Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

FR: ViewRanger & Apology! (Curt)

Expand Messages
  • nwcurt
    My apologies to my editor and BridGeT! I got totally screwed up on the due date on this one, so a few days late. HTML version is at:
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 19, 2013
    • 0 Attachment
      My apologies to my editor and BridGeT! I got totally screwed up on the due date on this one, so a few days late. HTML version is at: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/FR%20-%20ViewRanger%20-%20Curt/

      -Curt

      Final Report

      I should probably go ahead and set expectations for the remainder of this review right now. It will not be 100% comprehensive. There is just too much to cover. It is - without a doubt - the most robust GPS software I've ever used. I've owned 4 different dedicated GPS units in the last decade and ViewRanger is gives me more tools at a higher resolution than any of them. I've always thought there was a considerable hardware downgrade by going with a phone replacement, but even that now seems to have disappeared. Perhaps there are special applications where a regular unit is necessary, but at this point I am totally comfortable with my phone as my primary GPS. The information I can get from the ViewRanger is easier to get at, much more appealing to look at on a big high resolution screen, and the accuracy seems to be as good as anything I've used. I've been completely impressed. Overwhelmed - but impressed.

      One of the first things that impressed me about ViewRanger is the regular updates. One of my pet peeves is apps that are put out to the world and then abandoned. In a case like this, the cost is not the issue. It's the investment of my time to learn how to use it. I don't want to spend weeks or months figuring out all the features of a complex app like this only to have to move on to something else because the developer doesn't update the app regularly. ViewRanger is obviously very active with their product. During testing they put out 4 updates. The first was quickly put out to take advantage of the new larger screen on the iPhone 5. The other 3 (see below) added new features, fixed bugs, and came at pretty regular intervals. That's the kind of support I appreciate.

      ViewRanger also is regular with e-mail updates. They aren't "spammy" - but regularly updates about deals, offers, how to use features, etc. show up in my inbox. They probably averaged an email every 2 or 3 weeks to subscribers - perhaps a bit more often during the run-up to the holidays. They were not intrusive and more often than not were actually helpful.

      Rather than scatter feature notes all over the place, I've decided to use a single basic hike as a sample to show many of the core features and options. The app worked for me everywhere: on overnights, on dayhikes, even in town just playing with it. As software, conditions and locations don't seem particularly relevant, so I think focusing on one particular hike to show how it works makes the most sense. I chose my regular local go-to hike up Rattlesnake Ledge (the prominent rocky peak in the photo below) because I know the trail extremely well and could compare the digital information with the real world information. I have lots of data on mileage, elevation, cell reception, etc. so it would be possible for me to figure out if the software was accurate or not. I actually hiked this trip probably 20 times during testing, but most of the screen shots below are from one particular trip.

      I use AT&T as a carrier, and there is no cell coverage except on the summit. This allowed me to take advantage of the offline map saving feature. It worked perfectly and actually loads much faster than relying on cell tower data to load maps. I had music playing in the background throughout this particular hike. On the summit I received multiple emails as I was back in data coverage. Despite all these things going on, there were zero gaps in coverage and as best I can tell the phone only used roughly 3% per hour. Obviously this will vary by phone, but for me using music continuously, having my cell radio trying hard to find a signal, and a GPS pulling continuous information, I'm more than satisfied. When I backpack I typically only use GPS to "spot check" where I am. I'm confident I could do that a number of times on a multiday hike and barely use any battery power. Many other features on a modern smartphone will drain the battery well before the GPS. If I tracked routes continuously or the trip was very long it would certainly be something I'd have to worry about, but for my use and even continuous long dayhike use, I have no power concerns.

      There are a number of useful screens that can be used for location or just information. Here are the ones I used the most with some notes on the features and how they work:

      The Tracking
      This screen is probably what I have used the most. It's what I think of when I want a GPS - where am I on the map? The ViewRanger traces the route with directional arrows showing which way I was hiking. In the picture below, the arrows go both directions because it was a retraced out-and-back route. What I found really neat later was that the route tracing can be changed. Want it a different color? No problem. Want to get rid of the directional arrows? No problem. I found the tracking to be very accurate. I've done this route literally hundreds of times and measured it with multiple GPS units and things like pedometers. ViewRanger pegged the distance perfectly, which tells me it's not losing coverage or getting big gaps in the track. On all trips during testing my phone was in a pocket and usually in a waterproof baggie of some sort. Reception problems appear to be of no concern.

