Friday, April 23, 2010

Android App: Crows Flight - Almost the GPS I'm Looking For

To this day, I'm amazed at all the functionality my G1 offers - it's a phone, camera, video recorder, sound recorder, GPS, Internet Portal, flashlight and probably half a dozen other things. And it does many of these things quite well.

One device that I keep feeling it should be able to replace is my Garmin Geko - the low cost, lower power GPS I like to carry while traveling. The Geko is drop dead simple. Two common features I use is toleave waypoints (or manually enter them), and then "navigate back to them" - which is little more than a pointer in the direction of the waypoint and a distance measurement. This simple functionality works great for when I'm exploring a new city. I can drop a waypoint at the hotel or bus stop, and know that no matter what, I can make my way back there.

The G1's mapping is top notch, the turn-by-turn navigation is nothing short of amazing. But, take away the data connection, and work in terms of arbitrary waypoints - not addresses - and the built in mapping software is pretty much useless.

I've tried looking around for other simple GPS apps and haven't had much luck. Until now, I think I've found my Geko replacement. crowsFlight is a simple app to record and navigate you back to waypoints. While it uses a data connection for geocoding addresses, it doesn't seem to require it. And most importantly, there's a Save Current Location option.

I like that it saves past waypoints, and allows you to easily switch between them. Functionality wise, it's dead on.

Alas, the software isn't perfect. The UI doesn't switch automatically into landscape mode when I slide out the keyboard, which means that text input has to be done onscreen. And the choice of fonts make it hard to read the list of destinations. I've also gotten funky readings from the GPS and compass - though I think that has more to do the with G1 itself and not crowsFlight.

All in all, I've been on the lookout for a really simple GPS app for some time and it looks like I finally found one that has just the right number of features. Check it out, and next time you leave your car in the Wal-Mart parking lot, drop a waypoint, and see just how useful this little app can be.

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