By Keene Haywood
Yesterday I reviewed the Everytrail.com website and service that allows users to upload trail information from their GPS, annotating their travels with geotagged pictures, videos, and text. It is a very rich site offering many options for sharing and documenting your backcountry treks. One area where EveryTrail goes further is with their mobile app development. They offer apps for the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry devices. Such an array of options gives just about every smartphone user the opportunity to use Everytrail on the go.
Today I will be looking at the iPhone app, in particular ,which does have many of the same features as the other smartphone apps. But it also has one that is unique to the iPhone, namely the ability to store Guides from the EveryTrail.com website. The EveryTrail app comes in two versions, a free one and a Pro version selling for $3.99 in the iTunes App store. A comparison link of the two versions can be found here.
If you are someone who spends a lot of time documenting your travels, then I would say the Pro version is money well spent. Among other things, the significant features of the Pro app is the ability to geotag video shot on your iPhone (the free app only does photos), sync trips with your account on the EveryTrail.com, download Guides and cache maps for offline use. This latter feature may be worth the $3.99 alone as many of us travel well beyond the reach of cell signals.
The EveryTrail Pro app is very well done. After the splash screen clears, you are offered the chance to search for nearby trails, view any Guides you have purchased or downloaded (Pro only), get some info about EveryTrail features, and, most important, track your trip. Tapping the Home icon on the lower left of the screen takes you back to this screen. The My Map icon at the bottom of the screen takes you to the active mapping screen. Once you start tracking a trip, a notification badge appears on the My Map icon at the bottom of the screen showing you how many unsaved trips you have loaded onto your screen. This helps remind you of any unsaved trips you have actively open. This My Map icon displays the same map view as Track a Trip on the Home screen. Tracking (or viewing) a trip on a map is what EveryTrail is all about and the developers makes this easy.
The My Map view will be where you spend most of your time in EveryTrail while in use. Depending on cell coverage, the app will use the GPS signal exclusively in areas of no cell coverage (it may take a little longer to get a fix), or triangulate position with both the GPS and cell signal if the iPhone can find one. This is known as assisted-gps. A small satellite icon up at the top of the screen next to the time will show you gps signal strength, a nice touch. Below is a forest green bar and a layers icon that allows you to toggle on and off different trail tracks you have downloaded or created over the map. Below this is a Details button, where you have all the metadata for your trip. It even can tell you stats such as distance, average speed, elevation and trip duration. This is also where you can add the storyline for your trip and other details. The Map button gives you the main map and finally the POIs button gives you a list of POIs found along the trail you have loaded up.
The mapping screen itself is where all the fun happens and offers a wealth of viewing options. Icons at the lower part of the map screen (above the menu bar at the very bottom) and at the top of the map screen give you access to these. Here is a rundown of the icons for the Map screen to better help you navigate this key area:
- Beginning at the upper left is an icon to expand the map to full screen viewing, hiding all icons and just showing the map and your location.
- When tracking an active trip, a photo icon appears next to the full screen icon and is key to accessing the camera on your iPhone where you can take video or pictures without leaving the app. The images are then geotagged and can be annotated on the fly if you so desire. This is all done very smoothly in the app.
- Arrow icons on the upper right move you between waypoints or Points of Interest (POI) you have either saved or loaded onto the map.
- At the lower left is an icon that can center your location in the middle of the map and another one to activate the iPhone’s compass showing you which direction is North, while also turning map as you move about the compass axis.
- At the center of the bottom of the map is the start tracking icon button which becomes resume and finish buttons once you start a trip, allowing you to pick up where you left off if you pause tracking or stop tracking and save the trip. A key feature here to conserve battery power is use of the iPhone’s proximity sensor. So you can turn on the app, track a trip but keep the phone in a pocket and it will turn off the display and keep on tracking, saving valuable battery juice.
- And finally, there is a little options icon at the lower right. Tapping this, brings up a menu to delete a trip or just remove it from the visible map. You can also select the type of map you want to use, such as satellite, terrain, etc. A unique feature is the ability to select Midnight as a mapping viewing option. This helps you use the map display in darker environments or night hikes. This is a nice, helpful touch. This is also the menu where you can add a waypoint, delete a trip, just remove a trip from the map or get directions back to the start of the trail.
Once a trip is loaded up on this screen you can tap on POIs (or waypoints), view pictures and video in full screen, access annotations and of course see the trail winding across your map view on the iPhone screen.
Keep in mind that you do not have to track your own trips. Instead, you can download other people’s trips (free) or use the more detailed Guides (purchase only) and follow their trails with images and annotations as well. But the real fun is in creating your own trips.
The icons at the bottom of the screen in addition to the Home Screen and My Map buttons include Search, Saved for any save trips you have on your device (including Guides, Drafts, Favorites and your own trips). You can sort Saved trips by date, length and proximity as well. Select a trip and you will be given the option to add it to your map view under the My Map icon. Lastly, there is the More button. This will bring up options further configuring on the app. You should spend some time looking at the Settings options. Here you will find tweaks to the camera, GPS, units of measure, your account including where you can hook into your Twitter, Facebook and YouTube social networks and more.
Once you are done with tracking a trip, you can save it and then upload it to your EveryTrail account where you can share it with the world or just yourself. You are given the option to make the trip private if you so desire before uploading. You will need a cell or wifi connection to do this so it might be a task for when you return to civilization. The Pro version can also sync any other trips you have stored at EveryTrail.com allowing you to access any trip you have saved.
So there you have it. EveryTrail Pro for the iPhone. It is a great mapping application and has been thoughtfully designed and implemented. The app has evolved rapidly over the past year or so and is now my go to app for mapping with my iPhone. Whether you choose to share your trips or not, its a great way to capture this information without much fuss. Just remember that using the GPS like this on your phone will consume battery power, so be prepared with an extra battery pack or use your phone judiciously. The iPhone GPS is not as sensitive as a dedicated GPS unit, so some may prefer to use one of these and then uploading your data to the EveryTrail.com website when you get home. But, for those who want the features and convenience this app offers, EveryTrail blazes a path that will be hard for the competition to follow.