      The Data
      What I call the "Tile" screen (the ViewRanger app calls it "Trip View") serves as a sort of basic dashboard for the app. Distance, time, speed, and direction are all available at-a-glance. This page was useful on the move, but most of the important information it contains is available elsewhere in the app as well. The "tiles" are live - the compass moves with me and the speed does as well. This entire screen can be customized with 6 different layouts. Each of the boxes can be customized with one of 28 data items, 5 graphs, or 10 dials. Once again, the feature set of ViewRanger is almost overwhelming. On my last backpacking trip I used one of the boxes to display the Solar Noon and Sunset information - very useful with our super short days up here at latitude 47 degrees.

      At the end of the hike, there is all kinds of data that can be mined from a trip. Much of it is purely numerical, but there are also graphic displays of different aspects of the hike. Graphs for Speed, Distance, Altitude, and GPS Altitude are all created behind the scenes. I don't need to tell it to "record" them - it just does. It also tracks all the usual information: Date, Distance, Time, Speed, etc. There are options to sync it to my ViewRanger account (available on the website), export it to cloud services like Dropbox, and more.

      Every time I used ViewRanger, there was always more to discover. I've used it extensively and I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface. There are totally unique features - to me at least - that I've never seen on another device or app. Night Vision setting puts a red hue over everything to preserve night vision. There are Power Save modes to preserve battery life. I can decide how often I want it to pinpoint my location based on distance or time. There are location arrival alarms that can be set to go off at various distances before arriving at the actual location. Maps can be set to rotate with the landscape. Map files can be automatically backed up to Dropbox without having to go in and remember to do it. I've used 4 different popular dedicated GPS units over the last decade and none even come close to the feature set this app has. I believe the price is truly absurd when compared to a dedicated GPS unit. Of course this assumes one has a smartphone, but even a cheap off contract smartphone bought on eBay with this app would be cheap and powerful setup. A backcountry e-reader, camera, music player, app engine and a supremely capable GPS in one small device seems like a no-brainer.

      The Website
      The my.viewranger.com website works much as would be expected. I can login and go see my tracks and routes right there. It has much more of a social focus than a trip planner focus in my opinion. Also, for some odd reason, it's painfully slow. I have blazing fast Internet connections at both home and work and in both places the website is consistently slow to load. Every click seems to bring about a wait. The phone app is so capable that I ended up rarely using the website, but it's nice to know it's there and I look forward to added capabilities as both the app and the website mature.

      Summary
      I am very pleased with the ViewRanger app. There are a lot of very solid GPS apps available for smartphones, but this one is definitely my new go-to app for hikes and backpacking trips. There are prettier apps and more popular apps, but of the 6 iPhone apps I have on my phone right now, none are more capable than ViewRanger. It doesn't always have the most elegant UI, but it's astoundingly functional and feature rich. It is also very stable - I did not note a single crash during testing. It had no missed tracks. It had no hiccups despite recording a track while playing music in the background and pulling data. I've been really, really impressed. I've read about backpackers carrying lightweight tablets for using ViewRanger (it comes in Android as well) and having great success. I would never have considered that before, but now it seems like a totally viable option. ViewRanger on a 7 inch (xx cm) high resolution screen would be a truly amazing backcountry mapping setup.

      After 4 months I feel like I've barely started to explore ViewRanger. A truly comprehensive review of every feature would be thousands of words. My recommendations is to simply try it out. The basic model is free! The paid app delivers better maps, but the general "feel" can be discovered with no risk. It's simply incredible as far as I'm concerned. So far it's done everything I've asked of it and more.

      Summary Pros:
      ViewRanger is overwhelmingly powerful. Maybe there are features it can't handle, but I sure can't think of any. It does everything I want and more.
      ViewRanger is extremely stable. Perfect tracking, no crashes, no loss of data.
      Regular updates. The creators are obviously dedicated to the app. No abandon-ware here - new features and updates come regularly.

      Summary Cons:
      The focus so far seems to have been on capability. That's a good thing! The user interface could use a little bit of an update, however. It "feels" a bit 2009.
      Discoverability. Personally, I like that every time I use it I find out a new feature it's capable of, but that might not be the case for some. VERY powerful features are often buried or hidden unless the user knows where to dig.

      My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and ViewRanger for the opportunity to test these mapping applications!
    • Lori Pontious
      Wow, I sure wish it were true that a cheap phone would be adequate! I did not get to use the app nearly to such depth. It was slow and cumbersome and not at
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 19, 2013
      • 0 Attachment
        Wow, I sure wish it were true that a cheap phone would be adequate! I did not get to use the app nearly to such depth. It was slow and cumbersome and not at all what I expected.

