As my age has crept up, my desire to stay with the latest and greatest piece of technology has slowly dwindled; two main areas have contributed to this
- the speed of release of new technology
- the cost of staying up to date.
I remember getting my first mobile phone back in early 90’s (a brick of a thing with a flip cover and a battery life of about 4 hours) and technology really didn’t move that fast so a basic phone was always my preference.
In recent years my desktop got replaced with a laptop, my CRT with an LCD, but my phone always stayed fairly basic, a phone was for ringing people on, what would I need all those extras for? Lately however I began to feel left out, everywhere I turned people had iPhones and my basic phone just seemed lacking.
Matt’s review of Endomondo back in March really got me thinking and on a recent walking holiday in the Lakes I saw first hand the benefits of the iPhone with memory map installed (free on iPhone). In parallel I had been watching the GPS systems evolve but until OS mapping reached them I still debated my need for one; to compound this I didn’t want to lose map reading skills by relying on a GPS too much. Restriction No. 2 still played a major role and justifying the cost of either a standalone GPS or a iPhone just didn’t stack up.
With my mobile contract expiring I decided to look at options, and soon found rave reviews about the HTC Desire. Similar to the iPhone but running the Android operating system with a 1ghz processor and 500mb of Ram; the Desire features both a GPS receiver and network based GPS (not very accurate). The phone has as all the usual touch screen features found on the iPhone, an SD card (up to 32 gig) , HD camera and HD video camera as well as a very usable SatNav system for your car. The only app not available was Memory Map but cost were lower than an iPhone and I negotiated a deal with my provider resulting in a free phone and a reduced monthly rate.
My goal was to get OS level mapping on the phone with the ability to record my routes and give my stats. Within days, Endomondo released an app for the Desire and a browse of the Android market soon turned up other free GPS trackers and tools. Over the past few weeks I have been testing them out. Although I am still to find one app that does it all; I can achieve what I want using the free apps out there.
Endomondo: Running this app I can record my trip via GPS, display it over Google maps, and upload it to the Endomondo site. The main negative I found is that you can’t get instant detailed information on the phone about my ride and you have to logon to see the details. However, uploading is automatic from the phone if I want, and I can export my routes from the website in GPX format for use with Memory Map on my PC or with Rmaps on the phone.
Sports tracker: Similar to Endomondo, I can record my route in Google maps but cannot upload it without paying for the full version. However I can see instant information about my ride, including ave speed, max speed, start time, finish time, average pace, max pace, distance, duration. Altitude information and charts of my performance is also available.
The main problem for all these apps is that they use Google maps, which doesn’t have the detail of an OS map and therefore of limited use when trying to find where you are or to follow another person’s route.
RMaps: Another free app, this gives you a choice of 28 map providers from all over Europe, OS is one of these and a major plus is that the maps are cached to the SD card on my phone, so I can browse at an OS level and pre store the maps for the area I am riding in. I can use the GPS function to store my routes or import routes in GPX or KML format. I can also edit how many times I store my position from every 2 seconds to 30 minutes to give different accuracy.
Battery wise the phone will run for about 2 days but its highly configurable so I can turn off GPS, lower backlights etc to lengthen run time if needed.
There are hundreds of free applications available on Android and on iPhone (including Doom for you retro gamers) so I if anyone has recommendations, let me know.
All in all, great tool, I don’t know how I was without one for so long.