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Android apps - your favorites?
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Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 12:45:55 MST Print View

Someone here posted a question about iPhone apps. I just got my first Android phone so thought I would ask about your favorite Android apps for hiking/backpacking/navigating.

This might go in the Dumb Questions category, but: Are some apps battery hogs or data hogs? I want to avoid either scenario. Maybe there will be a way to turn them off and on once downloaded onto my phone.

- Elizabeth

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 13:07:17 MST Print View

I have yet to find an Android app I love with offline maps. Google Maps would be brilliant if they'd allow you to cache more map tiles for offline use. MapsDroyd works alright. Probably the best of the bunch.

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Orux maps on 01/05/2012 13:17:16 MST Print View

I like Orux Maps, but that's partly because I live where no topo maps are available so I like the ability to work with OSM and Google Earth offline.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 13:18:55 MST Print View

I use View Ranger for offline maps and its very good.
It is a shame Google maps cannot be cached.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 13:54:18 MST Print View

They can be cached, but just 100 square miles. Enable it in google maps by to menu, settings, and then going to labs and turning on caching.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Re: Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 13:57:16 MST Print View

Good man Ben :-)

Have enabled it.

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 14:01:01 MST Print View

I have been pretty happy with Backcountry Navigator

The thing is that some phones' GPS works really poorly offline, so if you are looking for tracking capabilities, make sure you check the GPS chipset before purchasing a phone.

Ultra Magnus
(Ultra_Magnus) - F
Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 15:10:38 MST Print View

And yes, some phones are terrible battery hogs. My Nexus S eats milli-amps like mad when there's anything running (like playing games). Sitting in the can playing a few rounds of Jelly Defense drains like half my battery life. Turn off everything except the gps (wifi, blutooth, sync, gsm, etc) to get the most out of your battery. But as bad as Android battery life can be, one of it's great features is nothing short of revolutionary- a replaceable battery! (sarcasm intended) But in all seriousness, you can purchase high capacity 3rd party batteries for some phones, or just have a few charged spare batteries to take along. You can also look at the AA battery boosters, like from Goal Zero, Brunton, or a diy kit like the minty boost.


Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Gaia on 01/05/2012 15:43:28 MST Print View

People seem to like this gps app a lot. I have yet to use it.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 16:11:24 MST Print View

All modern phones are battery hogs. That's the nature of the beast.
As for whether they are always battery hogs, they don't have to be. Most phones' GPS units work with the phone in airplane mode, so if you've got an offline map program you can significantly reduce battery consumption in the backwoods by putting your phone in airplane mode. There's not likely to be signal back there anyway, and your battery is going to be sucked dry looking for signal.

Christopher Yi
(TRAUMAhead) - F

Locale: Cen Cal
Re: Re: Re: Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 16:41:09 MST Print View

Angry Birds.

J/k. Currently using a DROID X. I've only tried the trial versions of Gaia, BC Navigator, Locus, and a few others, and ended up buying the Pro version of Locus. Easy to cache maps, multiple maps, easy UI. With the DX, the GPS doesn't work in airplane mode, so I use the Extended Controls widget for quick on/off airplane mode/gps/sound/ etc. My friend has a Garmin loaded with 24k maps, so its rare for me to use the DX for nav.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 01/05/2012 17:59:13 MST Print View

I have found "GPS Essentials" to be a pretty good GPS app on the Droid 2.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Android apps - your favorites? on 01/05/2012 17:59:16 MST Print View

Endomondo. But talk about a battery hog.

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Android on 01/05/2012 22:12:58 MST Print View

Engaging the GPS chipset itself uses a lot of power, so that is where the "battery hog" idea comes from. Anything with constant GPS lock will kill it right quick. My old Iphone 3G could not charge fast enough when plugged in to keep up with GPS usage & screen. My Android is better in that respect, but still dies quickly with GPS.

"Battery hog" is really not the right description though. Those lightweight li-ion batteries have a tiny, tiny capacity considering what the phone is doing. It's a miracle of power-saving engineering that they last as long as they do.

As for the original question... Backcountry Navigator is my favourite outdoors GPS app, and I've actually paid for just about all of them, including Gaia. Gaia is more annoying to use and lacks some features, and doesn't scroll the map smoothly.
IMO the most useful app for the backcountry is Google Books, just to kill camp hours. The app seems to be seriously light on battery

Edited by dasbin on 01/05/2012 22:15:14 MST.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Bluetooth Power Drain vs GPS on 01/06/2012 10:38:15 MST Print View

I have a Bluetooth GPS I got years ago to use with my Nokia N95 as the GPS chip was crap, it uses two AAA's and last about 16 hours.

