone’s popularity certainly began the march toward smartphones becoming a regular, and much more acceptable, geo-tool.

Okay, I can’t go any further; I have to get something off my chest: I’m not an iPhone fan.

Yes, I’ll admit that I’m an Android user and CacheSense lover. And, if you are a geocacher looking to buy a smartphone, let me stop you here and direct you to my post on geocaching apps for Android. If you already own an iPhone, read on …

But how can I possibly write a review on iPhone apps if I’m an Android user? That would be all down to the generosity of my iFan wife and her iPhone 4, along with my iPad. You see, whilst I might prefer Android, I still have a lot of iStuff in my life.

The major flaw with the iPhone, from my perspective, is the fact that it limits the display of GPS accuracy to 10 metres. Why? I don’t really know.

While the iPhone may have helped the transition from dedicated GPS to multi-purpose device, it hasn’t been able to make the jump to respected geocache hunter due to this ‘accuracy’ issue.

So here we go, the Cumbyrocks’ (because kjwx and other contributors will likely disagree) Top 5 Geocaching Apps for iPhone:

1. Geocaching by Groundspeak Inc

What better place to start when talking about geo-apps than with the one produced by the geocaching mothership, Groundspeak. The official Geocaching.com app is a simple yet highly user-friendly option.

For the novice geocacher who has an iPhone, it’s perfect as it allows you to search, hunt and log your finds with ease.

For the more experienced geocacher, it is an excellent paperless assistant to your trusty handheld GPS, particularly for those urban caches.

Since I last wrote about this app, the team at Groundspeak have added one feature that takes it from being a simple, beginners’ urban-caching tool to being a really useful, all-purpose geocaching app – the ability to download pocket queries.

This functionality cannot be overlooked for regularly and quickly saving caches for offline use. The often sighted flaw in smartphone geocaching has been the reliance on data networks to provide cache information.

But that no longer matters here. As you would with your handheld GPS, you can quickly download the latest PQ from GX.com, ensuring you have all that information at hand – no matter where you are or what state the local data network is in!

I also like some of the subtle features of this app: In particular, the line above my profile on the main search page that tells me how many geocaches there are worldwide and the fact that trackables seem to be given a large importance by the prominence of their section.

Like other platforms, Groundspeak’s app is one of the more expensive on the market at US$9.99,; however, it is a small price to pay for an app that is directly plugged into the main geo-database.

Add to that regular updates (the last was only a week ago) and a huge range of languages and you have a very user-friendly and quality geocaching tool. Highly recommended!

2. Geocaching with Geosphere

At one time I viewed this app as the main iOS rival to the Geocaching.com app, although I’m fairly sure it runs back in the pack these days.

One of the dearer apps at US$7.99, it’s clearly not for the beginner as its opening line states “Geosphere is for those who are familiar with geocaching”.

As one of the more expensive apps, it is a little disappointing that there hasn’t been an update since October 2011, nor does it use Geocaching Live.

But none of that detracts from the fact this is a very well put together app which does exactly what it says – that is to provide experienced geocachers with a way to store offline cache information and navigate to a hide. It is possibly the closest you can come to turning your iPhone into a modern, handheld GPS unit.

 

3. Looking 4 Cache Pro

Now this is a little more like it … A geo-app that is integrated with Geocaching Live but which pays particular attention to offline functionality and has some of the mod cons of rivals such as GC Vote.

The app, which has a free version, costs US$8.99 for the Pro download but is possibly well worth every cent.

Unlike most of the other geo-apps on the market, it is made for both the iPhone and iPad, so you Apple converts will be able to use it on all your favourite tools.

I’ll admit to really liking it on the iPad, however as this is strictly an iPhone piece, I won’t say anymore – right now.

One of the functions I most like is the ability to operate multiple user accounts with this app and, as result, log to multiple accounts simultaneously. I can already see all you power-trail teams grinning and nodding at the thought of that.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give L4C Pro is that out of all the apps, it feels the most like something I would find on the Android. While that may very well put some Apple addicts off, I would like to think this speaks to its flexibility and extended functionality.

