Finally, a topographical map app!!!

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by diesel, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. diesel macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #1
    With the plethora of marine navigation and aero maps, I've been wondering when a topographical map app would come out. As an avid hiker and mountaineer, i've been wanting such an app for a long time to use in the backcountry as an additional tool along with traditional map and compass. Well, I came across a new app that was released today, TopoPointUSA. It allows you to download and save USGS topo maps for offline viewing and also will display your current gps location against those maps. Perfect to get a quick fix on your location and a bearing to another. It is a bit pricey at $9.99 however if you spend any quality time in the backcountry this would be a really useful app. I can't wait to give this app a test drive on a midnight hike tomorrow.

    http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=307561619&mt=8
     
  2. Luminator macrumors member

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    Jul 24, 2008
    #2
    Sorry, but this was a major disappoint for me and a waste of $10. The fact that you can't zoom in and out of these maps make them pretty useless. No track, no compass and no frills. MotionX has far more functionality than this app does and it cost less.
     
  3. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    for me, i don't need to record tracks or have some kind of virtual compass. in the backcountry, I have my suunto x10 watch to record tracks as well as a compass. besides, i personally would never use my iphone to record tracks, you would run out of juice in several hours. I also have the motionx gps, however unless you are recording your track actively, it is somewhat useless in the backcountry since you will have no data signal most likely and the space between 2 set waypoints would simply be empty with no indication of terrain. Without data, your location displayed within motionx is useless. With this app, not only will you know the terrain between two set waypoints, but you should also be able to navigate back to a set waypoint. Not to mention, if you want a quick fix on your current location, this works great.

    Topo maps could cost upwards of $10-$15 for a region and topo software for a state can cost upwards of $100+ so this was a small price to pay to be able to have virtually unlimited topo map downloads of any region to the iphone. What I do wish this app would allow me to do is upload tracks (trails) to it so that i can see how far off the beaten path i've wandered. However not a big deal since in the backcountry, knowing where one is, is simply the most important factor to getting back out safely.
     
  4. nickph17 macrumors newbie

    nickph17

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    Jan 29, 2008
    #4
    Topo Symbols

    I have not downloaded the app in question but my partner and I just released an app that has the entire directory of map symbols for the USGS topo quad maps. We use these maps all the time and we are constantly trying to figure out what that "squiggly" line is or those "weird green dots." Its called USGS Topo Symbols and it is in the app store now.

    We intend on adding some additional functionality down the line.
     
  5. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #5
    looks like another topo app was just released, Topo Maps:

    http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=306014271&mt=8

    I don't think i will be giving this app a try, apparently there is only one screen shot and i'm not one to purchase apps based on a single screenshot. Also, based on the description, looks like this app has the same limitations as the other one, i.e. no track recording, no compass, etc.
     
  6. Luminator macrumors member

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    Jul 24, 2008
    #6
    The big difference in this one is the ability to zoom. You can't seriously believe that you can get accurate location on the map without this ability.
     
  7. SFC Archer macrumors 68000

    SFC Archer

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    Nov 9, 2007
    Location:
    Troy, MT
    #7
    Diesel...just wanted to drop a thank you for posting about the original app you first talked about. I would never have seen it and have been waiting forever and a day to see something along these lines.

    I hunt, fish, hike and camp and wanted an emergency topo map with GPS capability and to acquire a quick fix location. So many people do not know how to use a map and compass and rely on GPS which can die...watch Survivorman and his GPS died over night cause he left it on. Others have no clue how to do resection or intersection to locate themselves and so would not even benefit from having a regular map.

    The downside is I own tons of topo maps but some are very old and with having a fresh data base to validate before departure could make a difference.

    I have not downloaded yet because I think the cost will go down so it is sniped. The new release today as you stated does look very limited so will stay with your first unless a better one comes along.

    Thanks again
     
  8. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8

    Most USGS topo maps are rendered at a scale of 1:24000 so i'm not sure what you mean by more accurate by being able to zoom. You won't get any more accurate then what the source map scale allows for. And 1:24000 is plenty accurate by which to navigate by. "zooming" electronically will in no way increase "accuracy" as you so put it.
     
  9. SFC Archer macrumors 68000

    SFC Archer

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    #9
    ...I also have to add that if you do zoom in then you loose the ability to see the terrain in its full usable ability. You could zoom down between two contour lines and know what? A topo must be used in its full size state to be effective in using it to analyze terrain and figure where your are at/going. A topo map is not a road/street map. The terrain symbols/contours are the road signs and need to be seen at a distance to see the lay of the land.

