The iPhone is quickly becoming an indispensable travel tool, replacing the need to carry several gadgets every time you go on a trip. On the Travel Gear Blog we’re going to outline some of the ways you can turn your iPhone into the ideal piece of travel gear.
If you don’t necessarily need a more complicated GPS app on your iPhone but you like to know roughly in what direction you’re going at all times, then a simpler compass app will do. Some of the apps on this list are multi-taskers of their own – combining the features of a compass with things like GPS tracking or a picture frame – but if all you need is a basic compass, there are options for that, too.
Compass Apps for the iPhone
Handy GPS and Compass
The Handy GPS and Compass app is a decent combination of two things you may bring with you when you travel anyway – neither the compass nor the GPS function is as robust as some of the apps that are stand-alone one or the other, but if all you need is a “lite” version of both then getting them in one combo-app is (as the name says) handy. The app lets you check your latitude, longitude, altitude, and location on a map, in addition to the direction you’re going. What’s more, you can send an email to anyone you like with your current location marked.
3D Compass Pro
The 3D Compass Pro app (which only works on the iPhone 3GS) is mesmerizing enough that you might just play with it even if you don’t care which direction you’re pointing. The 3D representation of the compass rotates around to point to Magnetic North, no matter which way you hold your iPhone. It’s a simple app, but elegantly executed.
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nCompass GPS – Picture Frame Compass
The nCompass GPS app (only designed for the GPS-enabled iPhone 3G/3GS) is a fairly simple compass app, although it does incorporate a couple nice features that the flashier 3D compass doesn’t have. You can view the compass in a few different ways – one of them shows you both the compass and a map of where you are, so you can better use it to navigate, and another one uses photos from your own gallery to fill the circle in the center of the compass (too cute). Another neat feature is that you can set the compass to show Magnetic North, True North, or what they call “Custom North” – you set it to point to anything you want (your house, your hotel, your best friend’s house, the Eiffel Tower, whatever), and it’ll always tell you which direction it’s in.
The Digital Compass app is one of the cheapest compass apps on this list, but it comes with a few restrictions. The first is a standard one with the compass apps – it only works on the iPhone 3G, because it’s using the iPhone’s built-in GPS system. The others may make this app less than ideal for your circumstances (which is one reason it’s good there are so many compass apps to choose from!) – the Digital Compass app only works when you’re outdoors, and in order to have the ap show you a map you have to be moving. What the app shows you, however, is quite good for only a buck – you get your course (in degrees), latitude, longitude, altitude, the speed you’re going, and the horizontal and vertical accuracy.
This is the most basic of compass apps on this list – so it’s only right it has the most basic name, no? One nice thing about the Compass app is that it’ll work on any iPhone and even on the iPod Touch – but that’s because you have to align it with the sun in order to determine your direction. As long as you can see the sun and you know what time it is (which you will, because your phone will tell you), then you can figure out which way you’re going. It’s basic, yes, but that’s not a bad thing if you only have an iPod Touch, a non-3G iPhone, or you’re training a troop of Boy Scouts to fend for themselves.