        Mine has started to crash shortly after I start the app. :(

        On Jan 19, 2013, at 4:26 PM, nwcurt <nwcurt@...> wrote:

        > My apologies to my editor and BridGeT! I got totally screwed up on the due date on this one, so a few days late. HTML version is at: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/FR%20-%20ViewRanger%20-%20Curt/
        >
        > -Curt
        >
        > Final Report
        >
        > I should probably go ahead and set expectations for the remainder of this review right now. It will not be 100% comprehensive. There is just too much to cover. It is - without a doubt - the most robust GPS software I've ever used. I've owned 4 different dedicated GPS units in the last decade and ViewRanger is gives me more tools at a higher resolution than any of them. I've always thought there was a considerable hardware downgrade by going with a phone replacement, but even that now seems to have disappeared. Perhaps there are special applications where a regular unit is necessary, but at this point I am totally comfortable with my phone as my primary GPS. The information I can get from the ViewRanger is easier to get at, much more appealing to look at on a big high resolution screen, and the accuracy seems to be as good as anything I've used. I've been completely impressed. Overwhelmed - but impressed.
        >
        > One of the first things that impressed me about ViewRanger is the regular updates. One of my pet peeves is apps that are put out to the world and then abandoned. In a case like this, the cost is not the issue. It's the investment of my time to learn how to use it. I don't want to spend weeks or months figuring out all the features of a complex app like this only to have to move on to something else because the developer doesn't update the app regularly. ViewRanger is obviously very active with their product. During testing they put out 4 updates. The first was quickly put out to take advantage of the new larger screen on the iPhone 5. The other 3 (see below) added new features, fixed bugs, and came at pretty regular intervals. That's the kind of support I appreciate.
        >
        > ViewRanger also is regular with e-mail updates. They aren't "spammy" - but regularly updates about deals, offers, how to use features, etc. show up in my inbox. They probably averaged an email every 2 or 3 weeks to subscribers - perhaps a bit more often during the run-up to the holidays. They were not intrusive and more often than not were actually helpful.
        >
        > Rather than scatter feature notes all over the place, I've decided to use a single basic hike as a sample to show many of the core features and options. The app worked for me everywhere: on overnights, on dayhikes, even in town just playing with it. As software, conditions and locations don't seem particularly relevant, so I think focusing on one particular hike to show how it works makes the most sense. I chose my regular local go-to hike up Rattlesnake Ledge (the prominent rocky peak in the photo below) because I know the trail extremely well and could compare the digital information with the real world information. I have lots of data on mileage, elevation, cell reception, etc. so it would be possible for me to figure out if the software was accurate or not. I actually hiked this trip probably 20 times during testing, but most of the screen shots below are from one particular trip.
        >
        > I use AT&T as a carrier, and there is no cell coverage except on the summit. This allowed me to take advantage of the offline map saving feature. It worked perfectly and actually loads much faster than relying on cell tower data to load maps. I had music playing in the background throughout this particular hike. On the summit I received multiple emails as I was back in data coverage. Despite all these things going on, there were zero gaps in coverage and as best I can tell the phone only used roughly 3% per hour. Obviously this will vary by phone, but for me using music continuously, having my cell radio trying hard to find a signal, and a GPS pulling continuous information, I'm more than satisfied. When I backpack I typically only use GPS to "spot check" where I am. I'm confident I could do that a number of times on a multiday hike and barely use any battery power. Many other features on a modern smartphone will drain the battery well before the GPS. If I tracked routes continuously or the trip was very long it would certainly be something I'd have to worry about, but for my use and even continuous long dayhike use, I have no power concerns.
        >
        > There are a number of useful screens that can be used for location or just information. Here are the ones I used the most with some notes on the features and how they work:
        >
        > The Tracking
        > This screen is probably what I have used the most. It's what I think of when I want a GPS - where am I on the map? The ViewRanger traces the route with directional arrows showing which way I was hiking. In the picture below, the arrows go both directions because it was a retraced out-and-back route. What I found really neat later was that the route tracing can be changed. Want it a different color? No problem. Want to get rid of the directional arrows? No problem. I found the tracking to be very accurate. I've done this route literally hundreds of times and measured it with multiple GPS units and things like pedometers. ViewRanger pegged the distance perfectly, which tells me it's not losing coverage or getting big gaps in the track. On all trips during testing my phone was in a pocket and usually in a waterproof baggie of some sort. Reception problems appear to be of no concern.
        >
        > The Data
        > What I call the "Tile" screen (the ViewRanger app calls it "Trip View") serves as a sort of basic dashboard for the app. Distance, time, speed, and direction are all available at-a-glance. This page was useful on the move, but most of the important information it contains is available elsewhere in the app as well. The "tiles" are live - the compass moves with me and the speed does as well. This entire screen can be customized with 6 different layouts. Each of the boxes can be customized with one of 28 data items, 5 graphs, or 10 dials. Once again, the feature set of ViewRanger is almost overwhelming. On my last backpacking trip I used one of the boxes to display the Solar Noon and Sunset information - very useful with our super short days up here at latitude 47 degrees.