Considering its status as the current pacesetter in the iOS geo-market, I would highly recommend this app and pick it as one to watch over the coming years.

4. iGeoKnife

iGeoKnife shares top honours with the Groundspeak and L4C Pro apps for being updated in 2012. It’s Not About The Numbers reviewed this app when it first came out in 2011 and we’re glad to report that it’s still going strong.

I’ll admit to being a lot more comfortable with this app and its database focus, as opposed to the more spur-of-the-moment feel of the Groundspeak version. But then this app is probably more designed with the experienced, GSAK-loving geocacher in mind.

And that is also its biggest weakness – it is yet to fully embrace the Geocaching Live experience. But I can already hear fans of ‘other’ listing sites arguing that this makes it easier to treat all caches as equal, blah blah blah …

For the beginner, this app is not going to make your geocaching experience easy, nor will it for the experienced cacher who wants to be completely jacked into the mothership whilst out and about.

However, for the experienced player who seriously wants to be able to play with cache information without using his or her data network, this has got to be the one.

At only US$3.99, it is also a lot cheaper than some of the others and well worth a look if you are GSAK addict.

5. Geocaching Buddy

I’ll admit to being a little surprised when I first learnt of this app as it’s not often you find something specifically built for multi-caches. But here it is and, boy, have the designers put some serious thought into making it a really useful multi-cache hunting tool.

I really can’t describe it better than the developers can: “This buddy app will remember every clue found and calculate any derived clue or new waypoint for you. Waypoints can be formula’s or projections. Also the final cache formula will be evaluated the moment all clues are found and entered. It is also able to record your parking spot so you’ll be able to return to your car after finding the cache.”

I had intended to complain that Geocaching Buddy hadn’t been updated since October 2011; however, upon reflection I wonder whether this is because it was so well made to start with.

So my one problem with this app is its price – US$9.99. Yes, it does a lot for multi-caching and it can be used for many more cache types. Maybe I’m just spoilt for choice in the reasonably priced world of Android apps …

CONCLUSION

Okay, I’ll avoid mentioning my disappointment that iOS apps are not of the same quality and functionality as Android apps … whoops!

The bright side is that apps such as Looking 4 Cache are seriously upping the stakes regarding what iPhone geocachers can expect from a geo-tool. Were I to switch to an iPhone, and given the way the patent suits are going I may yet have to, I suspect this app would be my first choice.

But I can’t help but mention the usefulness of the Groundspeak app, especially for new geocachers. Even for the experienced player who wants a simple tool for paperless caching, it is a great app.

Price is still a factor with all of these options and I have to wonder whether the cost is tending to kill demand a little. It would be great to see a high-quality FREE iOS app come out so those not willing to throw some cash at a hobby that they’re unsure about have a better entry into it.

Overall, the quality of the geo-apps is very good and, like just about everything Apple, they all just work.

*Got your own favourite iPhone geocaching app? Let us know about it in the comments!
 

 

16 comments

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  1. kjwx

    Says the bloke who made a massive Freudian slip during his Radio NZ interview the other day …
    “When did you begin geocaching, Peter?”
    “When I got my first iPhone, Jim …”

    1. Cumbyrocks

      Hey, I was trying to simplify what I said for the iPhone crowd. Turns out they’re a sensitive bunch. :P

  2. GSV

    For an off-the-wall tool, I’d recommend the Teslameter app. Good for using the iPhone as a magnetic field detector to detect pesky invisible nanos.

    1. kjwx

      Is that SkyPaw’s Teslameter 11, GSV?

  3. kjwx

    I’m a major Groundspeak app fan – though not so much of its latest update – but it’s worth noting that I was recently caught out by five instances of it double-logging my finds. Totally stuffed up my tally.
    As for other iTools: myGEOtools is a favourite for its extensive list of puzzle ciphers/tables. Outside of Android’s GCC GeoCache Calculator, it’s the best I’ve seen. IGCT Pro is another, for its geometric calculators.

