EDIT: This review was originally posted in February 2012. We’re still using Viewranger, and still love it. And it’s even better on a bigger, faster phone like the iPhone 5 or 6, or Samsung Note 4.
I love maps. I could pore over them for hours looking at contour lines and pathways; searching for hidden things to go and find. I have a particular obsession with Ordnance Survey Explorer maps (the really detailed ones) and the first thing I bought when we moved into our current house was an OS map of the area.
So it’s with a inward squeal of delight that I often pull out my iPhone and bring up the Viewranger App to centre on my position and see if there’s anything of interest nearby.
Viewranger is an App which allows you to download maps of various types (road atlas, open source or paid-for maps such as OS) and overlay pre-planned routes, calculate your position and track your progress.
It does all this in a way that is simple to understand after you’ve read the straightforward instructions, and in a no-nonsense kind of way.
Taking the example of image 1, above, I spent some time adding a Route (a pre-planned one) to my phone, which was to take in various points of interest. On the day I walked it, I just needed to start up the App and watch my progress on the screen. My location is displayed as a great big red + and my current direction as a long red line. It works superbly and in the south of England has never been unable to give me a location more than a few metres out.
Viewranger features an ability to ‘Track a route’, which is to say that it overlays a record of where you’ve been on a map of your choice. The above example is a 6 mile route around Leith Hill in Surrey and shown over an OS Explorer map you can see exactly which footpaths and bridleways I used. This could be very handy for replicating any kind of journey.
You’ll see above that the map has a zoom function. This works spectacularly if you have a set of maps loaded which work at different scales (Explorer, Landranger and AA Road Atlas, for example). You can get a detail level that you need almost immediately. This works so well because the map ’tiles’ are stored on your phone, and not downloaded via the phone network every time you need them (like Google Maps).
Viewranger has a range of free maps available that cover the UK, but the OS maps will cost you.
If you’re the type of person who likes to analyse a route, or perhaps need to know exactly what the length, height or speed of a journey was, then Viewranger’s Track feature gives you a load of information which is automatically generated for each Track. You can then see some of this data pictorially to impress your mates in the pub with how steep your climb was, or how gnarly that downhill was.
Perhaps my favourite feature of Viewranger is the ability to enter a coordinate (as Lat/Long, grid reference or postcode) and the App immediately centres the map on that location. When I’m out on a search I now have a choice between using map and compass to determine a location, or just type it into my phone and set a route… I’m lazy, so often choose the latter and it works beautifully.
And lastly, Viewranger’s piece-de-resistance is something called Buddy Beacon. This is a feature that broadcasts your exact location (when you want it to) to anyone who has your unique pin number. If you’re on the hills, your family can keep an eye on you. Likewise, potentially, Search & Rescue organisations, or other members of your group. Very neat indeed.
The only downside with Viewranger isn’t so much with the App as with the phone itself; it’s very battery intensive and a half-day of active Viewranger use (tracking, checking routes and using GPS) can reduce your battery charge significantly. You’ll need to use a battery charger like the Power Monkey if you plan to be out for a long period using Viewranger.
SUMMARY: Viewranger for iPhone is a mind-bogglingly good piece of kit for the price. For under £2 you turn your iPhone into a good GPS when there’s no phone reception. Pay for the OS Map package (£15) and you have a brilliant, detailed off-road GPS. Stunning value.
Price: £2 (App and free maps), £15 (App and 1000 credits towards OS Maps)