Android GPS App Selection

An Android GPS App allows you to use your Android phone as a GPS device. Considering your activity, you can choose a GPS app based on map types, map access, and style of navigation.

Types of Maps for Android
There are several different kinds of maps that can be used by an Android GPS App. They differ in how they look and the type of information that they show.

  • Street maps: Street maps show details of the streets in the area and may include names and other helpful information. They are typically used for road navigation.  
  • Topographic(topo) maps: Topo maps show the terrain of the area you are in. The slope of the terrain is typically shown by the use of contour lines, which connect points of equal elevation. They indicate vegetative cover and bodies of water through the use of color. They may include trails or roads. These are typically used for outdoor activities, such as hiking, backpacking, or canoeing, which take place away from major roads. These are the maps used most by BackCountry Navigator.  
  • Aerial Photography: Aerial photography shows a color or black and white image of land as seen from the sky. In recent times, the photos may actually be taken from a satellite and still have the level of detail that an aerial photograph used. These are useful both for urban and wilderness navigation. In the US at least, these maps are more recent than most topo maps.

Access to Maps 
Another thing to consider for your Android GPS app is when you will have access to maps. If you are always going to be using your Android phone in places with cell coverage, it is sufficient to use online maps. If you plan on using the app away from urban areas, typical in outdoor navigation, you want to use offline maps

  • Online Maps: These are the kind of maps that Android users are most familiar with. The most well known example is Google Maps. Google Maps gets map data from the internet on a continuous basis while connected. If you do not have an activate data connection, either because you haven't paid for one, or you are outside of coverage, you typically won't see any maps. 
  • Offline Maps: While they might be created with a desktop tool, the source for offline maps is usually the internet as well. BackCountry Navigator will allow you to specify a region, and then download map data for offline use. Offline maps are then available when you are outside internet service. While there is some preparation involved, offline maps are more typically used in outdoor recreation.

Style of Navigation
There are several styles of navigation you may see in an Android GPS App.

  • Turn by Turn Directions: This is the navigation style typically used for road map apps. This will give you a set of instructions including what road to follow and where to turn.  
  • Waypoints: For outdoor navigation, it is common to find your way by knowing your distance and bearing to known locations. 
  • Following a track: A track may be a trail, or simply a route that someone  has recorded in the past. These can be represented as a jagged, colored line on a map, and one can see their position relative to the line. For outdoor navigation, this can substitute for following a road.

An Android GPS App can be chosen for your favorite activity by keeping these things in mind. Have fun with your Android GPS and be safe.