  4. Guwapo's Papa

    Perhaps the geo-siblings should review and compare the Groundspeak app on the IOS and Android platforms. (I’m not sure anyone would be willing to confess to having it on a Windows phone.)

    Compare the “quality and functionality” side by side. Perhaps the siblings could even swap devices for a week and then compare notes.

  5. lostinthewoodswithasmartphone

    I didn’t follow what you were saying here about the limits on iPhone GPS display accuracy. First, isn’t it 5 meters, not 10? See the Groundspeak app screenshot that’s included here for an example. But even with that stated accuracy, the phone/app can in my experience display accurate distance to geocache readings down to as low as 0 feet. At that point I’ve more than once looked down and seen the cache at my feet. But a phone can’t guarantee less than 5 meter accuracy without WAAS. Is there any smartphone available that includes that?

    Of course the big problem with using a smartphone GPS is sensitivity. Any interference with direct satellite view dramatically degrades the accuracy of the reading and at that point the 5-10 meter figure can start to look very optimistic. I’m still caching with a iPhone, but I usually depend on satellite maps once I reach GZ. That makes it great for in-town caching but sometimes frustrating once I’m in the woods. All those trees look alike from the top.

  6. David

    GeoBucket (Free) and Spyglass/Commander Compass. Perfect solution.

  7. Ryan Kaufman

    Can’t justify spending money like this. $10? For Geocaching? I don’t even take anything from the cache I find, because I don’t want to put anything back. Ridiculous how much they charge, and ridiculous how much they pull from the free versions to the point where they don’t work. Really great way to sell the product I might add.

    I just want to get the coordinates from the website off my laptop and put them somewhere and have an app give me a general idea. I don’t need to spend money for features I don’t need, and if the apps were cheaper I’d spend the money. But as it stands, guess I’ll just have to go with the general area I’ve been going with.

    1. Jeanne Ardinger Bennett

      they recently updated the official geocaching.com free app. i actually hope they update the paid version to include some of the new features. i tried out the free one on a friends phone last night and it works very well and did not seem to have the limits the old one had. check it out.

  8. Beth Doyle

    Hi I have been geocaching with my boyfriend a couple of times and found it fun, he is really enthusiastic about it. I would like to set up a couple of caches for him (and others) to find as its his birthday soon and I think he would really enjoy finding some new ones that have suddenly appeared on his birthday. I don’t have GPRS device I have got an iphone 5 and an ipad can I do this using them? Which app would be best to use? Would be grateful for anyone’s advice :)

    1. Cumbyrocks

      Hi Beth, it’s generally accepted that coordinates derived from smartphones are not as good as those from dedicated GPS units, so the ideal would be to find someone with a GPS to borrow or take the coordinate for you. If that’s not possible then using an app like this one will help you get the best GPS coordinates possible.

      Also make sure you have read the Geocaching Listing Guidelines before placing.

      Good luck!
      Cumbyrocks

  9. Alexander

    Nice read, thanks for this nice overview

  10. lockett tribe

    Just recently left the android platform for an iphone and I must say I love everything except the geocaching apps. C:geo for the android was awesome not to mention free. I wish the groundspeak app would let you use google maps instead of apple maps. Also a radar would be nice.

  11. Daniel Fontes

    If you want to explore cities, give Your Way (free) a try. it’s like Geocaching, but it’s about to find OpenStreetMap POIs. And all POIs are included, so it works offline.

    You can also add caches manually.

  12. Qollector Guru-gal

    We’re just getting into geocaching. It lets us get outside and spend time with the kids. We’ve been using Qollector for the iPad to track our own cache’s as well as documenting existing locations. We include photos and videos when we discover a new geocache. It was quick to design everything in Qollector.
    https://qollector.com/p/geocaching

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