Navigational Apps

From traveling around New Zealand and exploring places to shoot, I’ve tried a few navigational apps. Being able to find addresses or reverse your tracks has proven to be a life-saver on many occasions. Rather than run through the ones that suck (this list is quite large), I’ll provide a list of what i actually use (most used first)…

Sygic: This 700MB app comes with a map database covering all of New Zealand. The user interface is a bit backward and difficult to use. But once you get your head around it, the app becomes quite functional and useful. It features turn-by-turn voice navigation as well as a traditional map. This app has been a ready life-saver as it means I have a map even if I have no 3G/WiFi coverage. It has also supplanted a set of map books that stacked to 10cm high. This is a pricey app, but it is cheaper than a stack of map books. Plus, it has the added advantage of accommodation, petrol stations and food in it’s database.

MyTracks: When I head out, I turn on the GPS recording on this app. One advantage of doing this is that I can the use the desktop version to write the co-ordinates and keywords in my photos (or I can mail a GPX file to myself and let Aperture do it). Secondly, since it is recording a reasonably accurate trace of my travels, I can use this to find my way back to camp. This has been a life-saver quite a few times when I’ve gone for a walk somewhere remote to capture a sunset. Being able to re-trace ones steps when it is pitch black is awesome!
Pocket Earth: This app is useful for exploring places. But best of all is that it caches the maps you’ve explored whilst connected. So when you’re far away from civilisation you can refer to the map you were looking at. This is not really an app but rather a web site. It has a database of walking and mountain biking tracks in New Zealand. This makes it a fantastic resource if you are looking for ideas of places to explore.

The Photographer’s Ephimeris: If I am out to record a sun/moon rise/set this makes a useful final check on my chosen location. Knowing trajectories and contours in advance means I can go there prepared or find a better place nearby.

One final note; if you want to do navigational stuff on an iPad, buy the version that has 3/4G. The GPS facility is included on the same chip. That is; the WiFi only iPad does not have GPS.

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