IPHONE 8 / 10 GPS vs old Samsung S3 and

Copyright notices

Screen captures were from Google Earth and are copyright Google Earth. Tracks on these screen captures are copyright Don Samuels


A while ago when I dropped my Samsung S6 one too many times, and it could not be reliably repaired, I went to the ATT store and bought an Iphone 8 and went over to the dark side. Comparing Iphone to Samsung is not black and white. There are some things that Apple does better and some it does worse. However for the purposes of this web page I am only going to discuss the GPS capability.

I first noticed an issue when sometimes I am driving and letting Google Maps navigate me, the navigation resets because it thinks I got off on an exit ramp when I did not.

Then as I was using "runkeeper" (great app even if you are not a runner and I am not), to record my hikes in the woods, I noticed errors that I felt were unacceptable (25 to 50 feet off).


While my Samsung S6 is completely dead, my older S3 still works as a computer, just not a phone as the SIM card is no longer provisioned. So I did an experiment of a short hike, on roads, as well as in the woods, with both the Iphone and the S3 recording in runkeeper. I then exported the tracks to Google Earth.
Here is an animation of both sets of tracks, the S3 in green and the Iphone in red:

First CompareI have the S3 track blinking on and off so that you can see the actual trail in the woods that I hiked.

Marina pointed out that perhaps having the cell service on interferes as the phone may take into account the towers in its algorithm as well. So the next experiment was during a horseback ride with Marina (a smart person would just do the same experiment over and over controlling the varibles, and I may do just that using the short walk above for each iteration) where I put the Iphone 8 into airplane mode.

Here is that horse back ride:
Horseback rideNow the ride is over 1.5 miles each way and zooming so that the full ride can be seen it is hard to see which is better. The advantage of this path is there is more open space (no trees) and more trees) so one can try and diagnose. The color coding is the same as before Iphone in red and S3 in green. Going first to the turn around point, it is in an open meadow and the trail is clearly visible in Google Earth:

As before the S3 is clearly better than the Iphone. We rode on the trail till the turnaround, where we went off to let the horses graze.

However under the trees, there was one point where the S3 was clearly off:

s3 no good

So I am not sure what happened here.

Finally, (at least for now) Marina and I took a walk. Marina has an Iphone 10, so I thought that would be good to compare. Iphone 8 is in red (always) and the 10 is in orange:

walk 1This walk did not go as far as the horseback ride. We did not get to the meadows, but instead turned around at the South Fork of Willowbrook.

Zooming in:
walk ruler

Qualitatively I judge the 8 and 10 to be equal in accuracy. Cell phones were not in airplane mode for this test.

Next steps

I do also have a Garmin GPSmap 76CS. I find this unit is not nearly as good as a cell phone, but I will repeat one or more of these experiments to compare. Unless someone out there can give me hints to improve Iphone GPS accuracy, it may be when the Iphone 8 gets dropped one too many times I will go back to Samsung. As you can tell, GPS is really really really really important to me living next to the Eagles Nest Wilderness.


Back to Snowedunder's home page.

  Feedback to:


This page last updated on July 26, 2019 by Don Samuels