Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin BaseCamp app coming to smartphones

UPDATE: Read my hands on review of the Garmin fenix.

I don’t know how I missed this little tidbit in yesterday’s Garmin fenix announcement:

A Basecamp mobile app allows users to transfer waypoints and tracklogs to view them on a more detailed map and larger screen of select smartphones.

Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for pointing it out. So this is big news, eh? I’m not sure how soon we’ll see it; even though the fenix is slated to hit the market by late August, Garmin seems to think the app might not be ready by then, since they left this little out in a footnote:

The availability of Garmin’s Basecamp app might differ from the market availability of fēnix.

I’m assuming that, unlike Forerunners (which typically use ANT+), the fenix will use Bluetooth technology to transfer data to and from your smartphone. For one thing, the “In the box” section of the fenix page doesn’t mention an ANT+ USB stick in the package. Using Bluetooth would also mean you don’t need an ANT+ adapter for your phone.

So what are the implications of this? If I’m correct on it using Bluetooth for data transfer rather than ANT+, expect to see new Garmin handhelds with Bluetooth (and that in itself should open up some interesting possibilities). I also wonder if we’ll see a Garmin Connect app that will allow you to wirelessly download tracks to Garmin handhelds. A Garmin handheld/mobile ecosystem may well be on the horizon.

What do you think about all this? What kind of things would you like to be able to do with a Garmin handheld that can communicate with your smartphone?


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. Probably ties in nicely with the recently announce Garmin GLO…

  2. Dick Morris says:

    Here in England we get to use 1:25 OS mapping on our 62 series downloaded like BirdsEye Satellite info. So I asked Germin if we would be able to download the same mapping to our ‘ portable device ‘.. I then asked if the mapping would be available for BOTH Android and iphone.
    Their reply was that I am too early and that none of this stuff was released as yet here.
    One inch to the mile mapping on a smartphone or tablet with either a Fenix or the higher accuracy GLO could be a great combination perhaps.?
    For UK and France Anquet 1:25 and 1:50 mapping will shortly be available via Anquet also.

  3. How come I get the feeling I will be given the opportunity to purchase maps yet again for my smartphone now… That aside, pretty excited to see what they come up with.

    • Good point. I wonder if it will integrate with current handheld maps, third-party maps, etc. Or will it all be downloads with a possible fee.

    • Talked with Garmin folks at OR show today about this very thing. I don’t think it has even crossed their mind that people might want their map data stored in the smartphone app. I was told all it would do is basically plot your tracks against Google Maps (topo, satellite, etc). That’s neat and all, but the idea of a backcountry watch is you use it… you know… in the backcountry… where cell phones don’t work (or data doesn’t anyway). Hopefully they’ll put that on the roadmap as I think storing the map data on the phone is the way to go if you are going to bother with a smartphone app at all.

      I personally still prefer a dedicated handhelp GPS to using my phone, but I could change my mind if they do it the right way. One of my biggest complaints about using my phone as a GPS unit is the horrible battery life. But hey, if the watch is doing the heavy lifting in terms of GPS tracklogging, that means now and I only need to peek at the phone when I really need to – that changes my thought process a bit. This is a fascinating idea really.

      But yeah, I would hate to have to pay again for Topo maps. (but I also told them if they let me share the 24k maps between phone and say a 62s, I would actually be willing to pay for the 24k maps – something I’ve seen no point in doing yet).

  4. eileen campbell says:

    Looking for a Garmin that will operate off of my computer (attach device and input 100 addresses using the PC keyboard); ability to search starting with “town” avoiding scroll-down town menu; has route optimization; screens similar to the 50; Bluetooth, liftetime maps, traffic (nice but not necessary); 5-inch. Can be discontinued but available. Is there such an animal?

  5. Hello Rick and all,
    I think it would be great in the handheld mapping unit for small dtat transfers. Up or downloading waypoute, routes and Gecaching info. FAR better than USB transfers. But I think the Bluetooth for map transfers could get boggy, especially if yo have multiple bluetooth devices enables.
    Of course that won’t ever apply to me, ’cause I bought a Montanan after waiting a year and a bit to let it settle.
    Damn, foiled again.

  6. The battery life and durability of dedicated GPS receivers has kept them selling even now that they have fallen behind in the mapping category. OpenCycleMap has countless more state and local trails and paths than any of Garmin’s map products. In order to keep up, Garmin should concentrate on hardware such as the GLO (though preferable with a screen to output the coordinates if the smartphone dies) to do the battery-hogging receiving work. Users could use whatever app they choose, but the best ones are the ones that pre-cache OpenCycleMap, such as GPS Kit for iPhone.
    If Garmin wants to keep selling dedicated GPS receivers, they need to add the ability to load OpenCycleMap tiles or improve their own maps to the point that they provide more relevant information than what’s freely available now.

  7. It seems basecamp mobile will display tracks / waypoints on online map. With the new map in iOS 6, this is pretty useless as the new map doesn’t have too many details in the wilderness area. 🙁

  8. Dick Morris says:

    The recent iOS maps have been proven to have many errors and problems, plus they are only suitable for cities and towns. This makes little sense when using a fenix. Garmin will need to do better if they hope to sell the fenix.
    Plus no mention of Android phones which are now outselling the iPhone..?

  9. Without a fenix to sync, the app wouldn’t do anything for me. The screenshots in iTunes, though, show Google maps, not iOS 6 maps. Google’s mapping database does have the advantage of being editable, at least, through Google Map Maker. We could all add our favorite trails, and Google would soon have a better trail database than Garmin, who relies too heavily on the USGS. Adding data with Google Map Maker isn’t as precise or as easy as contributing to OpenStreetMap, but it is definitely doable, and the combination of the two of them may be the end run around GPS companies who don’t care about maps.

    • I wonder if you can pull up the Google Maps terrain layer. Another question is if maps can be cached offline. What we need is the ability to send and view Garmin (and third-party) .img map files to the app.

  10. I believe the Google Maps API expressly forbids downloading of maps data. So regardless of which venue they chose (Google or iOS maps), its the wrong approach. The watch is designed for use in the backcountry. So there are a few key things they are missing:
    1) assume no cellular connection. Even in Salt Lake this can be an issue. Their solution needs persistent map storage. Insane to me they would release something without this. I know several iOS apps use OpenStreetMap for this reason and give you a vehicle to cache map data.
    2) topo maps – at least that is what I want on there. Arial photos are ok, but I strongly prefer topo maps when ‘out there’. Google terrain layer would be ok (but it is limited in how much you can zoom) but won’t fix issue number one. You would think garmin and all there mapping products they offer would have thought about this – and another way to charge for them (see my original comment).

    But like Jeff said, without a fenix (or iPhone 4S), it doesn’t do much at all. I was hoping some way of pulling existing activities from the website or something. Nope.

  11. I have been researching this for about 15 minutes now, and this article answers my question: Can I send coordinates and maps to my iphone via the ANT+ or some other way, then send those via text message or email with my iphone? Sounds like this technology hasn’t come around yet. I am not even sure if anyone else would even need this technology besides a few. I am a forester and would love to send information about forest units i am working on to my coworkers, or anyone needing information on the unit. I guess I will just have to wait to get back to the office to do that through my computer.

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