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Archive for the 'Google Maps' Category Page 2 of 3

Location-Tagged Notes With SpotPad

Application Name: SpotPad

Description: Create simple location-tagged notes, show their location in Google Maps

Publisher’s website: SpotPad

Cost: Free (ad-supported)

Version/date reviewed: v.0.0.1  /  4-15-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


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

SpotPad lets you create a simple text note, and tag it with your current GPS location.


From the initial program screen, press your unit’s Menu buttton, and select Add note; the screen above will appear. Type in the text you want to save. In order to tag the note with your current location, you need to press the Update Location button; SpotPad will not automatically add that data. But if you like, you can save a note without location data. When done, choose Save from the menu options, or just use the back button. Your GPS only fires up when you’re in note editing mode, and turns off when you save the note – a nice touch that saves on battery life.


Available notes will be listed here; notes tagged with coordinate data will have a “pin” icon next to them, untagged notes will lack the pin. To open a note for editing, just tap on its listing here. The default note title is the first 25-odd characters of the note, but you can modify that when editing the note, using the Edit title option in the menu during editing.


But you can also bring up multiple options by doing a long-press on a note listing. Open just brings up a full view of the note, with the option to edit it. Delete removes the note (no recovery possible). Edit title lets you modify the title (which doesn’t affect the note text). Show location plots the location where the note was taken in Google Maps:


A tap on the “pin” icon brings up its title and coordinates:


Unfortunately, tapping on this information pop-up doesn’t take you to the note text directly; hope this is added in a future version.


Other issues: None; worked fine.

Final thoughts: Other apps, like Evernote, Catch Notes, and Springpad offer note geotagging with extra features like pictures, but with a somewhat more complicated interface, and no titles for plotted points. If all you want is just a quick and easy geotagged note app, SpotPad does the job.

Local Points Of Interest In Wikipedia

Application Name: Wikipedia Places Free

Description: Lists Wikipedia entries near your current location.

Publisher’s website: 2-3

Cost: Free ad supported version; $2 paid version removes ads.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.11  /  4-1-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Straightforward app – gets you GPS location, and lists any nearby locations geotagged in Wikipedia. Tap on a list item …



… and go to the mobile browser view of that page; your phone’s Back button will take you back to the app.


Clicking on the “map icon” next to a listing brings you to a map view of that location; you can select any supported and installed  app (Google Maps here, but works with Bing, Mapquest, Locus, etc.). It’s accurate, but some kind of more-visible placemark would be useful.

Other issues: Lots of nags to upgrade to the ad-free version, but if you use it enough to be bothered by those, you really should upgrade.

Final thoughts: Other apps show Wikipedia locations as small icons on a map, that can be hard to tap accurately; this list approach definitely has advantages.

Simultaneous Large Compass View and Map With Urban Scout

Application Name: Urban Scout

Description: Displays large compass view along with Google Maps display

Publisher’s website: Cogi Systems

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.9  /  3-25-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


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

Lots of apps have a large compass display, invariably filling the whole screen (like the excellent Compass app). Other apps can show your general compass direction, sometimes with a small position arrow pointing the same way as your phone (e.g. the standard Google Maps app). Urban Scout is a simple app that combines the two: half the screen shows a large, standard compass (with numerical heading display), while the other half shows a Google Maps view.


You have the choice of either a Google Map satellite hybrid view (with roads labeled), or the standard Google Maps roads-only display. The compass at the top shows true north, not magnetic; wish all app makers defaulted to that. Your phone’s GPS will fire up automatically, locating you on the map. The red triangle position marker will be pointed in the same direction your phone is facing, with the faint yellow circle overlay showing the uncertainty in position.


From the menu, you can mark a single position with a blue dot; mark a new position, and the previous marked position disappears. No other functions, like navigation, but it will remember the marked position. You can scroll the map to a different location, but it will slowly scroll back center your current position in the map display. Standard zoom controls (pinch to zoom where supported, otherwise +/- buttons that appear when you tap on the map.



