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
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.