Application Name: Smart Compass
Description: Compass augmented with camera view for orientation.
Publisher’s website: Android Boy
Cost: Free Lite ad-supported version; $0.99 full Pro version adds features
Version/date reviewed: v.1.1.1 / 11-4-10
Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2
As with the +Compass app reviewed yesterday, Smart Compass lets you find the compass bearing of a landmark as seen by your Android phone’s camera.
Figure 1: Line up the object you want a bearing for with the orange triangle at top, or the gray crosshair at the center (barely visible in the photo, more visible on the display), and the bearing will be shown in the center. As with +Compass, the default is the magnetic direction. However, there is an option to adjust the azimuth setting to compensate for errors, and you can use this to adjust the direction to compensate for the magnetic declination, and show the true direction (as here, where I’ve enter the local 11-degree magnetic declination adjustment) (Figure 2):
The green bar at lower right shows the magnetic field strength. While this could be useful in cases where you might be near an object that distorts the local magnetic field, most times this is superfluous (and can be turned off). A bigger problem is the size of the compass display, which blocks most of the view; I much prefer +Compass’s single vertical line.
Other Issues: While the app can be used in portrait orientation, I was surprised to find that the compass bearing would shift about 5 degrees from the more accurate one seen in landscape orientation. The Pro version (shown above) includes the GPS position and altitude, along with the option to send those as an SMS message. But there are other free apps that do the same thing much better. The Pro version also lets you set the sensitivity of the compass, but I found little difference between different sensitivity settings.
Final thoughts: Smart Compass seems to work fine in landscape mode, less so in portrait mode. It really should offer the option to automatically display true directions instead of magnetic directions, but the option to set an offset to the displayed value makes that less critical. But IMO the compass display obscures too much of the display, and the extra features of the Pro version just aren’t worth $0.99. If +Compass had an option for true directions, instead of just magnetic directions, it would definitely be the one to buy. Even so, if you can mentally add/subtract the correction factor for magnetic to true direction. +Compass is the better choice. But if you really need true directions, then stick with the free Lite version of Smart Compass, set the magnetic declination correction manually, and make sure you update it when you change locations.