Not a lot in terms of options from Menu/Settings. Toggle between the Satellite Hybrid and Maps mode, and set the default; mark your location; set units (English or metric); turn off the coordinate display bar in between the compass and map to show more of the map (as above).

Other issues: Wish it showed decimal degrees for latitude/longitude; I hate degrees/minutes/seconds.

Final thoughts: Simple limited app, but does the job. I like using it to get a rough feeling for which direction from my current location a landmark lies. One could always wish for additional functions (waypoint marking, navigation), but you can always get those from other apps.

Map Ship Information With MarineTraffic

Application Name: MarineTraffic.Com

Description: View marine ship traffic anywhere in the world; monitor ships; get port information.

Publisher’s website: MarineTrafic

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.0.9.3  /  3-8-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


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

If you live by the water, and want to know what ship is passing by, or if you’re just generally interested in matters nautical, MarineTraffic for Android is a must-have app.


The app starts out with a default view of marine traffic in the Eastern Mediterranean, and not much else on-screen to let you know what to do next. Triangles mark ships in motion, with the “pointy” end showing which way it’s going. Large diamonds indicate anchored/moored ships, while small ones show navigation aids. The colors indicate what kind of ship/craft it is (more on this later). It’s a standard Google Maps interface, so you can pinch to zoom, and pan to different areas.


Zoom out far enough, and you’ll find the grid areas where there’s information for ships; notice it includes Great Lakes and Mississippi River traffic information as well.


Tap on a green grid square, and you’ll be zoomed in closer to that area. You can then zoom in closer to any desired area for more information.


Here’s the entry to New York City’s harbor area; most of the markers are large diamonds, indicating anchored/moored ships. If you tap on the blue moving marker near the bottom …


You’ll bring up multiple options for additional data.


Vessel’s Details brings up full information about the vessel, including size/weight, current speed/position/course, and its schedule. If photos are available, you can view those (also available from the Show Photos option), but you can also upload a picture of your own.



Select Show Track, and see where the ship has been recently; based on the track above, and the schedule in the Details section, I’m guessing this is a sightseeing cruise boat.  Choosing Add To My Fleet “bookmarks” the vessel so that you can find it again.


From the app’s menu, choose Options to get a listing of vessel types and their color codes. You can choose not to show specific types by unchecking the box; additional options include displaying vessel names on the map, and switching to an aerial image instead of a map.


The Ports menu lets you select a world port for more information. Click on the “globe” icon to go to the map view centered on that port; click on the “magnifier” to get details about the port, and recent/upcoming arrivals and departures.

Additional options on the Menu:

  • Vessels – Search for a vessel by name, then find it on the map
  • Near Me – Fires up your GPS, and shows you the view near your location. If you’re outside of a marine area, you’ll just get a black screen.
  • More – Fast access to your My Fleet bookmarks, About the app, and a quick zoom out to a World Map view.
  • Areas – General marine areas by name (e.g. Baltic Sea, Japan, Ligurian Sea, etc.). Tap on a name, and go to that area in the map view; select a green grid square to zoom in closer.

Other issues: None; no problems.

Final thoughts: Pretty much a model of what this kind of data app should be like. Obviously only for those interested in maritime traffic, but if you are, a must-have.

PS There’s an iPhone version as well, and a general mobile website; the main website is also worth a look if you’re at a computer.

HT to Goya Bauwens for alerting me to the app.

Annotate A Google Maps View With DrawMap

Application Name: DrawMap

Description: Capture a view in Google Maps, then draw markers/lines/shapes on it.

Publisher’s website: Young Hoon Park

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.01  /  3-1-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


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

DrawMap lets you annotate a Google Maps view by drawing on it.



Scroll/zoom the Google Maps view to your desired area, then tap capture to save that view as a bitmap image.