        >
        > At the end of the hike, there is all kinds of data that can be mined from a trip. Much of it is purely numerical, but there are also graphic displays of different aspects of the hike. Graphs for Speed, Distance, Altitude, and GPS Altitude are all created behind the scenes. I don't need to tell it to "record" them - it just does. It also tracks all the usual information: Date, Distance, Time, Speed, etc. There are options to sync it to my ViewRanger account (available on the website), export it to cloud services like Dropbox, and more.
        >
        > Every time I used ViewRanger, there was always more to discover. I've used it extensively and I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface. There are totally unique features - to me at least - that I've never seen on another device or app. Night Vision setting puts a red hue over everything to preserve night vision. There are Power Save modes to preserve battery life. I can decide how often I want it to pinpoint my location based on distance or time. There are location arrival alarms that can be set to go off at various distances before arriving at the actual location. Maps can be set to rotate with the landscape. Map files can be automatically backed up to Dropbox without having to go in and remember to do it. I've used 4 different popular dedicated GPS units over the last decade and none even come close to the feature set this app has. I believe the price is truly absurd when compared to a dedicated GPS unit. Of course this assumes one has a smartphone, but even a cheap off contract smartphone bought on eBay with this app would be cheap and powerful setup. A backcountry e-reader, camera, music player, app engine and a supremely capable GPS in one small device seems like a no-brainer.
        >
        > The Website
        > The my.viewranger.com website works much as would be expected. I can login and go see my tracks and routes right there. It has much more of a social focus than a trip planner focus in my opinion. Also, for some odd reason, it's painfully slow. I have blazing fast Internet connections at both home and work and in both places the website is consistently slow to load. Every click seems to bring about a wait. The phone app is so capable that I ended up rarely using the website, but it's nice to know it's there and I look forward to added capabilities as both the app and the website mature.
        >
        > Summary
        > I am very pleased with the ViewRanger app. There are a lot of very solid GPS apps available for smartphones, but this one is definitely my new go-to app for hikes and backpacking trips. There are prettier apps and more popular apps, but of the 6 iPhone apps I have on my phone right now, none are more capable than ViewRanger. It doesn't always have the most elegant UI, but it's astoundingly functional and feature rich. It is also very stable - I did not note a single crash during testing. It had no missed tracks. It had no hiccups despite recording a track while playing music in the background and pulling data. I've been really, really impressed. I've read about backpackers carrying lightweight tablets for using ViewRanger (it comes in Android as well) and having great success. I would never have considered that before, but now it seems like a totally viable option. ViewRanger on a 7 inch (xx cm) high resolution screen would be a truly amazing backcountry mapping setup.
        >
        > After 4 months I feel like I've barely started to explore ViewRanger. A truly comprehensive review of every feature would be thousands of words. My recommendations is to simply try it out. The basic model is free! The paid app delivers better maps, but the general "feel" can be discovered with no risk. It's simply incredible as far as I'm concerned. So far it's done everything I've asked of it and more.
        >
        > Summary Pros:
        > ViewRanger is overwhelmingly powerful. Maybe there are features it can't handle, but I sure can't think of any. It does everything I want and more.
        > ViewRanger is extremely stable. Perfect tracking, no crashes, no loss of data.
        > Regular updates. The creators are obviously dedicated to the app. No abandon-ware here - new features and updates come regularly.
        >
        > Summary Cons:
        > The focus so far seems to have been on capability. That's a good thing! The user interface could use a little bit of an update, however. It "feels" a bit 2009.
        > Discoverability. Personally, I like that every time I use it I find out a new feature it's capable of, but that might not be the case for some. VERY powerful features are often buried or hidden unless the user knows where to dig.
        >
        > My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and ViewRanger for the opportunity to test these mapping applications!
        >
        >



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Coy Boy
        Kinda OT but it just shows the power of BGT. I just got my very first smartphone today and after reading your final rpt the first app I put on it was the view
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 21, 2013
        • 0 Attachment
          Kinda OT but it just shows the power of BGT. I just got my very first smartphone today and after reading your final rpt the first app I put on it was the view ranger. so if I end up not liking it you will owe another apology....

          Coy Boy
          PS the second app was map my ride, I'm betting I'll use it for bike rides and VR for hiking.

          --- In backpackgeartesters@yahoogroups.com, "nwcurt" wrote:
          >
          > My apologies to my editor and BridGeT! I got totally screwed up on the due date on this one, so a few days late. HTML version is at: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/FR%20-%20ViewRanger%20-%20Curt/
          >
          > -Curt
          >
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.