- Created on 22 September 2009
A lot of smartphones are under utilised by their owners and navigation software appears to be the least known, but potentially useful addition to any mobile phones repertoire. Despite TomTom's withdrawal of their automotive navigation software for Symbian OS there are still numerous navigation softwares including both free and commercial packages with varying degrees of functionality. However, none as far as we are aware offer as much detail as that provided by Viewranger.
Viewranger mapping software, unlike the majority of navigation software is aimed firmly at the outdoor and active lifestyle and provides very detailed maps for ramblers, cyclists or horse riders rather than automotive navigation. The level of detail in the map data is equal to that of OS maps and combined with a GPS (either external or internal if available) allows navigation across almost any terrain. Since the maps are also located on the phone's memory itself there is also no requirement for a phone signal or data connection in order to update the maps as you travel. It would almost be impossible to get lost using the software which provides full location information for your location in any chosen format (grid reference, UTM etc,)
The standard view of the interface is of the map and as with other mapping software a number of hot keys allow easy navigation around the map and zooming in and out to locate specific points of interest (POIs). In addition there a 3D panorama option that (as the name suggests) provides a full graphical representation of the expected panorama at any given location and labels relevant POIs in order to allow correct orientation.
Coupled with a GPS the software is truly excellent, instant moving to your position in relation to your maps as well as providing the same information to anyone in your buddy list or indeed anyone following you on the web through the Viewranger Buddy Beacon application.
If you intend to follow a specific route this can be programmed and edited directly on the phone, or routes can be imported as GPX or LOC files. In addition custom POI dataases can also be imported. Should you wish to share any of your own planned routes you can also export these as GPX files to friends or acquaintances. If you are a serious walker, Viewranger even monitors progress along your route and provides a tracklog which records length of route, time taken etc. and these records can then be viewed graphically on screen.
The Viewranger is extremely well integrated with the Symbian operating system and it is possible to take images and videos through the software, each of which is bookmarked to your specific location. All multimedia can be shared via the ViewRanger online Information Exchange which allows public access to peoples photos and allows greater accessibility to routes and locations of interest.
We tested the software on a Nokia N95 8GB and can honestly say we loved the software. As avid walkers we have spent many a day spending far too much time looking at maps rather than at the surrounding scenery. The ability to take photos linked to coordinates is a fantastic feature especially if tend to try numerous routes when visiting new areas, so that you can always revisit places you enjoy, or encourage others to visit areas you particularly enjoy.
Although not necessarily cheap, Viewranger can be purchased in a variety of ways to suit any budget either as selected regions or counties or as whole countries with the prices increasing accordingly (£48.93 - £146.80 respectively as the time of writing), however this is in line the cost of the majority of mapping and navigation systems available which in general do not give anywhere near the same level of detail or functionality since they are aimed at automotive navigation. In addition the software has excellent support via dedicated email, telephone and Skype channels, a dedicated wiki site detailing solutions for almost every eventuality.
If you enjoy spending time outdoors whether with the family, cycling, riding etc. Viewranger will certainly fit the bill and utilising your smartphone rather than purchasing a dedicated standalone GPS receiver will certainly save you money and also provide a great number of innovative features for your money.