The editing screen will pop up. Select the type of annotation you want to create at top; from left to right, they are:


Marker (e.g. like a standard placemark): Tap and hold on the screen, then drag the placemark to your desired location.


Line segments: Tap on multiple locations, and have straight lines drawn between those points.


Freehand line: Drag your finger on the screen to draw a freehand line.


Shapes: Draw a circle, square or line on the map.

You may have noticed that the buttons at the bottom change, depending on what kind of feature you’re drawing.


For markers, choose between three different types.


For line segments, freehand lines and shapes, you can choose the size of the line with the Width control (the three dots of increasing size). To change the size, tap and hold on the box, then drag left/right to decrease/increase size).


All annotation types also let you set the color by tapping on the color wheel button at the bottom.

Two of the annotation types also have toggle switches:

  • Freehand: Toggle between drawing and erase mode. Erase wipes out any drawn features of any type, including markers.
  • Shapes: Toggle between circles, rectangles and lines.


Once you’re done, tap on the disk icon to save the image; you’ll see the name of the file and the save location at top. You’ll also have the option to share it immediately with other locations/services like email, Facebook, Dropbox, etc..

Other issues: An undo button would be an enormous help; as is, your only option to undo a feature is to erase it manually. A text box option would also be a really useful feature; handwriting text on the map is a pain. It would also be nice to have additional map options (terrain, satellite view).

Final thoughts: If it had a text option, it would be almost perfect, and hopefully that will be added soon. As is, it’s still the best Android map annotation program I’ve seen.

Graphic Local Elevation Displays With AltitudeProfiler

Application Name: AltitudeProfiler

Description: Displays elevation profile graph in one compass direction, graphic display in all directions.

Publisher’s website: AndroidPit

Cost: Free, but with daily data limit; paid version gives you data priority, and supports the program.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.02  /  2-28-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


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

Altitude Profiler downloads local elevation data, and plots/displays it in several different ways.


Main screen displays local coordinate data and heading at the top. In the data box are:

  • True heading (not magnetic – yay!)
  • Magnetic declination at your location (?N)
  • The pitch angle and percentage slope (“/”); lay the phone flat on a surface to get its slope.
  • The view rotation angle (“R”), showing the twist angle of the phone
  • Latitude, longitude and elevation at your current location.

The slider sets the distance over which elevation data will be downloaded and displayed. Default is 6 km, and unless you have a really good reason, you should leave it there, or set it even lower. While the app lets you select a distance up to 200 km, this will involve downloading lots of data, and the app developer is paying for this (not to mention your own data download time and costs).

The 6 buttons in the lower part access various data and function screens.


The first button shows you the elevation profile in the direction you’re facing, for the specified distance. Green vertical lines marked the locations of highest and lowest elevation in the profile.Your current position is plotted in a Google Maps view in the lower half. Move the slider to the right …


… and the map scrolls to the corresponding position. Markers are plotted every 1 km.


The second button brings up a 360-degree graphic representation of slopes in every direction; the display rotates with your heading. Reddish colors are up-slope, while greens are down, and the intensity reflects the steepness of the slope.


The third button brings up this odd display, sort of similar to the previous one in intent. Here, it’s displaying the “difficulty of travel” in every direction; the fastest way to travel is to move in the direction with the minimal amount of yellow overlay (here, W is the easiest path, with SE a close second).


Fourth button brings up an augmented reality view, with an airplane-like HUD overlaying a camera view (which you can’t see due to the limitations of screenshots). Heading, roll and pitch are displayed. IMO, the least successful and useful screen.


Fifth button brings up a Google Maps view, with your current location plotted as the starting point. Scroll the map in any direction …


… and see a line of points plotted from your original location to a new one. Press the middle button at the bottom (the square with the zig-zag in it) …


… and see the elevation profile over that plotted line of points.


If you scroll the map to another point, and press the “select” button at the bottom, the center of the map will be designated as the start of a new elevation profile, and marked in red; just scroll the map again to set the end point. This way, you can find elevation profiles anywhere, not just from your current location. Pressing the “GPS” button will bring up back to your current location.