    I have to agree with Diesel
     
  10. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #10

    No problem, i'm going on a midnight hike tonight so i'm anxious to give this app a try in the wild!!!

    As with you, i will always depend on map and compass in the backcountry, however it's always good to have an extra tool like the iphone, and with gps, i've been waiting for some portable topo map goodness to come out. This should definitely help next winter season when i'm out snowshoeing and i'm caught in a snowstorm with whiteout conditions and not able to see any trail markers. One can never be over prepared!!!
     
  11. ToddAS macrumors newbie

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    Mar 13, 2009
    #11
    Topo Maps web site

    You can find more information and screenshots at the developer's website. I've downloaded the app. It works very well for allowing you to view USGS quadrangles, including zooming in and out. It will also use your GPS or Wi-Fi position to locate you on the map. The app is short of bells and whistles (e.g., waypoints, tracks, etc) at the moment, but it does the fundamental job of displaying quadrangles very well and the developer writes that he plans to add more features in the future.
     
  12. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    ohhh what the heck, i'll buy topo maps app as well and compare the two against each other during tonight's hike!!!
     
  13. Luminator macrumors member

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    Jul 24, 2008
    #13
    Yes you are correct, however I'm thinking more on the lines of setting waypoints and being able visually navigate to them by way of the map. With the ability to zoom in on the waypoint you attain greater accuracy in hitting.
     
  14. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #14

    Quick feedback, not off to a good start with topo maps. it simply gives you a map of the US and you have to "zoom" into the quad that you want to download with absolutely zero points of reference. No ability to search or anything. Needless to say, it's been 10 minutes and i'm still trying to "find" the quad that i want to download but i don't even think i'm in the right state. WTF. Whoever thought of this method, well simply did not have the end user in mind.

    Contrast this with TopoPoint, where you can input a gps coordinate and then download a specified area around the coordinate. Takes only a few seconds whereas topo map.......i'm still trying. So far a waste of money. If i ever manage to find the quad i'm looking for i hope to have more feedback.
     
  15. Celia Clause macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    #15
    Another contender

    It looks like a third Topo map program came out yesterday and it looks like it has a lot better interface and is actually a true hiking app. (www.itopomaps.com)

    1) You can move around and zoom like in google-maps
    2) You have access to all maps immediately, and you just double-tap an area to select it for download, no coordinates or map names required.

    I haven't used it yet, but it looks like it has the function of a garmin (which is a $400 device!)
     
  16. SFC Archer macrumors 68000

    SFC Archer

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    Location:
    Troy, MT
    #16
    That one looks really usable. The web site is brand new but at least it exists and looks clean. There is only one review and nothing listed in the forums of the website yet.

    Will wait for some reviews before I throw down 15 bones.
     
  17. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #17


    ohhhhh crap, looks like another one for me to try. :) though this one looks like it had some thought really put into it. i think i'll give it a try, though the last screenshot which i assume shows maps that you've downloaded seems really stupid in the way the maps are titled and doesn't seem to allow one to retitle them. however i do like the fact that the dev has user forums on his site and seems active in discussing issues with the app.

    by the way sfc archer i'll be providing some feedback on the other two topo map apps shortly, but i do have to let you know that TopoMaps is an utter and complete waste of money. No wonder it was priced so cheaply compared to TopoPointUSA. it's because TopoMaps is junk, plain and simple. Ridiculously difficult to find the map you want to download, extremely long download and install time of maps, and way to unreliable in the field, half the time i tried to take a location check, it would tell me i was off the map, which i know i was not. in any case TopoPointUSA worked well and did what it was supposed to do in the field however looks like i will need to compare TopoPointUSA with this new app.
     
  18. SFC Archer macrumors 68000

    SFC Archer

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    Nov 9, 2007
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    Troy, MT
    #18
    Thanks for the feedback. I am also liking the looks of this new one and you are totally right about the web site. When you have someone that develps a forum and shows genuine interest then it is usually a good sign. I now look at websites and how the dev handles feed back before I buy apps. Have wasted way way way too much money on crappola that have been deleted. Websites will usually tell me what I need to know about the app and how good it will be. Let me know on this new one since 15 bones is quite a bit more then normal but worth it if it does what its suppose to. Sorry you wasted your money on the worthless one.
     
