Do a search for any sort of app for your phone, and you’re likely to be bombarded with dozens of seemingly similar options, priced from FREE! to a couple of bucks or more. Which do you choose? Some free apps are better than paid apps. Some have been downloaded a jillion times, but that’s not always an indicator of usefulness. The Zippo, beer mug, and burping apps are all proof of that. Is five stars from a handful of reviewers better than three stars from hundreds of viewers? Yeah, it’s a pain. So I’ll cut to the chase, and make things a little easier for you for at least one app. I watched a demo of the ViewRanger app at Outdoor retailer, and came away quite impressed.
Sure, there are plenty of choices for GPS and navigation on your phone. But ViewRanger is packed full of actual useful features, and integrates trip planning with photo sharing and social networking, plus it’s highly customizable. Yes, we do love that word, and not just because it’s a cheap shot at Apple. The ViewRanger app is available for Android, Apple, and Symbian OS platforms, and it allows you to add open source web maps, (at any time, not just when tethered to a PC) and even makes the maps accessible when you have no cellular signal. There are expert guided maps available for purchase, as well as a search and locate feature for geocaching fans. It’s got something for everyone. After seeing some 30 metrics displayed, along with images taken by other users when you view their shared route, I was hooked. But what really got me was their BuddyBeacon. Register, get a PIN code to share with your friends, and the next time you’re out hiking or mountain biking, you can broadcast your location to selected friends. Group ride? If each person is set up with BuddyBeacon, you can keep track of everyone in real time, right on your phone. With my old club, we’d get spread out a bit, as the faster riders or better climbers went on ahead, and the slower riders brought up the rear. Being able to see where we all were on the trails would have been worth the $4.99 price of the app alone. This feature is already being used for bicycle tours, and our contributing Scoutmaster would like nothing more than to equip each of his scouts with it.
It does so much more too, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Once I’ve spent some time actually getting to know the app, and trying out all the features, I’ll present a full review. If you can’t wait a few more weeks for that, head on over to viewranger.com now. But be warned, it may take you a while to absorb all that they have packed into this powerful outdoor mapping and navigation tool. I know I couldn’t begin to cover them all in one article.