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Camera-Augmented Compass: Smart Compass

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


Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)

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.

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1 Response to “Camera-Augmented Compass: Smart Compass”

  1. 1 Amir Findling

    I like Smart Compass Pro better. I sent the author a few ideas for further upgrades.

    I’ve just started playing with Smart Compass Pro and I do like it. I even see it as a good start for an application for Search and Rescue. Sending the location by SMS is often what we do when we want to keep information relatively safe from eavesdroppers. But it involves reading from the handheld GPS, input in the phone under conditions that can be difficult. Using Smart Compass Pro would really facilitate that task.

    What I’d like to see is a setting for different datums. The Droid Incredible I have is on WGS 84, but it would be good to have access to NAD 27 and NAD 83 for the US and there are many others used in the world. I don’t know if an app can cover them all. It would also be good that the position sent by SMS would mention the datum used.

    I’d also like to see another choice for the position, using UTM.

    Finally, it would be really good if the camera was activated, meaning you could take a picture with the compass/location right on top of everything, and yes, maybe a choice of compass, one as is, very prominent and one more subdued.

    Amir K9CHP