Smart Phone Caching

With the advent of Smart Phones and Geocaching apps, beginners who don't have GPSrs are trying their had at it using their phone.  Opinions vary on how well these phones can get you to the cache coordinates.   One comment I hear a lot is "It depends on which phone and which app you have."  One acquaintance says his phone can be off as much as a quarter mile. which makes it useless for guiding you to a cache.  Others say their phone gets them as close as their GPSr. 

I've had one experience watching someone using a phone.  As I drove up hoping for an FTF (First to Find).  This person looking intently at their phone was 30 feet away the cache and walking in the wrong direction.  I got out of the car and, using my handheld GPSr walked directly to the cache location making the find and getting the FTF.  Actually, I agree to share the FTF, but you get the idea.  If your phone doesn't get you within a reasonable distance of the cache (nominally 10-15 feet) it will be a real handicap and may discourage you before you learn the game.  Given this scatter in performance, if you're going to begin caching using your smart phone, I suggest the following:

On the cache description page, below the Hints there are links to satellite maps.  I suggest you use Google Maps to start with.  The 'Geocaching.com - Google Map' is cluttered and may be confusing for a beginner, so I would use the simple Google Maps link.

Once on the map page Zoom in as far as it will go.  You'll get something like the view below.  If on a desktop/laptop, click the printer symbol in the upper right of the screen to print a copy of the map and carry it with you.  Things keep changing.  Last time I looked you had to click the satellite view in the lower left to see the view below and you have to go to the File menu to print.

Of course you can also go to this map on your phone.  I don't have a smart phone but my guess would be if you can't stretch the map those tiny screens won't provide enough resolution to see where the cache is.  If it does, use it. 

These satellite views won't help if the cache is under tree cover, otherwise they can work quite well.  If you're having trouble finding it, be sure to read the hint.  Also, read the logs and look at the pictures.  Logs and pictures often contain "spoilers" -- pictures of the cache or information on were to look.  A very good thing about using a smart phone you have up-to-the-minute information.  So if someone couldn't  find it an hour ago it may be missing.  But, don't count on it being missing unless the last two or three logs are DNFs (Did Not Find) on different days. Unless it's rated a difficulty 2.5 or more, if the last three logs are DNFs I'd skip it until it's found or the owner confirms it's there.

There's a local cacher who owns neither a smart phone nor a GPSr.  He does quite well using these satellite maps.