I am wondering would bluetooth use less power than on board GPS?

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
...and for on-street navigation on 01/06/2012 11:24:00 MST Print View

Lots of useful talk here about gps & mapping programs for backcountry, thanks.

I'm suspecting I'll need navigation more for on-street, specifically for road-biking. I like to go bike touring, or sometimes just need to bike-commute to a meeting in an unfamiliar area, and wonder if I can somehow use Google Maps for bikes. I am impressed with the bike-route suggestions that Google Maps comes up with, they're pretty on-target.

- Elizabeth

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Re: ...and for on-street navigation on 01/06/2012 12:08:39 MST Print View

If you like google maps bike navigation you can just do directions, change to bike, then navigate. It will start navigating you where you want to go. I use it in the car exclusively now, much smarter than Garmin GPS.

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Biking on 01/06/2012 14:14:45 MST Print View

Google Navigate or Maps does need a constant data connection though.

If you don't have one, I like Navigon a lot. It has a bike option. I used it to find my way biking around Europe.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
What kind of trips? on 01/06/2012 14:18:48 MST Print View

What kind of backcountry trips do you want apps for?

For me it's more about being out quite a number of days (or more), so the mix of apps I focus on changes. Please take the below thoughts in that context, as apps that I'm interested for backpacking trips include some standard in-city type apps.

For example, on the CDT this year I found that Facebook was the way that current-year hikers best stayed in contact with each other, so I've got their android app installed. Having some newspapers that I like to read was nice in town. I don't know what's best there; I've got my local city paper plus BBC News and USA Today. The former is a pretty cool newspaper app. The latter I wouldn't normally read, but the app is pretty easy to use.

A good camera app is ideal. Turns out that the camera app that came by default with my Droid X was buggier than I had expected. I've started using Camera ZOOM FX, but haven't used it enough to know how much I'll like it yet.

Good app(s) or sites for weather forecasts is a good thing.

In terms of battery life, I like an app called Battery Indicator.

I suggest that you get Switchpro or something like it. In any event, I strongly suggest that you have a place at the far lower left or right of your screen that you can touch when you've inadvertently left set your screen brightness to 'low' the night before and now you can't see the screen at all in bright sunlight. Knowing by heart just where to push to make the screen brighter can be quite helpful.

Switchpro is worth the money, though, just to have a very easy and configurable way to control which services are eating battery life. So for example, I can turn on airplane mode without turning off wi-fi, or of course turn off wi-fi separately too --- everything is right there, including bluetooth, GPS, and screen orientation.

A good wi-fi finding app can be helpful in trail towns where you have poor or no cell service (or perhaps even where you have great service depending on your cell service plan details). I don't know what's "best", but I've got Wifi Analyzer.

I like having a voice recorder app handy. I've had good luck with VirtualRecorder, never a problem with it after lots and lots of use, but others might be as good or better, dunno.

I ultimately installed the Kindle app when I found the eBook version of a guidebook via that I wanted to take along on a trip, otherwise I use Aldiko.

I do use Gaia GPS, but have limited experience with it. I too have found it a little frustrating to work with, but that might just be me not yet having spent the time to really get to know it (?).

I have no idea if or how well these really work to limit battery drain, but FWIW I have installed both JuiceDefender and NoBars. In the latter case, I tend to explicitly turn my cell phone reception off anyway, so this might just be of more help to me "in town".

Consider something like Skype if you anticipate being somewhere that wi-fi is available but cell service is not (it happens). Or if you have overseas friends, or if your particular cell plan has limited minutes, or ...
At least for Verizon customers, take care not to use the Verizon-installed version of Skype, I would (and did) download the one from the google android market and use that.

I use an app called Reduce Photo Size for situations where I want to upload photos on the trail or in a trail town and don't have a particularly fast internet connection of whatever sort.

If your RAM space is limited, I suggest apps such as DiskUsage and App 2 SD (I use both of them on my newer, more limited phone).

Apologies if few of the above relate to the sort of backcountry use you're interested in.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 01/06/2012 14:46:14 MST Print View

"At least for Verizon customers, take care not to use the Verizon-installed version of Skype"