  19. michael.lauden macrumors 68020

    michael.lauden

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    Dec 25, 2008
    #19
    0$ dollars is a good price to pay on Installous - which this App will be on within (or atleast, usually within) the next 2 weeks
    :)
     
  20. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #20
    Some quck feedback on iTopoMaps........this app also suffers from a insanely stupid quad search and download method that TopoMaps also had. That is where you basically scroll around the map until you find the quad you want to download. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack and put quite simply, makes the app incredibly frustrating. I don't know about you but i can't simply "eyeball" a zoomed out map (this app forces you to choose a quad from some zomed out view of a region) trying to find a mountain peak or some other point of interest to download the appropriate quad. not to mention browsing around is slow for the maps to render. I posted on the dev's site with the following suggestions that I feel are a MUST to implement i order for anyone to take this app seriously:

    1) You need to display coordinates in Latitude then Longitude. Your app displays coordinates reversed in Longitude then Latitude which flies against normal conventions. By mucking even something as simple as this up, it gives the impression that you haven't spent much time around gps devices, which in turn doesn't instill a whole lot of confidence in your ability to write gps related apps. every gps device that i have ever owned has displayed Latitude then Longitude. This is a must fix.

    2) Another MUST fix. You need a more efficient way of finding quads to download. Right now, tryng to find a specific quad that might hold a mountain or a point is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You need to have the ability to enter a GPS coordinate (yes in LATITUDE then LONGITUDE) and your app should take you to that location so that the quad and surround quads can all be downloaded. In addition, you should also be allowed to search for the USGS quad name and download appropriately as a secondary method. This will cut the search time for a location down to no time at all. In fact one of the other topo map app programs in the app store allows you to download by gps coordinate and i find this the absolute quickest way to search and find, it literally takes a few seconds whereas the method you force will take me upwards of 15-30 minutes mucking around trying to find the appropriate quad to download for a specific place. BTW, most people will be able to get a gps coordinate from the internet for any place of interest so that should not be a concern.

    3) Allow one to "browse" the map, and while browsing display the map's center gps coordinates in realtime while browsing. once again a competitor app allows this and i find it useful.

    4) In the settings screen under Available Quads, I assume this is where you can access saved quads? you need to name the quads according to the USGS official names and allow users to edit the name appopriately. right now, you just have gps coordinates listed and it's mumble jumble and means nothing to anyone.

    5) You don't allow an easy way for me to access and browse any quads that I have downloaded, i.e. seeing a list of downloaded quads and then selecting one and having your app take me to that location. Instead, have to literally find the region again by browsing through the maps and it's the nightmare of suggestion #2 again with the clumsy way of finding a specific quad.



    I'm in the process of downloading some quads now so i'll have more feedback later, but just to find maps, you have no idea how painful it is. Quite frankly, not worth the $$$ because of just that.
     
  21. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #21
    Well Tracy the dev of itopomaps responded to my suggestions already.

    Suggestions 1-3 are to be implemented in a new release. waiting for feedback on 4-5 as well as timeline for new release.

    I am impressed with the dev's responsiveness. Hopefully she can deliver and if so, this app could be great.
     
  22. CADer macrumors 6502

    CADer

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    Apr 24, 2007
    #22
    So I use to use USGS topos but found most the info to be far out dated and poor quality. Why don't you just use Google Topos?
    I found a great app that the reviews aren't quite giving it justice that gives you google topos (the ones with the shading to better depth perception) it may be more than you are looking for but they are topos - not USGS but topos that are current. GPS Kit is the app and it does let you track your path and record it and export it and even import tracks in case you want to hike in a new area and don't want to take a wrong turn and end up in another town (ok so that only happened once). It does the same with waypoints, import, export, rename. You will even get more info like trip time and length and speed. I use the app extensively for Mt. Biking and hikes I take with my wife and son.
    If you have any other questions on it I would be happy to answer them honestly since I am not the developer nor the developer of any app I will try to be completely unbiased. Just shoot me a PM!
     
  23. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    CADer, yes usgs topo maps are decades old, but mountain tops and ponds and streams don't "move" so for me they work fine. Besides i never go out into the backcountry anyway without printed topo maps, whether they are from the usgs or published trail maps. Besides the usgs maps also show locations of other features such as shelters, mines, swamps & wetlands, etc. which is incredibly useful out in the wild. in my experience they are still relatively accurate despite the age of the maps as you pointed out. Its just a matter of personal preference and i'll stick with usgs topo maps that have been vetted over the decades.