Final button brings up a panel to turn the GPS on/off (toggle the top button), and set the distance units to miles or km (toggle the bottom button).

Other issues: Lot of mixed comments on the Android Market on this app; some people complain about its interface, while others couldn’t get it to work. I didn’t have any issues with the interface, and it worked fine on my Droid X running Froyo.

Final thoughts: I reviewed an app called Elevation and Sea Depth a while back that offered similar functionality. While AltitudeProfiler doesn’t do sea depths, it offers a better display and more options for terrestrial elevation profiles. Unless you absolutely need the sea depth data, I’d recommend AltitudeProfiler as the superior app.

GeoCam – Additional Features

Yesterday’s review of the Android app GeoCam  concentrated on its main features, measuring/recording position and orientation info. But it has a few cool additional features as well.


In the lower right hand corner of the main display are flag and map icons. Tap on the flag …


… and enter a name for that location; the position is now stored under that name.


Go to the Geo tab of the Settings section, and tap on the multi-flag icon to get options for your saved “flags”.


“View on Maps” displays the flag markers in a Google Maps view; you also get this by tapping on the Map icon on the main screen.


Tap on a flag to get its name.


The “View List” option lets you see all your saved flags; a long press on any item in the list brings up the option to delete them. The single flag listing in settings has the same function as the Flag icon on the main screen, to give you the option to record your current position.


Where it gets really cool is that if you point your phone in the general direction of a flag, you’ll see its name and distance on the augmented reality (AR) display (note: you’d normally see the camera view as well, but screenshots can’t capture camera views, so you just see a gray background above).


Under the “Geo” tab in settings, there’s also a compass icon; tap on that, and get options to measure distance and height. Unlike apps such as Smart Measure, which require that the object you’re measuring be on a plain, level surface at the same elevation as you, GeoCam uses GPS position data to get distance and height by triangulation. For distance, select the option, center the object in your display, and tap the display center. Then shift over sideways as long a distance as you can, center the object again, and tap the center. GeoCam uses the two GPS positions, and the two orientations of the phone when pointing at the object, to estimate the distance from the midpoint of the measurements to the object by triangulation.

The accuracy will depend strongly on how precisely you center the object, how far apart the two measurements are made, how far away the object is, and what your current GPS error is; the app won’t let you make this measurement if GPS error is larger than 10m. At short distances on level surfaces, Smart Measure is much more accurate, but its accuracy decreases rapidly as the object gets further away, and doesn’t work well at all on uneven surfaces. I tried multiple distance measurements with GeoCam, and with care you can get accuracy to within 5% or less of the actual value for objects about 50 meters or further away.

Once you have a distance to an object, you can use GeoCam’s Height function to roughly measure how tall it is from base to top. Select the Height option and enter the distance to the object in meters. You’ll then be prompted to point first to the base of the object and tap the screen, then the top of the object and tap; from the distance and angle info, GeoCam will calculate height. Didn’t try this too many times, and didn’t have good height info for my test objects in any case, but the values were at least within the ballpark of what I would have expected.

The author keeps adding new features, so it will be tough to keep this review up to date. One promised new feature will be the ability to export the flag positions as a KML file for use in Google Earth. But I’d love to see an import option for KML or GPX waypoints, so that you can load them in for use in the augmented reality mode. The ability to add a flag marker with a long press on the Google Maps view could also be useful.

In any case, given the current price (free), this is a must-have app, and the paid version is definitely worth a look as well.

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.

Identify The Peaks In Your Area – New (And Not As Good) School

Application Name: Peak.AR

Description: Maps peaks close to you, and identifies them in an augmented reality view.

Publisher’s website: Peak.Ar

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0.2  /  12-5-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2


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

So yesterday, I reviewed the older version of Peak.AR, a really cool app that identifies hill/mountain peaks in an augmented reality (AR) view. Today, I’m looking at the newer version, or more specifically why you should get the older version and skip the newer one.


