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GPS Essentials : GPS/Orientation Readout And More

Application Name: GPS Essentials

Description: Displays GPS/orientation data, satellites, map; customizable data readout

Publisher’s website: GPS Essentials

Cost: Free; $2.81 donation plugin.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0.2  /  12-13-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


Android market link
Android Market link (browser)

Like the previously-reviewed GPS Test and GPS Status, GPS Essentials monitors and displays information from both your GPS signal and compass direction.


Figure 1: There are six screens available in this app, plus the settings screen (accessible with the menu button) that lets you set options like units and preferred coordinates.


Figure 2: The Dashboard is the killer function for this app; it displays more information than any other GPS dashboard I’ve seen on any other app. Plus, the items displayed, and their position, is fully configurable. Choose Add from the menu, and select from 30 different data options.


Figure 3: Press and drag on a data item to move it to a new position, or drop it on the trashcan icon at the bottom to delete it.


Figure 4: The compass display is pretty basic. What’s more, even though there’s an option to set either true or magnetic north in Settings, that option isn’t functional – the app always uses magnetic north. You’ll need to correct for your local magnetic declination to get the true direction.


Figure 5: Camera view displays a level horizon line, and the magnetic direction you’re facing at the bottom. Can’t quite figure out the significance (if any) of the central circle.


Figure 6: Map view displays your current location, with a compass indicator at top left showing which direction you’re facing.  You have the standard Google Map layers to choose from (roads, terrain, aerial, hybrid). You can also plot the local addresses of people on your contact lists, or select a contact and have their address plotted. Finally, you can use the Waypoints menu function to add waypoints either by tapping on the map, or selecting your current location.


Figure 7: The Satellites screen gives a standard view of the GPS satellites above the horizon, and how many of them are being used to determine your current position.


Figure 8: Finally, the Waypoints screen gives you a list of saved waypoints. Tapping on one brings up a screen that lets you edit the name or coordinates, geocode it (find the nearest address), change the icon, show it on a map, delete it, or set it as a target to navigate to.  There are also Import/Export buttons available on the Menu button for this screen, but they don’t currently appear to be functional.

Other issues: No problems with crashes or closes.

Final thoughts: The best screen on this app is the dashboard – no other GPS app on Android comes close. For that alone, this app is worth installing. The other screens also offer useful functions, but there are better apps for most of these. The lack of a working option to set true north instead of magnetic north is a big drawback, and I hope a future version will fix that.

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6 Responses to “GPS Essentials : GPS/Orientation Readout And More”

  1. 1 A Cardigan

    All functions, including true north selection and export to kml working for me.

  2. 2 leszekp

    I contacted the program author a while back, and he confirmed that while he has true/magnetic north options, all the directions are in magnetic; my check seems to show that’s still the case. If I set GPS Essentials to “True North”, orient my Droid X to point towards north, then set it to Magnetic North, the reading is unchanged i.e. still shows north, where it should now be about 11 degrees off because of the magnetic declination. Try that, and see if you see the same thing.

  3. 3 mikel

    I have installed the apps GPS Essential (2.0.6) in my android, and really it’s fantastic. But I’m not able to import a track. In the section of track, exist the function export in kml format but no import. It is possible import the track that has been made with another device?

  4. 4 Bob Miller

    Have GPS Essentials on my Droid X2. Great app, but I do believe the declination is BACKWARDS.

    I live in Northern Virginia where the declination is 10W. I do the following:
    1. Set Bearing type to True
    2. Open Map widget
    3. Add Declination field. Result shows -10. Should be +10.
    4. Set a waypoint due north of current location, i.e., waypoint has same longitude as current location.
    5. Set waypoint as target. Course field shows zero degrees, as it should.
    6. Change Bearing type to Magnetic. (In order for this change to take effect on my Droid, I have to power off the phone completely and restart).
    7. Course is now shown as 350. SHOULD BE 010.

    I’m a pilot of 30+ years, so converting true to magnetic is something I’m fairly sure I know how to do. I’ve notified the developer.

  5. 5 Bob Miller

    The developer has updated the product so that, given a true bearing, the magnetic course is properly shown.

  6. 6 the saint

    I have the app on my N7. I have downloaded maps for use offline. I can only get a route calculated if I am online. The app seems too clever – or I am too stupid. You need a degree in cartography to make a start at understanding its many features. Reading the on-line manual does not help much. What it needs is a simple example of how to set up a simple route – offline – and get it to speak the turn by turn instructions – whilst still offline.