    Now onto GPS Kit......don't get me started. The app is a waste of money. I purchased it not to long after it came out and after using it a few times i removed it from my phone. It would constantly crash on me, the dashboard that i customized would constantly switch back to default settings. in fact i even wrote the developer about the problem and he said he would fix it and then waited for the next release, and it was't fixed in the next release so i gave up. Also, i found the timer thing that always ran in the background retarded to say the least. It made no sense to me. it served no real purpose. however it seems as if the app has had a major release and some nice new features, though i probably won't ever use it again.

    in any case you should check out motionx gps, a much better designed app that i bought to replace gps kit. it really kicks gps kit's butt and motionx gps also has topo maps that you can cache for offline viewing. Though, motionx gps doesn't use google topo maps which is a source of angst for me. In any case, i don't ever use it in the backcountry. as mentioned in a previous post, if i'm hiking or climbing, i'm usually at it for 5-8 hours and the iphone simply doesn't have enough juice. not to mention i don't want to keep my iphone in a location that will ensure a good gps signal. that's what my suunto gps watch is for.

    i'm simply looking for an app utilizing usgs topo maps, that will display my position within the usgs topo map and allow me to set waypoints. that's it. plain and simple.
     
  24. CADer macrumors 6502

    CADer

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    Apr 24, 2007
    #24
    I totally get your anger toward GPS Kit since it was heck'a buggy in it's infancy. and I have motionX GPS also but do not waste my time with that since I can't even upload trails or waypoints. I keep loading that and GPS Trails but to no avail I just like how well GPS Kit works don't get me wrong it was super buggy like I said but so is about every first release in the app store.

    Between GPS Kit, motionX, and GPS Trails -

    MotionX to me is the worst - the way it wastes screen space and make you click left or right several time to get the the screen you want is just annoying.

    GPS Trail has some awesome features I want like the Altitude Graph but it also wastes a lot of screen space for its "dashboard" and yes you can click the dashboard and it hides some of it but still a waste of screen space - and they way that GPS trails uploads track is kinda lame at this point.

    GPS kit yes has had its downfalls but in its current 3.0 phase I find it to be near perfect - I have reported a bug to them but it is the same bug in GPS Trails as well (no MotionX does not have the bug but only because the bug is when uploading tracks and MotionX does not have that feature) simple navigation control in GPS Kit and is current the only one that you can view a trail and see your current location at the same time - tho GPS Trails has said he is adding that function. so by all means MotionX is the worst of all the GPS apps - I think it is kind of a cool looking interface but lacks in usability. It also caches your maps for later, no network areas, but so do several other of the apps.

    I have read all the reviews on the itunes store for GPS Kit and just can't understand were people are coming from - there is no slow start - I do admit thou it did crash when I tried to upload my 10MB track - but with reason.

    I guess I said my peace and sorry for going off a bit but if anyone has questions on any of these apps I would be happy to answer them - I am not a dev for any apps yet but will give you my honest opinion and have been in contact with most of the developers of these apps - as you can see I perfer GPS Kit but will admit when it does not work and what it lacks as well as the other GPS Apps. I am sort of a GPS Guru from back in the Palm days if anyone remembers Pathaway for palm - that app was the bomb - I even calibrated my own Arial Images to work as overlays way before arial images were used in any civilian GPS device.
     
  25. diesel thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #25
    hahahahaha, you're a gps whore just like me!!! :)

    i also have Trails gps tracker, everytrail, GPS kit, motionx gps, and now topopoint, itopomaps and topomaps.

    Basically i am looking for one good solid all around general gps app like gps kit or motionx gps and one good solid all around usgs topo map app.

    based on your feedback i might have to put gps kit back on my phone and check it out again, though the dev really turned me off to it, it would be kind of neat to import my everytrail tracks into the program or someone else's for a trail that i might want to try out. i used to use everytrail and trails to record tracks to upload into everytrail but since getting my gps watch, i no longer need or want an iphone app to do that. besides, with the phone in my pocket more times than not, the phone would not keep a gps lock. i don't have that problem with my suunto watch and the watch can take 1 second recordings for the whole length of a 6 hour hike and still have half the battery life remaining!!! and a good solid lock throughout.
     

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