Figure 1: The older version displays all the peaks in all directions …


Figure 2: … while the new one only displays peaks in the direction the phone is pointed. It also only displays those peaks within a specified distance range, and has oddball range circles beyond that point that change as you change the direction you’re pointing.


Figure 3: You set the distance range with a hidden control at right, that pops up when you tap there. Drag to change the distance range at which peaks are displayed; you have no control over the distance ranges, but have to use the presets.


Figure 4: In augmented reality mode, the older version had a slider that let you set the distance range for viewing peaks. The maximum number of peaks visible in AR view is 10, so it filtered out smaller/less-visible peaks to get the displayed peak number down to no more than 10. It also had a “radar” view that showed the direction you’re pointing, as well as the peak positions in all directions. Note: my screenshot app doesn’t show the camera view; in real life, you’d see the peaks superimposed on the actual camera display.


Figure 5: The new version of Peak.AR only displays peaks within the distance range you’ve set, but doesn’t show what that distance range is; you have to tap on the right side again to bring up that control and see what the distance range is. In principle, this will let you identify any peak you can see, just by changing the distance range until it shows up in the AR view. In practice, this is a pain in the neck to use. You’re also most likely only interested in the most prominent peaks, and this approach makes those more difficult to identify. The radar view is also sorely missed. Finally, peaks have a tendency to disappear/appear from view with even a small 1-2 degree shift in your phone’s orientation.

Other issues: None.

Final thoughts:

I strongly urge you to try the older version of Peak.AR first – it’s a lot simpler to use, and works a lot better IMO. You can then try updating the newer version, to see if you like it. But I’m guessing that you’ll quickly uninstall the new version, and go back to the old one when you get a chance.

Identify The Peaks In Your Area – Old School

Application Name: Peak.AR (older version)

Description: Maps peaks close to you, and identifies them in an augmented reality view.

Publisher’s website: Peak.Ar

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.04  /  12-5-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

Old version no longer available on Android Market, but you can download the .apk file for the old version from the Peak.Ar FAQ page, and install it directly on your phone. Just don’t update it unless you really want the new version (and I don’t think you do).

This is going to be a bit odd – I’ll be reviewing the same app twice over the next few days. Today’s review is of the older version of Peak.AR, which is no longer on the Android Market, but the .apk program file for this older version. can be downloaded and installed directly on most Android phones as long as you have Unknown sources enabled in the Applications setting for your phone. Why review two versions? Because I really like the old one, and have some reservations about the new one.


Figure 1: Start up the Peak.AR app, and it gets your GPS location, loads in a database of local peaks, and plots those peaks in a Google Maps interface that you can scroll through; the compass at upper left points towards true north.


Figure 2: Tap on a peak in the map view, and get an info page with the name, location, height and distance.


Figure 3: The real magic happens when you hold the phone horizontally; the locations of peaks are plotted in an augmented reality (AR) camera view, so you can line up the peaks with the actual view (which the screen capture can’t show). The slider at the bottom lets you set the distance range for viewing peaks. The radar at lower left shows the direction you’re pointing in, and the number of peaks within the distance range you’ve set. The app only shows a maximum of 10 peaks in the view to keep the app from slowing down too much, and filters out shorter/less-visible peaks from the AR view to keep within that limit of 10. Tap on a peak in the AR view, and you’ll get an info page like the one in Figure 2.

Figure 4: Here’s a screen shot from the web app page, with the camera view visible, to give you a feeling for how it actually looks.

Other issues: Earlier versions used magnetic north instead of true north, which could result in a considerable misalignment of the labeled peak with the true peak in the augmented reality view. The final release of the older version seems to have fixed that.

Final thoughts:

This older version of Peak.AR is two tons of awesome in a one-ton bag; a must-have app for showing off what your Android phone can do. Oh yeah, there’s also an iPhone version available.